Charleston played host to the 53rd Annual South Atlantic League (SAL) All-Star festivities early this week, and needless to say the city provided a scenic setting.
The first event of the series was the first round of the Miller High Life Home Run Derby on Monday, in which nearly 400 people witnessed all-stars hit home runs off the flight deck of the USS Yorktown. RiverDogs all-star Tyler Austin was scheduled to participate in the Home run derby, but had to back out last minute. “It wasn’t really my decision not to participate,” he says. “People higher up in the organization made the request. It is what it is. It would have been fun, but I’m not going to get upset about it. It’s just a really nice honor to be named an all-star, especially in this league. There are a lot of great players and it’s going to be an unbelievable experience to play in this game.”
A home run derby taking place on an aircraft carrier is something that has never been done before, but earned the praise of Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman. “I thought the concept of doing the home run derby off the aircraft carrier yesterday was spectacular,” he says. “It was a great idea. I’d like to see us try something like that in New York.”
Cashman, one of the most important people in the Yankee’s front office, was very excited to come visit Charleston because he heard about how great the city is, the depth of talent this RiverDogs team has to offer, and that Bill Murray is a co-owner of the team. “This is the first time I’m meeting Bill Murray, and it has been a treat,” he says. “He picked me up from the airport and I was blown away by that, but I’ve heard nothing but awesome things about him and his involvement here.”
Cashman came into town Tuesday to be the keynote speaker at the SAL Hall of Fame ceremony, where Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Carolyn McKee, and Bill Murray were being honored for their contributions to the league.
“The ball park has always been a place for me to go and get rid of all my problems,” says the former Saturday Night Live star. “There is something special about coming to the ball park because here you don’t think about anything other than the game. Baseball is the first place where I put a lot energy toward something and I was rewarded with joy. I think that’s why I hang around. Plus, these RiverDogs players are not only incredibly talented, but they are fun to be around.”
After the Hall of Fame ceremony, the final rounds of the home run derby took place at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, and then it was time for the all-star game. Harold Riggins, first baseman for the Asheville Tourists won the derby with three homers in the final round, and then the North Division topped the South Division by a score of 3-2 in the all-star game. Six RiverDogs made it to the all-star game, which has Yankee executives thrilled. The RiverDogs are back home starting June 25 and are looking for your support as they close out the season.
“We have been working hard to get as much talent as we possibly can, and we are very excited about this collection of talent in particular,” Cashman says. “We are hoping this group can be the nucleus for the organization to rely on in coming years.”