Big game, big day at Medlar

STATE COLLEGE — For the second time in 10 seasons, State College played host to the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.

General Manager Scott Walker admits a lot of work went into the game, but knew he had something to be proud of when the first pitch was thrown Tuesday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

“It’s a big undertaking both from a planning standpoint and from a financial standpoint. We’re responsible for all the costs that go into this thing,” he said.

One example he pointed to — somewhat of a surprise, perhaps — is that the host club has to get the players to and from State College, with only one day (Monday) an off day for the league. With teams from upstate New York, New England and even below the Mason-Dixon line, it’s an undertaking — one longtime employee Dan Petrazzolo was tasked with.

“It’s a lot of time and logistics — it’s like putting together a big puzzle,” he said.

With the exception of Staten Island (Yankees), the whole league was represented.

Another of the fixtures at Medlar Field, Matt Neri, had to keep the turf playable through what has been some rough weather this summer. His crew had to clean up after morning showers the day of the all-star game.

“All the time and effort it has taken to put into the game, it’s great to see it pay off,” Walker said — and then put the Spikes on the field a day later. “It’s non-stop –you get up, dust yourself off in the morning and play another ballgame.”

The game came here in 2009, and while the league wants to move it around, there are 14 teams and the stars are aligning over State College in less than 14 years.

“We decide every year and chat about who’s going to be the host each year at our league meetings,” Walker explained. “It’s not necessarily a given that it’s a direct rotation. Some teams for one reason or another may or may not be able to host the game.

“I think with our ballpark, our ownership and management team, and the experience we have running baseball teams, we were well equipped to host another league all-star game. Whenever we got the opportunity I leapt at it.”

The all-star game is a chance to showcase the ballpark, which the team shares with Penn State and which hosts the PIAA championships, and the region, which is why the Central PA Convention & Visitors Bureau came onboard as game sponsor.

There are three Spikes in the game, but there’s no guarantee, Walker said — last year State College had six all-stars — and with a rough start to the season, his outlook has improved as the Spikes head into the stretch. There are not quite three weeks to play after this.

“They’ve been playing a lot better as of late. They went on a nice little winning streak prior to the all-star game,” he said. “I think we’re doing just fine.”