Chris Dugan's Sports Column
Wild Things hit a home run
The “home” team didn’t win, the players from the host club didn’t generate a hit, and the bottom of the ninth inning was rather anticlimactic, but nobody left Consol Energy Park Wednesday night disappointed.
A whirlwind year of planning and preparation by the Wild Things came to an end with the Frontier League’s annual All-Star game. The record will show that the West Division won the game, 4-2, but that really didn’t matter.
If you ask Wild Things general manager Francine Williams, what mattered most is there were plenty of smiling faces exiting through the gates following the game and stunning postgame fireworks show.
Yes, Washington hit a home run its second time around hosting the league’s showcase event. Maybe even a grand slam.
“I’m ready to do it again next week,” Williams said with a smile.
The team’s exhausted staff might want to wait a while before hosting another all-star game, but it’s clear that the host city in 2014 will have a difficult time matching Washington’s three-day extravaganza. The Wild Things rolled out the red carpet for the league’s best players.
“We wanted to give these kids an experience that was like no other, with real meals, real attention,” Williams said. “We greeted each of them Monday with a handshake when they arrived and got off the bus. And since then, it has been a successful party.”
The Wild Things organized a bowling tournament, golf tournament and luncheon that featured Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass as the guest speaker. The typical Home Run Derby was held Tuesday, but the Wild Things added a unique Battle of the Sexes fast-pitch softball game was played between the Frontier League all-stars and the Akron Racers women’s professional softball team. The Racers won, by the way.
“The softball game was a unique highlight,” Williams said.
Hosting outdoor events such as an all-star baseball game and Home Run Derby is always a risky proposition. To be successful, it requires some help from Mother Nature. While thunderstorms hit the surrounding area Tuesday and Wednesday, they stayed away from Washington, for the most part. The rain was limited to a few drops during the Home Run Derby. It wasn’t enough to put a damper on the festivities.
“It never rains in Washington, we all know that,” Williams joked.
About the only disappointing part of the week, from the Wild Things’ standpoint, was neither the Home Run Derby nor the all-star game sold out, unlike when Washington first played host to the events in 2005. The attendance for the all-star game was 2,952, about 250 shy of a sellout.
“I’m sure the weather impacted our walk-up sales a little. We had one large group that cancelled,” Williams said.
After one well-deserved day off, the Wild Things and their fatigued staff will get back to work. Washington opens the second half of the season Friday night with a six-game homestand against West Division rivals Schaumburg and Rockford.
But they should take pride in knowing that they put on a great show for the rest of the league.
“The people who came here told us they loved it,” Williams said. “They said we set a standard that for other teams might be difficult living up to.”
Phil Warren, the manager of the Gateway Grizzlies and the West Division, agreed.
“As far as the treatment of the players and coaches and things that we do, it was great, second to none,” he said. “I’ve been part of four or five of these in the Frontier League, and this ranks right up there. I think they did a good job.”
Sports editor Chris Dugan can be reached at email@example.com.