DURHAM — The 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game will be a home game for several Durham Bulls.
Charlie Montoyo was selected to manage the International League squad, and the Bulls were well-represented with four players on the roster to tie Syracuse and Indianapolis for the most players on the team.
Headlining the Bulls selections is Mikie Mahtook, who has made a splash in his first three years in the minors.
The selection marks what has been a breakout year for Mahtook, who spent some time in the offseason working on his swing in order to bounce back from what he considered a slow second season in the minors.
The changes have paid off, as he has matched last years home run total of seven. Mahtook leads the International League in doubles with 25 and is batting .316.
I tweaked a few things in my swing this offseason and came into training with a pretty good swing, Mahtook said. [The Rays organization] challenged me with the assignment here, and Im glad they did.
I found out [I made the All-Star team] today about an hour before it came out at the airport. Charlie came up to me, shook my hand and said, Congratulations.
Wilson Betemit has seen a lot of baseball in his time. The 34-year old third baseman was an established utility man for the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers in the early 2000s.
The Dominican Republic-born Betemit is in the midst of his longest stay in the minors but has carved out a solid starting role in the Bulls lineup. He is batting .227 and is tied for seventh in the International League with 12 homers.
Two voted in
Betemit and Mahtook were the two Bulls elected to the squad via a vote by managers and general managers, media members and online fan voting.
Thirteen players are selected in this fashion, and the International League office chooses the remaining 17.
A pair of pitchers round things out for Durham, as Merrill Kelly and Mike Montgomery will bolster the bullpen for the International League. Kelly has been solid this year with a 3.16 ERA with a 6-2 record in 11 starts.
Montgomery, a highly touted high school player 2008 when the Kansas City Royals drafted him, is having the best season of his career. The Valencia, Calif., native has compiled an 8-1 record and 3.28 ERA while only allowing four home runs in 85 innings pitched. Montgomery has seemed settled in this season, as his strikeout total is only three away from matching his total of the entire 2013 season.
Players from other teams
Outside of the Bulls organization, there are several notable players that will be a part of the All-Star festivities.
Fan-favorite Mike Hessman of Toledo will make the trip. Hessman is commonly known around the league by his nickname, Crash Davis, a nod to the popular character from the locally filmed 1988 motion picture Bull Durham. The 36-year old veteran will be making his fourth All-Star appearance a tie for the most all-time appearances. The announcement comes on the heels of his July 1 record-breaking 259th International League home run.
Im excited to see all the players, Bulls manager Montoyo said. A guy like Hessman, whos been in this league for ever, hes a ball-killer. I get to manage him. Itll be fun.
The Charlotte Knights will be represented by shortstop Tyler Saladino. He is hitting .304 with 35 runs scored.
The All-Star Game will take place at 7 p.m. July 16 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.