Some of the best young players in professional baseball will be showcased in Pensacola next week as the Southern League All-Star Game comes to Blue Wahoo Stadium. It's been a long time between all-star games. 55 years ago the Pensacola Senators hosted the Alabama-Florida League All-Star Game at Admiral Mason Ballpark. Now the Southern League All-Star Game comes to Pensacola for the first time at Blue Wahoo Stadium.
"Getting [the All-Star Game] here in our sixth year, we're really excited" said Jonathan Griffith, the President of the Blue Wahoos and of Studer Entertainment and Retail. He says that now that they have over five seasons of baseball under their belts, everything is in place for the Blue Wahoos organization to host the players, front office staff and fans from across the league. "When you get an all-star game, there's so much work that goes into it and decision to be made and you also have a baseball season going on [at the same time]. If we would have had it in our first year, we would have been [unprepared] for something like this. Coming in our sixth year it's really great for us because we feel comfortable with our staff, we have a lot of processes in place and we have a lot of great venues here in Pensacola to use as well."
The All-Star Game is actually two days of events all around town starting Monday at Blue Wahoo Stadium with the Fan Fest and Home Run Derby. Local high school athletes will be swinging for the fences at the ballpark followed by the All-Stars taking a shot at the Home Run Derby crown. That’s followed by the All-Star Awards Gala at Seville Quarter.
On Tuesday, the day begins with the All-Star Luncheon at New World Landing in Pensacola. The guest speaker will be NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. Griffith says it was important to get a local speaker at the event. He also says they marketed the event across the entire league. "All nine other cities! And we're bringing families from every city [in the Southern League] as guests of Visit Pensacola."
The actual All-Star Game will be Tuesday evening at 6:35. The players are selected by a vote of executives, coaches and media members around the league. Six members of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos have been selected for the All-Star roster, including pitcher Tyler Mahle, who earlier this season pitched the first perfect game in the Southern League since 1970. "We all know [Mahle] is going to make the Major Leagues, as long as [he stays healthy], it's just a matter of when. So getting to see him here is a great thing because you get to see him up close, you get to talk to him, that type of thing. It's really a special (part) of minor league baseball."
Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly and his staff will be managing the Southern Division squad, while the staff of last season’s league champion Jackson Generals will be manning the North’s dugout during the game. By the way, if you’ve ever watched a home run derby before, you know that there are always groups of kids on the field to shag the flies that do not go over the fence. Griffith says the Wahoos have reached out to local sports organizations to find some good fielders. "We're going to have a group of kids from Atmore, (another) from Bill Bond, a group of kids from Gulf Breeze and another group of kids from (Unlimited Training Academy."
The Southern League All-Star Game is Tuesday night, June 20 at Blue Wahoo Stadium in Pensacola. Standing room tickets are still available.