Dayton Dragons outfielder Jesse Winker could hardly contain himself.
The normally jovial Winker had an extra spring in his step, and if the Midwest League handed out an award for the player having the best time, he would have won unanimously.
Winker bopped around the clubhouse with his fellow Eastern Division all-stars before he took his turn bopping home runs out of Fifth Third Field during Tuesday’s Home Run Derby prior to the Midwest League All-Star Game.
The East out-homered the West 19-13, with a heaping handful of help from Winker, who hit a derby-high 10. He batted out six in the first round and four in the second. The lefty sent three of them bouncing across First Street, all while his musical choice of Eminem blasted from the speakers.
The Cincinnati Reds’ 2012 supplemental first-round draft pick looked in his element, stopping between rounds to do television interviews or speak over the stadium public-address system with Dragons radio announcer Tom Nichols. The only thing stopping him was Fort Wayne TinCap Luis Tejada, who brought Winker a towel and a drink of water in the first round.
Local Little Leaguers Ethan Tedder and Devin Dudley took part. Dudley, a 12-year-old who plays for the Gem City Throwbacks, hit five home runs for the West while Tedder, 11, a player with the Beavercreek Sox, hit four for the East. The Little Leaguers were given a portable fence to hit over, which extended beyond the Dragons’ infield.
Winker said the experience was one he was going to treasure.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “It’s been awesome meeting new guys and talking about the season.”
He avoided one point of contention — he hit more home runs than his Little League counterpart.
“If he would have beat me, it would have been fun,” Winker said. “I would have wore that for the rest of the year.”
No go for Cisco: Dayton starting pitcher Drew Cisco was selected but didn't appear in the game. The South Carolina native has been fighting a battle with blisters on his fingers.
$6 million man: Cedar Rapids outfielder Byron Buxton has been a pro for only a year, but he's already becoming a YouTube legend thanks to a big bat and amazing feats on defense. That potential has him compared to Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, and it earned him a $6 million signing bonus, a Minnesota Twins franchise record, out of high school last year as the second overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft.
The growing attention and social media presence hasn’t done much to change the Georgia native.
“You can’t pay too much attention to it, because you still have to come out and play ball every day,” Buxton said. “It’s good knowing people have your back, though, and look at your stuff.”
Memories for the manager: Dayton and West manager Jose Nieves played in two all-star games in the minors, one each in AA and AAA ball for the Chicago Cubs. Asked if he would have liked a break in the middle of the season, the answer was a definitive no.
“It’s all baseball,” Nieves said. “I love to be here every day. You have time to share with the players that we play against. It’s good to be around these kids. Most of them are going to be in the big leagues. It’s good to see them get their start.”
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