O’FALLON, Mo. — An all-star selection cost Southern Illinois Miners catcher Chance Shepard a couple days off, but you won’t hear him complain.
The Frontier League all-star break was a busy time for the big catcher.
Shepard participated in the league’s home run derby Tuesday night and drew the starting designated hitter assignment for the Experienced team.
“This is a blast, seeing some of the better players in the league, picking their brains a little bit, being able to talk to them,” Shepard said. “I love playing baseball. I’m never going to complain about playing any more, especially in a setting like this.
“It’s not the same daily grind we go through during the season. It was just a few hours last night. It’s definitely a recharge. It’s better than being home and being bored.”
As an added bonus, the Frontier League brought in former major leaguers such as Jim Edmonds, Ray Lankford, Rick Ankiel and Mark Whiten to participate in the home run derby.
“It was crazy to see those guys out here,” Shepard said. “Jim Edmonds was one of my favorite players growing up. It was just kind of a cool experience to go through. It was a lot of fun. I talked to Edmonds and a couple other guys before, and during the home run derby we talked a lot of crap.”
Shepard failed to win the home run derby. Trae Santos, the left-handed Gateway Grizzlies slugger, won the event with 32 bombs. CarShield Stadium, the River City Rascals home park, is a cozy venue for left-handers. The right field power alley is only 325 feet.
“I was the last right-hander alive,” Shepard said.
Miners reliever Kyle Tinius was also a member of the Experienced team. Romeo Cortina was the only Miners representative on the Rookie squad.
As for the game itself on Wednesday, the Experienced team defeated the Rookies 8-3. The Experienced team set the tone in the first, scoring four runs, three on a home run by Normal’s Derrick Loveless. Loveless also had a two-run shot and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Tinius pitched a perfect seventh for the Experienced team. Both Shepard and Cortina went 0-2 in their appearances. Shepard popped out and grounded out while Cortina flew out and fanned.
“It’s always good when you come out and play with the best guys in the Frontier League,” Cortina said. “Also, coming here with my teammates, Kyle Tinius and Chance Shepard, has been a blast. The home run derby yesterday was super fun.”
As a member of the Rookie team, this was obviously Cortina’s first appearance.
“We were actually on our way to Traverse City,” Cortina said. “That’s a 10-hour bus ride. I was literally asleep for five hours straight. We stopped at one of our pit stops. I was in a daze from my nap and Mike announced the all-star selections. I was kind of in a daze, I was like, ‘I’ll take it.’ It’s always an honor to represent the Miners, but also represent the Frontier League.”
Like Shepard, Cortina was fine with trading a couple days off for an all-star game appearance.
“Pick your poison,” he said. “There are guys that want to have rest, but there are also guys that want to be here. Whatever happens, happens. I just go along with the flow. It’s a blast to be here. Who knows, next time I might not be an all-star.”
Miners manager Mike Pinto and his coaching staff rounded out the Miners’ contingent. Pinto managed the Experienced team.