PORT ANGELES — The Lefties’ All-Stars showed out with impressive performances in front of the hometown faithful who showed up in droves for the West Coast League’s All-Star Game festivities in Port Angeles.
WCL Commissioner Rob Neyer even managed to achieve a lifelong dream during the game. More on this later.
Port Angeles co-owner Matt Acker had expressed some level of concern in recent weeks about attempting to put on two big events at two separate locations — the first of its kind Saltwater Splashdown home run derby at Hollywood Beach and the WCL’s All-Star Game at Civic Field.
But Acker was all smiles (when his teeth weren’t chattering when the temperature dropped after sunset) when interviewed late in the game Tuesday.
“A great success. We appreciate all the local people who came out to support the events and all the out-of-town folks who came to visit,” Acker said.
He estimated the All-Star Game crowd at 2,500 attendees, with full party decks and a strong turnout in the Civic Field grandstand.
The weather also was picture perfect both days, “just like I planned it,” Acker quipped.
Lefties All-Star reliever Triston Busse enjoyed the experience. He pitched a clean seventh inning, striking out one with no walks and no hits in the North Division’s Lefties-powered 10-6 win over the South.
“The atmosphere was really neat for both events,” Busse said. “The coaches, Matt Acker, everybody did a great job of putting everything together. The home run derby was really neat on the water. The All-Star game tonight, with how many people came out and how lively the crowd was, was super cool. It made it fun to play in for sure. The crowd stayed to the end and were really supportive of the Lefties guys.”
And the Lefties produced in a major way as all five Port Angeles representatives contributed.
“We showed out, it was fun,” Busse said.
“We were all pretty grateful to represent this entire city. We’ve been here the whole summer and [Port Angeles] has been really good to us. We got the chance to reciprocate it and it was awesome. It was really fun,” he said.
Port Angeles’ Kyle Schimpf was picked as the North Division’s MVP after going 3 for 4 with a walk, a double and three RBIs.
Schimpf, who had just five days off between wrapping up season at Southeastern Lousiana and hitting the field for the Lefties, said he needed a spark.
“I had a talk with [hitting] coach [Trevor] Podratz today because I was mentally not there,” Schimpf said. “The past two days have really helped me. I was hitting a frustration wall and that shouldn’t happen, I should trust my abilities instead of getting down on myself, but today was a big help.”
Schimpf also should be credited with a “jinx” if you ask Lefties’ teammate and Saltwater Splashdown champion Ron Brown.
Brown also went 2 for 3 with an RBI and was walked and hit by a pitch in the All-Star game.
“It was awesome, watching Ronnie, or Downtown Ron Brown, watching him put on a show was awesome,” Schimpf said. “He’s mad at me right because he thinks I jinxed him at the plate.”
Brown interjected his thoughts.
“Yes, He did jinx me,” Brown said. “When I was 2 for 2 with a hit-by-pitch and a walk, he said to me, ‘You haven’t gotten out today, right?’ And I’m sitting there, ‘Alright, Schimpf!”
Schimpf was contrite about the alleged jinx.
“I apologize for that,” he said. “Yesterday was awesome watching Ron put on a show and tonight, playing with the guys I’ve been playing against all summer, it was a really fun atmosphere.”
Part of the fun was watching his teammates shine.
“Dico [Jason Dicochea] does what he usually does and hits (2 for 5 with a run) Ron grinded out some hits, Triston as he always does was locked in and Dalton [0-2, hit by pitch, run] was grinding at-bats out and being the tough hitter that he is.”
Jeff Bafus of Woodinville came over to watch his son Curtis Bafus get the start for the North Division All-Stars and pitch a clean first inning. Bafus pitches all the way across the country at Virginia Commonwealth University, so father has treasured the chance to watch his son pitch this summer.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “I think Port Angeles really came out and did a nice job, had a pretty good crowd in a unique setting for the home run derby. It’s been a fun experience for all these guys. We’ve been able to catch quite a few games, I think I’ve seen all of the games that he’s thrown in which is great because we don’t get too see many games when he’s here [gestures to his Virginia Commonwealth University sweatshirt].”
WCL Commissioner Rob Neyer said the All-Star Game provided the opportunity to live out a lifelong dream.
“I was [Lefties mascot] Timber for an inning,” a grinning Neyer said. “I did everything that Timber does, I started in right field, worked all the way around to the party deck [in left field. I patted kids on the head, took a lot of pictures, signed a lot of autographs, hung out with kids behind the fence that were throwing the ball around.
“It was so much fun. I’ve wanted to do this literally for decades. Every time I see a mascot, especially the minor league ones, I always say, ‘I could do that. I want to do that.’ I didn’t know if I could, but it turned out I did OK.
“Between making up the All-Star teams and getting to be Timber, I’ve pretty much achieved everything I could have possibly hoped to achieve in this job. I might quit tomorrow. I’ll wake up and see how I feel.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]