Omahans love their baseball. That was definitely proven as thousands ventured out in 90+ degree heat and humidity to take in the Triple-A baseball All-Star Game festivities. Omaha hosted the annual midsummer classic for minor league baseball stars.
The four-day celebration included a celebrity softball game, Fan Day, home run derby and, of course, the All-Star game. We took in the home run derby and the All-Star game.
The Omaha Storm Chasers hosted the event in their five-year-old stadium in suburban Papillion. The Chasers have won at least the division title during their first four seasons at the ball park. They have won back-to-back national titles for Minor League Baseball. They are currently in second place in their division at the break, but have been on a roll, so a fifth division title is within their grasp.
The Triple-A baseball home run derby was fun to watch. The players participating were very relaxed and seemed to have a great time. The contest matched three players each from the International League and the Pacific Coast League (Omaha’s league). Two area high school players also participated.
Reno Aces slugger Peter O’Brien scorched the field in the first of two rounds with a solid 13 homers. The two players who hit the most home runs in the first two rounds advanced to the championship round. O’Brien ended up with 15 after two rounds.
Dariel Alvarez of the Norfolk Tides had a solid performance – hitting seven dingers in the first round and eight in the second.
O’Brien and Alvarez advanced to the title round with 15 homers each.
Jesus Aguilar of the Columbus Clippers was my favorite player to watch. He finished third with 10 home runs. I thought he had a shot at a strong performance. He started each round with a home run.
More than 7,000 fans cheered the players and had a great time. The players entertained the fans beyond hitting the ball. Teammates would come out of the dugouts after each player had so many outs and would bring them a Gatorade and towel them off. One player even took a selfie with one of the batters. The night’s events were all in fun.
Still, a championship belt was at stake. The final two players started from scratch in scoring in the final round. Whoever hit the most homers in that round would be crowned the Home Run Derby champion.
Alvarez went to the plate first. He scored six home runs.
O’Brien struggled a bit. His first few pitches resulted in outs. Then, he hit his first zinger. After a player had four outs, they had the chance to hit an orange ball, sponsored by a local energy company (OPPD). If the player hit the ball out, it would count as two home runs and they could keep using the orange ball until they recorded the next out. O’Brien hit the next two out to cut the lead to 6-5. But, that’s all she wrote, as he finished with a couple more outs, giving Alvarez the championship.
The 2 ½-hour event culminated with a great fireworks show.
The first event we attended was pretty fun. So, why wouldn’t the Triple-A baseball All-Star Game be just as much fun?
We weren’t disappointed. Strong pitching kept the score low for the first seven innings. The International League all-stars took a 1-0 lead in the top half of the first inning when Rochester’s James Beresford tripled in his first at-bat of the game. He scored the run on a single by Buffalo’s Matt Hague.
The score stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Albuquerque’s Cristhian Adames belted a solo home run to tie it at 1-1.
The Pacific Coast League all-stars took the lead 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning on a two-run homer by Reno’s Peter O’Brien. O’Brien was the runner-up in the home run derby Monday.
The IL all-stars pulled out the win with a three-run ninth inning. The crowd of about 9,000 fans had a great time watching the game.
Taking part in any all-star game for any sport has to be a fun experience. But, when the event is in your backyard, it just adds to the special feeling. As the game wrapped up and the fireworks exploded in the night sky, I wondered if the Storm Chasers’ staff was ready to take a deep sigh of relief that they pulled off a great event. And maybe enjoy a nice cold beverage of their choosing.
Thanks to Lisa’s step-grandpa, Michael, for the great seats Monday and Wednesday. He’s a Chasers season ticket holder, and you can tell he loves sharing the game with family and friends.