The Lexington Legends will host the South Atlantic League All-Star Game for the second time on Tuesday night, and some familiar faces will represent the hometown squad in the game between the Southern and Northern Divisions.
Second-year Legends manager Omar Ramirez was named one of two coaches who will serve under Southern Division Manager Luis Dorante, and starting pitcher Emilio Ogando was named to the Southern Division roster. If not for a turn of tough luck, Ogando would have been joined by Legends catcher Chase Vallot.
Vallot was the top vote-getter among three catchers on the Southern roster, but last Tuesday in the third inning of a 7-3 loss to the West Virginia Power, he was drilled in the face by a fastball. Vallot was able to leave the field under his own power but he’ll need facial surgery. The injury came on the heels of his return to the lineup; he had been sidelined since June 1 after a hard fall on defense. Vallot will miss the All-Star Game and likely the first two weeks of the second half of the Legends’ season.
Before last Wednesday’s game against West Virginia, Ramirez said he was disappointed Vallot would miss Tuesday’s festivities but excited to be a part of the game himself.
“It’s really nice for the city. There’s gonna be a lot of stuff going on surrounding it so it’s great for Lexington,” he said. “It’s always nice to be in the All-Star game and to share a locker room with a lot of guys we’re gonna see in the big leagues three or four years from now.”
If they continue on their recent trajectories, there’s a good chance Vallot and Ogando will be among those current minor-leaguers who suit up in the majors in the near future. Ramirez said both players have made notable improvements in their second year with the Legends.
“He’s a real competitor,” Ramirez said of Ogando. “He always giving us good innings, and that’s been a big difference this year. It doesn’t matter about the wins and losses, every time he takes the mound he competes. You can see that he has more confidence when he takes the mound.”
Ogando, who was a 12th-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2014, has posted a 4-4 record with an ERA of 3.93 and has struck out 48 batters in 55 innings this season. The 22-year-old left-hander, who earned first-team All-Sun Conference honors in his final year at St. Thomas University in Florida, lit up with a huge smile when asked about his All-Star selection.
“I’m extremely honored to first be able to play in this league and now to be picked as an All-Star is just incredible,” he said.
Ogando also lamented Vallot’s absence from Tuesday’s All-Star Game lineup and said the 19-year old catcher has made his life on the mound easier this season.
“That guy has been fantastic. I definitely don’t mind him behind the plate at all,” he said with a laugh. “The way he calls the game ... we’re definitely locked in when he’s behind the plate. I’m not shaking off a whole lot when he’s calling the game.”
Vallot, who was drafted 40th overall in the 2014 first-year player draft, is batting .289 with eight home runs and 29 RBI this season.
“Chase is growing all the time. He’s making better adjustments at the plate, and this year he’s a different hitter,” Ramirez said. “It’s too bad that we’re gonna lose him for a week or two. We talk a lot about the hitting because he’s having a great year, but his defense is improving a lot too.”
In an interview with Legends radio announcer Keith Elkins before his latest injury, Vallot said he was humbled to be named an All-Star.
“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “When I was little I made the All-Star team here and there when I was 8 and 9 years old and it was fun then, but now to be a professional All-Star in this league is a dream come true.”
Ogando said the fact the All-Star game is being played at Whitaker Bank Ballpark makes the honor of being selected even sweeter.
“It makes it so much better having the game played here,” he said. “Just being here in front of the home crowd definitely hypes it up just that much more. It’s gonna be fun”
South Atlantic League All-Star events
Monday: Free concert featuring Thompson Square and William Michael Morgan at Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza, Main Street at Limestone, 6-10 p.m.
Tuesday: All events at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. Ticket prices range from $6 to $18.
▪ 2:45 p.m.: Northern Division team signs autographs, Southern Division takes batting practice.
▪ 3:45 p.m.: Southern Division team signs autographs, Northern Division takes batting practice.
▪ 4:45 p.m.: Legendary Derby featuring All-Stars and local celebrities.
▪ 6 p.m.: Halfway to Hazard concert.
▪ 7:05 p.m.: South Atlantic League All-Star Game.