07/13/2019 11:46 AM -
By Dan Vaughan
KANSAS CITY, Kan. –The baseball all-star break came and went in most leagues in 2018, except in the American Association. The T-Bones and the rest of the league just kept on grinding through the season last year, and they never paused for a break much less for an all-star celebration.
After a one-year hiatus, the American Association All-Star game returns to CHS Field in the Lowerton area of downtown St. Paul. For the St. Paul Saints front office, they have been hard at work. They will be joined by the home-town field staff, but the game will also have a KC flair in the South Division dugout. By virtue of winning the league pennant last season over St. Paul, Kansas City Manager Joe Calfapietra will lead the southern charges along with his entire coaching staff. Calfapietra will be joined by pitching coach Bill Sobee, bench coach John West, and first base coach Frank White.
“I am happy Bill (Sobee), John (West) and Frank (White) are going to be with me. All three guys mean a lot to me. When you do things like this, you want people around you that you feel comfortable with, and obviously I feel very comfortable with these guys. They would probably like the two days off, but I need them with me,” said a smiling Joe Calfapietra.
Calfapietra will also have four of his players from KC join him on the south squad. Kansas City will send infielder Dylan Tice, catcher Roy Morales, right-handed pitcher Tommy Collier and left-handed pitcher Nick Lee. The four, along with the coaches, will represent the Kansas City T-Bones on the South Division All-Star team at the American Association All-Star game July 23 at CHS Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Calfapietra has created a special family environment since coming to KC before the 2017 season. He views the coaches and players as “his guys,” and he relishes the moments that come when he is able to share good news with them. When the players are told that Calfapietra makes sure that the team becomes a family affair.
“We brought all the players who had won the honor in (in front of the team), and they were all very excited about it. They are all-stars, and at any level when you have that opportunity it is definitely gratifying, and it is something they should be very proud of,” said Calfapietra.
Dylan Tice will be a reserve utility player for the South. Tice is hitting .309 with a .382 OBP and 14 stolen bases. He leads the club with 14 stolen bases and has scored a team-leading 30 runs for KC. Tice is in his second season with the T-Bones and has had a dynamic first three months of the 2018 season. Tice was one of the league’s top offensive players when his contract was purchased from the T-Bones by the New York Mets organization on August 4, 2018. In 68 games for Kansas City, Tice hit .333 with one home run and 16 RBIs while holding down the leadoff spot for KC. At the time his contract was purchased, the Perkasie, Pennsylvania native was ninth in the league in average, 4th with 55 runs scored, 5th in hits with 91 and 4th in on-base percentage at .428.
Tice has picked up where he left off last season and not missed a beat. That is something that Calfapietra believes is not easy to do considering all the obstacles Tice overcame.
“That is not easy to do. He got signed by the Mets and was in and out of their lineup. Then he got injured in the off season and had to re-hab, but then he ended up getting released by the Mets. We pick him up late because of his injury, and he does not miss a beat,” said Calfapietra. “He is a hard worker and superb teammate, and I cannot say enough about the kid. I just feel very privileged to have him play for me.”
Roy Morales is one of three T-Bones to have a four-hit game and the only player on the team to have a four-RBI game so far this season. The native of Puerto Rico had a team best .315 average with a home run and 16 RBI in 32 games when the selections were announced. He also had a walk off game-winning RBI against Cleburne on June 21st, but he has also shown what it takes behind the plate.
“Number one, Roy has done a great job controlling our pitching staff. I have always considered that the catcher’s number one duty to have the confidence of the pitching staff, and he has that. We have a different dynamic because we use both of our catchers close to equally, and Christian Correa has done a super job for us also. Roy has established confidence with the pitchers, and offensively he has swung the bat— he gets on base and he gets guys over and he catches and throws well,” said Calfapietra.
Morales is in his first season with Kansas City and comes to KC from the Miami Marlins organization where he was the 12th round pick in the 2014 June Amateur Draft out of Colegio Angel David High School in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico.
Tommy Collier is in his second season in KCK. A former Detroit Tigers farmhand, the Cypress, Texas native in ten games owns a 3.86 ERA, striking out 48, and he has tossed four straight quality starts dating back to June 4th. Collier Leads the T-Bones in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts and has given up just five earned runs in his last 33 innings of work.
“Tommy is special. We talk about it all the time, but he is always prepared. He loves competing, and he well deserves the honor to pitch against the best in the league,” added Calfapietra.
Collier was terrific all season long in 2018 and came up big for the T-Bones in the American Association playoffs. Collier tossed seven innings in the first-round division series clincher in a 4-2 win over Sioux City at Lewis and Clark Park in Iowa. He scattered four hits and allowed just one earned run to help push the T-Bones on to the championship series. Collier was not able to pitch the first two games at St. Paul in the league finals, but when the series shifted to Kansas City and his turn came up five days later, he again delivered. He hurled eight innings, giving up three earned runs in a 7-3 T-Bones win to take a 2-1 series lead over the Saints. He would go 2-0 in the post season and give up four earned runs in 15 innings with 11 strike outs.
Fellow Texan Lefty Nick Lee rounds out the T-Bones All-Star selections. So far this season, Lee has a record of 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA and a .188 average against. He pitched in Thursday night’s win against Saint Paul with a line of 1 hit, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts in 1.1 innings. The native of San Antonio has struck out 35 in 24 innings this season for the T-Bones.
“Nick was with us last year and did outstanding. He was one of the few players we brought back from the Championship team, and he is having a wonderful year. He is striking out batters and throwing more strikes, and I think he looks sharper than he did last year, which is saying a lot. Nick had a couple of bumps early on, and he shrugged them off. Now we put him out there and he looks as good as anyone.” said Calfapietra.
Lee began his professional career with the Washington Nationals organization in 2011. After being drafted in the 18th round out of Weatherford College in Texas. Last season for the T-Bones Lee was 1-2 in 19 innings with a 3.25 ERA with 21 strike outs.
The All-Star festivities will be at CHS Field on July 22nd and 23rd, featuring the Home Run Derby on Monday and the All-Star game on Tuesday. The Saints have plenty of events planned around the two days with a complete list of those events on their website. If you are headed that way you might also want to check out this link for tickets to the events and the game.
The game will be televised on FOX Sports North Plus with local radio coverage on KFAN PLUS, 96.7 FM. For those of you not in the area, which would be 99.9 % of you reading this, you get the station by downloading the iHeart app. Also, the easy way to catch the game is streamed through the Saints website both audio and TV.
For a complete list of both teams - 2019 American Association All-Star Team
The 2019 American Association All-Star game will have a big taste of Kansas City. Maybe we should send some of our favorite BBQ sauce as well?