(KMOV.com) -- Three Springfield Cardinals have been named as starters to the mid-season Texas League All-Star game set for this month, and the Cards’ manager may be about to make history.
Carson Kelly, Luke Voit and Harrison Bader will start for the North Division of the Texas League in the June 28th game at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.
Additionally, Paul DeJong and Bruce Caldwell were selected as reserves, along with Springfield pitcher Mike Mayers, who has since been promoted to Memphis.
The entire Redbirds’ staff will manage the North squad, including manager Dann Bilardello, pitching coach Jason Simontacchi and hitting coach Ramon Ortiz. Interestingly, Bilardello may be the first person to appear in the Texas League all-star game (1982) and now manage it. “I’m looking forward to it,” Bilardello said. “It’s going to fun for me and the kids.”
Bilardello, Simontacchi and Ortiz have guided the Class AA Cardinals into a pennant chase, something the manager said has been invaluable to the development of the young squad. Springfield is 35-28, a half game behind Tulsa (Dodgers), and could reclaim first place tonight if they defeat Tulsa at home. The Cards have four more games with them at Tulsa next week, which will determine the first half champion.
“This is a really good challenge for us and I’m glad we’re a part of (a pennant chase),” said Bilardello. “When you’re in the middle of it like we are, it really (drives home) the need to get bunts down and advance runners. All that matters now, more than ever.”
He said minor leaguers already play with constant pressure; the pressure to improve, to advance, to avoid getting sent down or released. This added pressure helps separate players who might be better able to handle the stresses of playing in the big leagues.
“I’d have to say Luke Voit (1B, 9 homers, .830 OPS .382 last 10 games) has been the most consistent. He has really handled this well. Not that others haven’t, but Luke has been doing very well (as the team closes out the half).”
The young Cardinals have matured since the season opened, evidenced by their 5-2 home stand in which they stayed right with the division leaders. “They’ve responded really well. Of course as coaches, we are never satisfied. There were a few mistakes in games we won but it’s more of a matter of execution than ability.”
He said the benefit of a tight race is that it emphasizes how important the relatively minor aspects of the game are, and it teaches them how to handle pressure. He said that while playing under the pressure of a pennant race can be learned, it is also a trait of great players, who often separate themselves in these situations. And, he said, it is good for the organization to see how its players respond in highly competitive situations.
After tonight, the young Cardinals go on the road for seven games – including those crucial four at Tulsa – before finishing with a four-game home stand to end the half.