By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — Eighteen months ago the Everett AquaSox made a grand proposal to the Northwest League.
That proposal led to the birth of the Northwest League All-Star Game, and today the host AquaSox get that tradition started.
The first annual Northwest League All-Star Game takes place today at Everett Memorial Stadium, giving local fans the opportunity to see the best the short-season single-A league has to offer on the same field at the same time.
“We’re very excited,” Everett executive vice president Tom Backemeyer said about hosting the first of the annual All-Star Games. “It’s been a challenge for our staff, but our staff has done a fantastic job, so we’re thrilled about it. It’s been a lot of work, but we think we have a pretty good plan in place.”
The game is actually the second All-Star Game in league history. The first took place in 2004 in Spokane as a part of the league’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. However, it’s the first of the annual games. Next year’s game will be hosted by the Eugene Emeralds.
And the Sox were the driving force behind the creation of the annual contest.
“Our ownership group includes the Stockton Ports (of the high single-A California League) and Delmarva Shorebirds (of the high single-A South Atlantic League), and they both recently hosted All-Star Games,” Backemeyer said. “When you look at the Northwest League, it’s the only league at this level or above that didn’t have an annual All-Star Game. So 18 months ago we were at our league meeting in Vancouver and we made a presentation to the league saying, ‘Hey, we think it’s great for the league and the players. We’re the only league at this level and above that doesn’t have a game, so why not?’”
Part of the proposal included Everett hosting the first game.
“We’ve seen it be successful with our other teams, we had a model in mind and we’ve seen it work,” Backemeyer said. “It’s great for the players and great for the league. We feel like it’s going to go well, and hopefully the fans and the players think the same thing.”
The game features the North Division against the South Division. The players were chosen by a combination of online fan voting, voting by the league’s managers, and voting by the league’s front offices. The players took part in off-field events Monday, including being introduced at Monday night’s Seattle Mariners game.
Seven Everett players are on the North Division roster: pitchers Aaron Brooks, Lars Huijer and Jose Valdivia; catcher Carlton Tanabe; and infielders Bryan Brito, Jack Reinheimer and Justin Seager. Former Sox third baseman D.J. Peterson was originally selected to the team, but he was promoted to Clinton of the mid single-A Midwest League. His roster spot was taken by Brito.
“I’m happy for all the players,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said about the Sox who were chosen for the game. “They definitely deserve it, they’ve all had good years. It’s nice to see them rewarded for the good seasons they’ve had so far.”
Mummau will also be involved as he will serve as the North Division manager.
“I think it’s an honor,” Mummau said. “I’m looking forward to working with the kids and being a part of the first All-Star Game here in Everett.”
Mummau said he planned on getting all the North Division players into the game, with the exception of those pitchers who are unavailable because they pitched in recent games.
The game is only part of the day’s festivities. The gates open at 2:30 p.m. for the All-Star Fan Fest, which includes live music, a beer garden, and several activities for kids. A Home Run Derby begins at 5:30 p.m., with the All-Star Game scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m.
Nine players are taking part in the Home Run Derby, including Everett’s Seager and Phillips Castillo. The derby will be two rounds, with players getting seven outs. The top three from the first round advance to the second round. Each player is also paired with a local charity, which will receive a donation based on the player’s performance.
Backemeyer said he expected a full house. All reserved seating is already sold out, while a handful of general admission seats are still being sold. Backemeyer also said fans representing each of the league’s eight markets are expected to attend.