SALT LAKE CITY — The field is prepped and ready to go — complete with a huge Salt Lake logo in center — and a handful of baseball's rising stars are in town to take part in the 2011 Triple-A All-Star Game tonight at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
The game, which pits the Pacific Coast League against the International League, is set to begin at 7 p.m. and will be televised on the MLB Network.
The rosters for the game read like a who's who list of baseball's top prospects: Desmond Jennings (Rays), Trayvon Robinson (Dodgers), Jesus Montero (Yankees), Collin Cowgill (Diamondbacks), Julio Teheran (Braves), Jason Kipnis (Indians) and Zack Cozart (Reds).
If you haven't heard of them yet, this is your chance to get acquainted with the faces of baseball's future. It's also a chance for them perform on a stage few players ever have a chance to ascend.
"Getting here is one of the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year," Cowgill said. "Being with this group is special. I've played against all these guys, and they're really good. Our hitters hate facing these pitchers and our pitchers hate facing these hitters."
Mixed in with the up-and-coming youngsters is a group of veterans who have been around the block a time or two — or, in some cases, three or four. One such player is local standout Gil Velazquez, who is having a breakout year for the Bees in his 14th minor league season. The infielder, who has seen time at shortstop, second base and third base, is batting a team-high .361 to go along with five homers and 14 doubles.
"This whole experience is pretty cool," Velazquez said. "I worked hard in the off-season and in Spring Training my only goal was to make the team. Since then things have gone really well, and now I'm here."
At 31-years old, Velazquez joins Cody Ransom (35) and Mark DeFelice (34) as the elder statesmen of the group. Teheran (20), Montero (21) and Robinson (23) are a few of the youngest players who were selected for the game.
And there are plenty of guys in between.
Jeff Baisley will represent the Bees, and he'll be joined by fellow power hitters Bryan LaHair, Clint Robinson, Dayan Viciedo and Stefan Gartrell, who have each knocked at least 16 home runs so far this season.
Gartrell started his week on a high note with a victory in Monday's Home Run Derby.
"That was a great way to start the week," Gartrell said. "My family and some friends are here to watch me, and just being able to participate in the events and be around the guys is lots of fun. There are some really talented players here."
The game will be followed by the largest fireworks show ever launched from Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Triple-A All-Star game
International League vs. Pacific Coast League
Today, 7 p.m.
Spring Mobile Ballpark
1996 Triple-A All-Star game
Much has changed in the 15 years since Salt Lake last hosted the Triple-A All-Star Game. In 1996, Franklin Quest Field was home to the Salt Lake Buzz, which was an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
Fast-forward to today: Spring Mobile Ballpark is home to the Salt Lake Bees, an affiliate of the Anaheim Angels.
If there's another change that fans will no doubt hope for, it will be for a more scoreboard-friendly game. In 1996, the NL beat the AL 2-1 thanks to a two-run homer by Brook Fordyce in the eighth inning. Salt Lake's Todd Walker had opened the scoring with a solo home shot in the bottom of the fourth.
That game tied with three others — 1988, 1992 and 2010 — as the lowest scoring contests in the game's 24-year history.
Triple-A All-Star starting lineups
9 JASON KIPNIS 2B
9 BRANDON GUYER OF
27 JEREMY HERMIDA OF
24 DAYAN VICIEDO OF
36 DEVIN MESORACO C
26 MATT HAGUE 1B
32 STEFAN GARTRELL DH
37 RUSS CANZLER SS
13 RAY OLMEDO 3B
34 ZACH MCALLISTER P
Pacific Coast League
5 COLLIN COWGILL OF
6 JOHNNY GIAVOTELLA 2B
35 BRYAN LAHAIR 1B
13 CODY RANSOM SS
25 CLINT ROBINSON DH
24 ANDREW BROWN OF
35 JEFF BAISLEY 3B
21 TRAYVON ROBINSON OF
32 ANTHONY RECKER C
49 BRAD MILLS P