By VICTOR FLORES
The inaugural Northwest League vs. Pioneer League All-Star Game does not appear to be the last.
The Ogden Raptors announced near the end of Tuesday’s all-star game that they will host the 2016 game, pending approval from Minor League Baseball. The success of Tuesday’s game, hosted by the Northwest League’s Spokane Indians, led to the decision to play another one next year, this time at a Pioneer League ballpark.
“It will be a big project for us but we will be excited and ready for the game,” Raptors president Dave Baggot said in an article on Ogden’s website.
Ogden could not be reached for comment.
The date and time of next year’s all-star game have not yet been announced. Pioneer League president Jim McCurdy and Northwest League president Mike Ellis will make a joint application for MiLB approval, and Idaho Falls Chukars general manager Kevin Greene hopes the game will be approved in the next few weeks.
“I think what they’re really waiting for is to get feedback from all of the farm directors from all the teams that participated,” Greene said. “Make sure all the farm directors are comfortable with us moving forward and doing this annually.”
As Greene told the Post Register before Tuesday’s all-star game, Ogden was a prime candidate to host next year’s all-star game. The Raptors’ ballpark, Lindquist Field, has a capacity of 6,700 people, making it the largest ballpark in the Pioneer League. Spokane’s Avista Stadium had an attendance of 7,083 for Tuesday’s all-star game.
Other than ballpark size, location was another key factor for Ogden’s all-star game selection. Ogden is about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, narrowly surpassing Orem as the closest Pioneer League town to an international airport. Ogden’s proximity to Salt Lake’s airport allows Northwest League teams to save time and money compared to the Pioneer League’s seven other venues (Idaho Falls; Orem; Grand Juction, Colo.; Billings, Mont.; Helena, Mont.; Missoula, Mont; Great Falls, Mont.).
Next year’s likely all-star game wouldn’t have been possible if Tuesday’s inaugural game went poorly. It went anything but, according to multiple people at the event. The home run derby was well-done, Greene said, and the capacity crowd was treated to a thrilling 6-5, extra-inning victory by the Northwest League.
“Spokane did such a great job,” Greene said. “Their attention to detail was spot-on. These guys worked very, very hard, and they spent a lot of money to pull it off the way they did. The way it was all put together, you couldn’t have asked for it to be done better.
“I’d hate to be the one to try and follow what they did.”
On Aug. 2, Chukars’ left-handed pitcher Dylan Sons was placed on the voluntary retirement list. The Chukars could not provide further details, and Sons could not be reached for comment.
Sons, 22, was drafted in the 15th round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Kansas City Royals. In seven starts and 26.2 innings this season for Idaho Falls, Sons had a 10.80 ERA on 14 walks, 21 strikeouts and five home runs.
The Chukars also added a player on Aug. 2. Catcher Luis Lara, 20, was promoted from the Arizona League, where he had a .278 batting average, a .381 on-base percentage and a .278 slugging percentage in 36 at-bats.
Idaho Falls now has four catchers on its active roster.
Lara played his first game in an Chukars uniform on Saturday. He went 2 for 4 at the plate against Helena.
RHP Josh Staumont
Staumont has been electric since he joined Idaho Falls on July 15, but he was also wild early on. In his first appearance with the Chukars on July 16 against Missoula, Staumont walked five and gave up two earned runs in 0.2 innings. The 21-year-old settled down a bit his next three relief appearances, but he still finished the first half with 11 walks, nine strikeouts and four earned runs in 7.1 innings.
Staumont, a second- round pick by Kansas City in the 2015 MLB draft, has given up one earned run in his 6.2 second half innings (three relief appearances). But more importantly, he’s walked three batters while striking out 11. Staumont’s fastball has hit 100-plus miles per hour on several occasions, as well.
1B Josh Banuelos
It’s not easy to find a struggling player on a team that’s won eight consecutive games, and hardly any Chukar is currently slumping. But compared to his hot start, Banuelos fits that bill.
Banuelos’ batting average was .361 before Idaho Falls’ game against Orem on July 23. He’s gone 12 for 44 (.273) since, dropping his season average to .337.
Perhaps most concerning for Banuelos are his walks, or lack thereof. He’s drawn two walks since July 20, leading to a 35-point drop in his on-base percentage.
Banuelos, a 2015 Pioneer League all-star, missed four games last week due to a bone bruise in his hand.