wildthings

Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

The Wild Things’ J.J. Fernandez catches a pop-up against the Slammers’ Riley Crane during a game at Wild Things Park.

The Frontier League has made a bold move this year in changing its all-star format.

Instead of playing an intraleague all-star game as it has for the past 26 years, the Frontier League is sending an all-star team to Pomona, N.Y., to play the Can-Am League’s all-stars. The game will be played Wednesday at Palisades Credit Union Park, home of the Can-Am’s Rockland Boulders.

Two independent leagues playing in an all-star game is not a new concept. The Can-Am played the American Association only a few years ago. The Can-Am League and American Association, however, are closely associated. For the past 13 years, the leagues even had the same commissioner.

There are, however, significant differences between the Frontier League and Can-Am League, most notably the age of the players. The Frontier League has an age limit. Only one player per Frontier League team can be older than 27, and that player must meet certain qualifications. The Can-Am League has no age restrictions.

Of the 25 players selected from six clubs for the Can-Am League all-star team, only eight meet the Frontier League’s age limit.

One player who knows a little about the Can-Am League is Wild Things first baseman J.J. Fernandez, who along with right fielder Hector Roa will represent Washington in the all-star game. Fernandez spent the 2017 season in the Can-Am League with the Sussex County Miners.

“The biggest difference, I think, is the players are more patient,” Fernandez said. “The hitters will wait for their pitch. Here, with the younger guys, the hitters tend to be more aggressive early in the count.

The pitching in the Cam-Am is different, too. The pitchers don’t challenge you as much. They tend to try to trick you more often. There are not as fastballs thrown in that league.”

Without an age limit, the Can-Am has more players with experience in higher levels of the minor leagues.

“There are some guys in the Can-Am who have been in the big leagues or on 40-man rosters,” Fernandez said. “The majority of guys in the Can-Am are older. Each team has a couple of guys who are right out of college. I played in the Can-Am when I was 22 and was the youngest guy on the team until we signed a couple guys out of college during the season.”

Fernandez even has a fond memory of Palisades Credit Union Park.

“We were playing at Rockland late in the season and we were losing 3-2 in the eighth inning,” Fernandez recalled. “I hit a (home run) with two on and won the game and clinched a playoff berth.”

Minor details

Former Wild Things catcher Lucas Herbert is one of 17 Frontier League players who have been sold to major league organizations this season. Herbert had his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks in June and he was assigned to the Hillsboro Hops of the short-season Northwest League. Herbert went 7-for-21 in five games with three doubles and a triple. Though he has not played since June 24, Herbert was assigned Thursday to the Jackson Generals, the Diamondbacks’ Class AA affiliate in the Southern League.

Former Pirates outfielder Bralin Jackson, who is in his second season with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class AA affiliate in Altoona, was placed on the disabled list Friday because of a sprained ankle. Jackson is batting .224 with nine doubles, 15 RBI and six stolen bases in 68 games for the Curve.

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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