On Wednesday night, five members of the Ottawa Titans will represent the team at the Frontier League All-Star Game at Wild Things Park in Washington, as the East Division All-Stars take on the West Division All-Stars at 7:05 pm ET.
The five members of the Titans include Jake Sanford, who will be starting for the East Division in the outfield, infielder A.J. Wright who will start the game on the bench, relief pitcher Kevin Escorcia, starting pitcher Zac Westcott, and starting pitcher Evan Grills, who won’t be attending. Grills hasn’t travelled outside of Canada this season, and decided against making an exception to pitch in the All-Star Game.
“I didn’t really consider going because I haven’t travelled, so it would be a bad look to travel to the All-Star Game and then not travel with the team,” Grills said. “I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it for that reason.”
Although he won’t be making the trip to Washington, Grills is thrilled to be named an All-Star and add yet another thing to his list of achievements in baseball.
“It’s pretty cool,” Grills said. “I definetly wasn’t expecting that was going to happen. I know I have been throwing well, but it’s definitely cool to get recognized for what you’re going.”
“I just look back on all of the fun I have had, how enjoyable this is, and how much I look forward to coming to the field with the boys. In that way, I look back on it a lot and I appreciate it. Not so much for how I have pitched, it has been like a normal season with the ups and downs.”
Sanford is the only member of the Titans to make the starting lineup, completing an outfield that consists of himself, Josh Rehwaldt of the New Jersey Jackals, and Martin Figueroa of the Sussex County Miners. Through 54 games with the Titans, Sanford has bashed 14 home runs and collected a league-high 58 RBIs.
“It’s going to be pretty awesome to be a part of that,” said Sanford. “I wanted to go out there and play as well as I could in the first half to get there, and we made it happen. I’m excited to be there.”
Not unlike Sanford, Wright is also making his first appearance in a Frontier League All-Star Game. In 52 games this season, Wright is batting .294 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs, but has also been critical on the defensive side of the field. He’s proud of his season to date, and he’s thrilled that people outside the Titans’ clubhouse have taken notice of him.
“It feels good,” Wright said. “It’s my first year in the Frontier League and I’m glad that I got off to a good start. I’m glad the league noticed me and wanted me to be an All-Star.”
In the preseason, Wright said that he’s not much of a power hitter. Reconvening now, just before the All-Star Game, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the numbers. Wright insists that he wasn’t lying, but admits that his power stroke has come a long way from where it was while playing with the Missoula PaddleHeads in 2021.
“It’s just something that has come along,” Wright said. “I kinda found that power stroke last year when I was in Montana with Bobby Brown (the Titans’ manager), and he helped me out a little bit there, so I’m trying to stick with that same approach and that same swing. Hopefully, there’s a good amount more to come.”
Hitting a home run to walk off a game is special. It comes in a pressure-packed situation, but for a pitcher, the equivalent would be shutting things down and getting a save in a tight contest. Escorcia has been doing that all season for Ottawa, picking up 10 saves in his 21 appearances, surrendering just nine runs with an ERA of 1.61.
“I’m very happy,” said Escorcia, originally in Spanish before it was translated by his teammate, Rodrigo Orozco. “I’m very thankful to God for this opportunity to be an All-Star.”
Those pressure-packed situations aren’t a problem Escorcia says. In fact, he thrives when the heat is turned up and he needs to get out of a jam.
“There’s pressure, but I know how to control the emotions and the tempo,” Escorcia said. “I feel comfortable [under pressure].”
Westcott, who is in his second stint in Ottawa after playing with the Ottawa Champions, is making his second appearance in an All-Star Game thanks to posting a 7-1 record with a 4.28 ERA and one complete game in the first half of the season. His main personal goal at the start of the season was to lead the league in innings pitched, and while this selection won’t get him any closer to that goal, he says it’s nice to have some reassurance that he’s doing something right.
“It feels good, it’s definitely something that when you start the year, you’re thinking about,” Westcott said. “It’s a nice little check-in halfway through the season to kinda take a step back and crunch the numbers and see if you’re performing up to the standards that you came in with.”
The Titans’ five All-Stars tied the Quebec Capitales for the most in the East Division, and even though only four will participate and only one will start, Sanford believes it’s a testament to how good the Titans have been this season.
“It just shows you how good our team is and how special we are,” Sanford said. “It’s going to be great to be there with the boys and go into battle with them again.”
Westcott is excited to experience the entire week with so many of his teammates, but also mentioned that more, including Grant Larson and Jackie Urbaez, deserved to be making the trip to Washington with them.
“The only other time I was an All-Star was in 2018, and I was the only player on Windy City [to make it] that year,” Westcott said. “It was a really cool experience, but it was kinda weird not having any of the guys there to experience it with me. It makes it way better, and honestly, we have five, and that’s incredible, but I think we should have had seven or eight.”
“I don’t know if they just didn’t want to give us the whole team or anything like that, but it’s definitely nice seeing all of the other guys and the hard work that they have put in,” Westcott continued. “It’s nice to see a lot of guys get recognized.”
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