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By SHARON GRAVES
It is the dream of Little Leaguers like 7-year-old Blake Belcher to make it to the big show and play in an all-star game.
I caught up with the young second-baseman and his family at the Triple A all-star game at Slugger Field in Louisville.
Blake and his parents,Thomas and Gloria Belcher, were sitting in the nosebleed seats in the right field bleachers when I found them. The Belcher family was in the second to the last row of the bleachers, but Blake was prepared – he’d brought his glove, hoping to catch a fly ball.
Blake and his father were decked out in Cincinnati Reds garb, but his hat gave him away as a Yankee’s fan. “Derek Jeter is my favorite player,” Blake said, adding that he had hoped Jeter would be at the game. Of course, it’s been a while since Jeter played in the minors – if he ever did ... but hope springs eternal, especially in children.
“We play ball every day,” Thomas said.
“Baseball is my favorite sport,” Blake added. He played second base for the North American Stainless team in the coach pitch division of the Carroll County summer league. He heads for third grade this fall at Kathryn Winn Primary School.
The night got even better, as Blake was caught on an ESPN camera and his image flashed on the jumbo screen. “We’ll have to watch Sports Center to see if you’re on there,” dad said.
From Blake’s seat, he could see the field and all of the antics of the San Diego Chicken mascot, who reigned over a half-dozen lesser mascots in the house for the event. Buddy Bat from the Louisville Bats even played second banana to the famous chicken, with other mascots visiting fans in the stands.
The stars of the International League and the Pacific Coast League teams were playing in the game, and a thrilling moment came before the game began for six players.
An announcement was made that they had been chosen to play in the Olympics this summer in Beijing, China: Salt Lake’s Matt Brown, Fresno’s Geno Espineli, Albuquerque’s John Gail, Las Vegas’ Terry Tiffee and Toledo’s Mike Hessman and Blain Neal were named to the 24-man squad that will travel to China in August.
Maybe out of those six players, another Derek Jeter will begin to shine – and Blake will be able to say he saw him before he made it to the “bigs.”
Louisville Slugger Field is complete with a merry-go-round, play yard, and some of the best ice cream sundaes around. There is an area where you can bring your blanket and lay out beyond the outfield to watch the game. In front of the bleachers where the Belcher family sat, are picnic tables where fans can eat chili cheese fries or burgers and watch the game. It is a truly great place to see some baseball.
That night, we saw a pitcher’s duel for much of the game. Blake would not get to use his glove, as there were few hits – and none in his direction.
The game was scoreless until the fifth inning and ended with the PCL on top, 6-5.
World Series prediction
Blake predicted the Yankees and the Cubs will play in the World Series.
And, of course “the Yankees will win,” he said.
Sharon Graves is staff writer for The News-Democrat, and probably enjoyed the All-Star game even more than Blake.