LACONIA — The Laconia Muskrats are hoping that a predicted break in the weather which will bring moderate temperatures to the area will bring out a big crowd when they host the New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game on Sunday, July 21.
''Based on attendance at recent All-Star games we hope to have at least 1,000 people. It's going to be an exciting day with people from all over New England here.'' says Crane.
He also expects a large turnout of major leagues scouts to be present to check out the top prospects from the 13-team league, which since its inception in 1994 has sent 85 of its alumni on to the major leagues.
Three of its alumni, pitchers Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow and catcher Ryan Larvanway, are currently playing for the Red Sox. Other NECBL alumni include Joe Nathan, who closed out the All-Star game for the American League, and Washington Nationals young pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.
"This is an opportunity for us to show off our organization and our incredible field to all of New England", said Crane, who said that he's very pleased with the play so far this year of the Muskrats, now in their third season, who after Wednesday night's win had a 17-12 record and were two and a half games out of first place.
''We've had some excellent pitching and good timely hitting,'' says Crane, who says that the major handicap to drawing more fans to Robbie Mills Field so far this year has been the weather.
''We had a lot of rain, or the threat of rain, in late June and early July and now we're having a heat wave with temperatures in the 90s that makes it very uncomfortable for people to sit through a two or three-hour ballgame,'' said Crane.
The annual NECBL event will kick-off at 1:25 p.m. with the fastest runner in the league competition and will be followed at 2 p.m. as the best power hitters in the NECBL take aim at Laconia's replica Green Monster as they compete in the Home Run Derby.
Among those taking part in the home run derby will be Muskrats' first baseman Ryan McBroom, a 6'3'', 215 pound first baseman from West Virginia University who leads the league in hitting with a .373 average.
''He's an impressive hitter,'' says Crane, who says that the Kansas City Royals were impressed enough with the right-handed hitting McBroom him to have drafted him in the 36th round and to have invited him to their Kansas City camp.
''He decided npt to sign and to go back to college for his senior year,'' says Crane, who noted hat McBroom is one of two Muskrat position players named to the NECBL's East Division All-Star roster.
The other is fleet-footed outfielder Joe Torres from Iona College who is batting .302 and leads the league in both walks, with 21, and stolen bases, also 21.
''He's fast and he has good instincts. He played last year for use and didn't hit as well. But this year he's completely changed his approach and is getting on base a lot, where he puts a lot of pressure on opposing pitchers with his base running skills,'' says Crane.
The Muskrats will be represented by two pitchers in Sunday's All-Star Game, Will Blalock, a 6'1'', 210 pound righthander from Lipscomb University in Tennessee, who will start the game for the East, and Joshua Prevost, a 6'7'', 210 pound righthander from Seton Hall.
Both pitchers have 2-1 records and Blalock, who has started four games, has a miniscule 0.96 ERA, striking out 22 batters in 28 innings while allowing only 23 hits and three walks.
''He has outstanding control and can throw any one of his three pitches, fastball, curve and changeup, for a stike at any point in the count,'' says Crane.
Prevost, an imposing righthander who is also a basketball player, ''is one of our top of the rotation guys,'' says Crane. Prevost pitched a complete game in his first start of the year against Vernont, yielding only two hits while striking out nine in a 3-0 win.
He's 2-1 for the season with a 1.12 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 24 innings while giving up only 15 hits and eight walks.
''This game is a real chance for our local fans to see some future major league players in action and show the rest of the league how much support there is for quality baseball in the Lakes Region. We're hopeful the weather is going to cooperate and provide the kind of fun day that everyone will remember,'' says Crane.