DAYTON, Ohio – Dan Vogelbach emerged from the clubhouse at Fifth Third Field on Tuesday and embraced the opportunity to talk about his experience as a Midwest League All-Star the same way he has embraced his role as a home-run hitter.
Vogelbach was the West’s starting designated hitter and one of six Kane County Cougars who played in the game. The East won 6-5 in front of a crowd of 8,746.
“It’s a privilege to be here, especially with as much talent as there is in this league,” said Vogelbach, who entered the break tied for fourth in the MWL in home runs (11). “I know there are other players who deserve this opportunity. I’m thankful for the chance.”
Vogelbach is batting .265 for Kane County, which ended the first half at 30-36.
He came into the MWL All-Star Game with no expectations, other than to enjoy it. He delivered a big hit in the top of the second inning, driving a double deep to the outfield and knocking in a run for a 1-0 West lead.
In the fourth, Vogelbach sent a shot up the middle, the ball bouncing in the dirt and into the grass in center. He drew a walk in the sixth.
“I just want to have a good time and have fun with the whole experience,” Vogelbach said before the game. “I’m relaxed and ready to take it all in.”
Through 66 games, Vogelbach has knocked in 45 runs and struck out 49 times. Of his 68 hits, 24 were for extra bases. But he isn’t satisfied.
“There is always room for improvement,” Vogelbach said. “I’m continuing to work on my footwork and get better with my approach at the plate. You always want to do as much as you can to be the best you can be.”
High expectations have been placed on Vogelbach’s shoulders. He is rated as the No. 7 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization by Baseball America.
“I don’t think too much about the expectations,” Vogelbach said. “My goal is to play Major League Baseball, and I know if I continue to play well, everything will take care of itself.”
Rock solid: Rock Shoulders was named the Cubs’ Minor League player of the month in April. On Tuesday, he played in the MWL All-Star Game.
Shoulders is tied for the league-lead in home runs (13) and batting .264.
The rising star nearly had a home run in the eighth, the crowd on its feet as the ball sailed toward the wall, but it was caught with the West trailing 5-2. He had a chance to break a 5-5 tie in the ninth with two runners on but struck out swinging as the inning ended.
“It’s nice to get accolades. It shows that you are playing well,” Shoulders said. “I know if I keep playing hard, I’ll have a chance to get to the top.”
The Kane County first baseman was originally drafted by Boston in 2010 but did not sign, opting to play junior college baseball in Florida. The Cubs took him in the 25th round in 2011.
Getting a shot to play in Dayton in mid-June is a reward for his hard work.
“It’s a lot of fun being around some of the best players,” Shoulders said. “You never go into a season expecting to be an all star, but it’s great to be recognized. It’s all about having fun.”
High hopes: Kane County hardly had the first half it had hoped for, but the Cougars are hoping to turn their fortunes around once the second half begins.
Cougars pitcher Nathan Dorris, a native of Illinois who grew up a Cubs fan and is thrilled about representing the organization, said he is hopeful the Cougars will step it up after the break.
“It’s a great opportunity to play in this game and I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Dorris said. “But as a team, we need to win more games. We need to play at a higher level.”
“We’re not pleased with how many games we won in the first half,” Vogelbach said. “It’s time for us to get going and start winning.”
Notables: Tayler Scott, who hails from South Africa, came in with one out in the seventh and recorded the final two outs, getting one batter to fly out and another to strike out. ... Dorris entered in the eighth and recorded the final out by getting the batter to ground out. ... Bijan Rademacher drew a wild pitch in the ninth that tied the game at 5-5. He grounded out moments later.