Martinez plays host to Pecos League All Star game for second time

Martinez plays host to Pecos League All Star game for second time

Left-handed Martinez Sturgeon slugging outfielder Sam Freedman prepares to make contact with a pitch from Alex Ticehurst during the Home Run Derby finals on Sunday before the All-Star Game in Martinez. (Photo by David Scholz)

MARTINEZ, CA (July 10, 2023) — For a second straight year, Martinez played host to the Pacific Division All Star game of the Pecos League of Professional Baseball.

The central location of Contra Costa County’s county seat is an important factor that attracted the league to again have Martinez host the mid-summer showcase of the Pacific Division’s top talent over two other Bay Area communities that have league teams, according to Commissioner Andrew Dunn.

Teams in the Pacific Division extend from Marysville in the north to Lancaster in the south.

Dunn noted the Martinez deserves to host the all-star game for efforts Martinez’s city staff have made, and the presence of a dedicated ballpark – Joe DiMaggio Field at Waterfront Park – that the city’s leaders financed.

“We look forward to many seasons of partnerships with the Pecos League,” said Martinez Mayor Brianne Zorn.

First pitch

Hew Repplinger, in his first season at the helm of the Martinez Sturgeon ball club, threw out the first pitch before the action began.

The Sturgeon skipper also was honored to be a guest of Zorn on the float/boat, the famed Joltin’ Joe, that was owned by the Martinez native and the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, during the city’s July 4th parade.

Repplinger lauded the way the city and community has gone above and beyond for the local nine.

“We have support from Martinez, and it has been truly special,” he said,

He used “roller coaster” to characterize the season, which saw the team trying to navigate choppy seas at the beginning. But as of late, the club has righted itself.

“We are playing good baseball right now. We are learning how to win regularly,” he said.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys; they are phenomenal people,” Repplinger added.

Pennant race

And the Sturgeon’s success heading into Sunday’s break for the all-star game has the team in the thick of the Pacific Division pennant race. The top four teams make the playoffs.

“We are capable of putting up crooked numbers – big numbers – in every inning,” he said.

And, the pitching has been delivering too.

“In the last four baseball games, we have gotten complete games out of our starting pitchers,” Repplinger continued.

“Everything is starting to click at the right time,” he added.

A home run derby pitting the top sluggers from around the Pacific Division preceded day’s main event, and in true town baseball fashion, a toy Sturgeon was passed among the fans. A whopping $142 was collected into the fish’s mouth for Vallejo Seaweed Ike Brown who slugged out six home runs in the finals to capture the top honors over Sturgeon challengers Agis Caine and Sam Freedman.

Joltin’ Joe

The All-Star festivities also included the Joltin’ Joe, which was donated to the City of Martinez in 1991 by the famed Yankee slugger’s family, on display for the public to climb aboard and check out the Chris Craft motorboat, a classic wooden model, firsthand.

“This is a beautiful piece of machinery,” said Concord resident Marc Martinie who grew up around boats.

The boat, which the Joe DiMaggio Hometown Hero Project hopes to one day display in a museum of Martinez history, underwent major restoration that was carried out largely by members of Carpenter’s Union Local 152, said Martinez resident Clem Smaker, who also assisted in the project on behalf of Carpenter’s Union Local 713 out of Hayward.

The Sons of Italy, Diablo Valley Lodge No. 2167, led the fundraising effort for the full restoration.

Play ball

When the stars took the field, a high scoring contest ultimately saw the North prevail 10-8. The game was called after seven innings.

Sturgeon selections to the North team included first baseman Eric Whitfield, Agis, who plays, short stop Agis, right-handed pitchers Craig Broadman, Harrison Aiken, and Erik Estrada, and outfielders Luke Johnson, Nick Adgar, and Freedman.

Joining them was Brentwood native Simon Martinez, a right-handed pitcher with the first place San Rafael Pacifics, also earned an all-star nod.

Whitfield, son of former San Francisco Giants outfielder Terry Whitfield who also played for the New York Yankee and Los Angeles Dodgers, has all-star lineage as his father was an all-star too. Terry earned notoriety in Japan where he put up big offensive numbers while playing for the Seibu Lions of the Pacific League for two years in the early 1980s between stints in Major League Baseball.

Prior to the game’s first pitch, Alhambra High School and Diablo Valley College graduate John Kelly performed a rousing rockin’ edition of the National Anthem to the crowd’s appreciation on his electric guitar in the spirit of the late Jimi Hendrix.

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.