Year after year, the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League has built momentum. More and more Power 5 coaches – especially those in the SEC and the ACC – are starting to send their young players to New York every summer to develop into the players that will eventually impact games at the end of the season in Omaha.
The talent level in the PGCBL has risen each season, it seems. And as far as showing off that talent goes, there may be no better or more convenient place than Saugerties, New York to showcase the best of the best for the 2019 All-Star Game, which will be held on Tuesday, July 16 at Cantine Field.
“Geographically, we’re in the perfect location [to host the All-Star Game],” Saugerties Owner Kevin Hinchey told Perfect Game. “We can grab all the scouts out of New York City. We’re only about three hours away from the Cape Cod League. We’re right here. So as far the PGCBL goes, it doesn’t get any better than Saugerties, New York.”
Players from programs such as Arkansas, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, Wake Forest, and West Virginia will all be on an All-Star Roster this year, with a number of non-Power 5 powerhouse programs also represented.
Saugerties, playing host of the All-Star Game for the first time in the franchise’s history, will send six players to the exhibition. The reserves include infielder Jake Skrine (Indiana), outfielder Dillon Lifrieri (Arkansas), and pitchers Austin Cole (Arizona Western) and Henry Funaro (UMass Lowell). The two Stallions who will start the game are outfielder Tyler Kelder (St. Bonaventure) and pitcher Lane Miller (Indiana State).
The two starters, Kelder and Miller, have been two of the better players in the entire league this summer.
Kelder, who just finished his sophomore season at St. Bonaventure, has picked up with Saugerties right where he left off with the Bonnies. He hit .293 with 15 doubles, nine home runs, and 33 RBI this spring, leading the Bonnies in each of those categories. This summer with the Stallions, Kelder is hitting .310 heading into the All-Star break, adding 19 runs, 35 hits, nine doubles, five home runs, and 23 RBI, all of which pace the team.
This will be the second consecutive year he has represented Saugerties in the All-Star game, after hitting .261 with 11 doubles and four home runs last summer.
The Kingston, New York native is playing about 20 minutes from home in Saugerties this summer. While most players in the league get connected with a host family, Kelder gets to spend his summer at home. That has made the transition into summer ball a lot smoother for him.
“It’s been pretty easy,” he said. “I know for some guys it can be tough because they’re traveling a long way from home, but I get to stay at home this summer, so that’s nice. That’s made it easier on me.”
For Miller, who will get the ball in front of his home crowd to start the game on Tuesday, it has been a good thing traveling away from home for the summer. He wanted to get out of his comfort zone.
The Boonville, Indiana native started his college career at Indiana, and transferred to Indiana State this past year to play for the Sycamores. Last summer, he played in a summer league in Indiana. He was seeing the same guys step into the box over and over again. He was done comparing himself to those guys. He wanted different competition.
“I wanted to be away from home. I wanted to see what else was out there and venture off and do my own thing without people I know there with me,” Miller told PG. “If I were to play closer to home, there would be kids in the league that I know…So I came in with a fresh slate wanting to get things done. The competition out here is great, and it’s a fresh look for me to prove myself.”
He has done that, with the All-Star game start to prove it. His 2.29 ERA in over 35 innings of work, along with his 39 strikeouts, .178 batting average against, and .960 WHIP all just solidify it.
Miller, in his big 6-foot-5 frame, who hadn’t thrown a competitive pitch in about a year after sitting out due to transferring, actually credited this past year with his performance this summer.
“I think all the preparation I did this spring [helped]…The fact that I took the time off, I took advantage of it and worked out every single day, preparing my body for when I came back,” he said. “I threw every single day, threw lots of bullpens. Got in the groove of finding the strike zone, commanding more pitches, and I think that entire six-month period before I came out here for summer ball really helped prepare me for the success I’ve had.”
Hard work pays off, and rather early for Miller. Getting the start on the mound for the All-Star Game in front of a couple thousand expected home fans is no small thing. He, Kelder, and Hinchey said they are all expecting Tuesday to be quite the spectacle.
“Saugerties in general just loves the Stallions. It’s a baseball community,” Hinchey said. “They’re going to be pretty pumped up. There will be fireworks after the game, there’s going to be a lot of stuff going on during the day here, and we’re expecting to have a few thousand people here. And to have [Miller] take the mound that day is going to be pretty incredible for him. I’m very proud of him.”
Kelder, with his five long balls this summer, is also competing in the home run derby this year after making it to the finals in the event last year in Elmira.
He said the added juice of hitting in front of his home crowd, on top of the fact that his dad will be throwing to him, makes him pretty excited for the event.
“It’s going to be a great time,” he said. “Being involved in the All-Star Game last year was fun, but playing at home and in front of my friends and family will just make it that much better. Kevin [Hinchey] is making sure everything is amazing and I know Saugerties will make the atmosphere great.”
That’s the overarching sentiment surrounding this year’s All-Star Game. Saugerties is a baseball town. Last summer, the Stallions averaged almost a thousand fans per game. For its first-ever All-Star Game? With a homegrown player competing in his second home run derby and an adopted son getting the nod on the mound? The atmosphere should be electric.
“Saugerties always brings a great crowd to every game,” Miller said. “Especially with this being the All-Star Game, I’m sure more people will come out. It’s going to be a packed house. There will be a ton of energy, I’m sure.”
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