“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
The opening of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem will be temporarily disproved tonight in Spokane, when East indeed meets West for the first time.
As a 50th birthday present to itself, the Northwest League will pause from its pennant races for a special night of fun, celebration and top-notch baseball.
Premier players from the four teams in the West Division will square off against the elite from the four-team East Division in what is billed as the first All-Star Game in league history.
“We’ve never done anything like this, and the league has never done anything like this, so it’s really pretty exciting,” Spokane Indians president Andy Billig said.
Nine Everett AquaSox were named to the West roster, but just six will play: pitchers Aaron Jenson and Mumba Rivera, catcher Omar Falcon, infielders Oswaldo Navarro and Brandon Green, and outfielder Brent Johnson.
Everett pitcher Shawn Nottingham, and infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Yung Chi Chen also were named to the West squad but will not play. Nottingham is being held out because he will pitch Thursday, Cabrera is nursing an injury and Chen is off to join the Taiwan Olympic team in Athens.
Two hours before the 7 p.m. start at Avista Stadium, one slugger from each NWL team will compete in a home run derby. The winner will pocket $500 and earn $1,000 for a charity in his team’s hometown.
Everett’s representative in the derby will be Brandon Green. Green will be matched against a derby field that includes Eugene’s Colt Morton, who leads the league with 12 homers and a slugging percentage of .656.
Green has four home runs and is slugging .449 this season.
East manager Darryl Kennedy of Spokane and West manager Joe Strain of Salem-Keizer will be in charge of 24-man rosters comprised of six players from each team. Each team will carry 10 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders and five outfielders.
“I’m going to make out the (starting) lineup according to their stats,” Kennedy said. “I’m just going to put out there whoever’s had a better year so far.”
Kennedy said he planned to wait until just before the game to announce his lineup and starting pitcher.
Players to watch from the East team include Yakima second baseman Erik Schindewolf, the league leader in walks and runs scored; Tri-City third baseman Matt Macri, hitting .350 and the NWL leader in RBIs; Boise outfielder Luis Montanez, No. 2 in league batting and total hits; Tri-City right-hander Jim Miller, the league leader in saves; and Yakima right-hander A.J. Shappi, whose 0.77 earned-run average tops the NWL.
“Shappi has had a terrific season for us,” Bears general manager Bob Romero said. “In his last two starts, he has thrown six scoreless innings and eight scoreless innings.”
Vancouver outfielder Javier Herrera, the NWL leader in hits and batting average, will spark the West team with Eugene slugger Morton. Salem-Keizer outfielder Brian Horwitz (.338) and Eugene right-hander Vern Sterry, one of the league’ top strikeout pitchers, should also shine for the West.
Billig stressed that the game won’t become an annual event, even if it’s a huge success. The idea probably wouldn’t have germinated, except league officials wanted a big blowout to mark the league’s gold anniversary.
The festive evening will include expanded pre-game introductions; radio announcers from other NWL teams sharing the booth with Indians broadcaster Bob Robertson; media coverage from half of the league’s cities; and honored guests including NWL president Bob Richmond and minor-league baseball secretary/general counsel Scott Poley.