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IL Star of Game award another nice touch to strong season for Herd's Hendriks

Liam Hendriks works in the first inning Wednesday. (Associated Press)

By Mike Harrington

One of the best seasons by a starting pitcher in recent Bisons history continued Wednesday night for right-hander Liam Hendriks, as he was voted the International League's "Top Star" in its 7-3 win over the Pacific Coast League at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham, N.C.

Hendriks threw two shutout innings and struck out four, one of shy of the record by a starter in the 27-year-old midsummer affair. He became the first Buffalo pitcher to win the game since Roy Smith in 1993, who did it when Triple-A was three leagues and the game was played under a National League vs. American League affiliates format.

Hendriks threw 25 pitches and 19 went for strikes, true to his form from a regular season that has seen him strike out 74 and walk only seven in 94 1/3 innings. He hit the break 7-1 with a 2.19 earned-run average. has its full wrapup of the game at this link, complete with video of the MLB Network postgame video wtih Hendriks (there's no embed code-sorry). 

Hendriks is the fourth Bisons player to earn a Top Star award at the game, joining DHs Luis Lopez (1995 American Association) and Russell Branyan (1999 IL) and pitcher Matt Harvey, who threw two shutout innings for the IL in 2012 when the Bisons hosted the game in Coca-Cola Field.

The Bisons resume their season tonight in Pawtucket. They are 48-48 with 47 games to play and stand five games back in the IL wild-card race.

Herd's Johnson picked for Triple-A Home Run Derby

The Durham Bulls unveiled this belt to go to the HR Derby champion. (

By Mike Harrington

Buffalo Bisons slugger Dan Johnson, who has played every game this season, has been named one of the six participants in the Triple-A Home Run Derby to be held Monday night in Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Johnson will also start for the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game hosted by Durham next Wednesday.

Johnson will hit for the IL team that also includes Toledo's Mike Hessman and Columbus' Jesus Aguilar. Hessman recently hit his 259th career homer in the IL to break the all-time mark set by 1930s Bisons slugger Ollie Carnegie.

Johnson is batting .251 with team highs of 17 homers and 54 RBIs for the Bisons. This will be his third derby. He won the 2010 edition at Lehigh Valley while competing for Durham as part of his IL MVP season. In 2012 at Coca-Cola Field while competing for Charlotte, he lost in the finals to Bisons designated hitter Valentino Pascucci.

The Pacific Coast League team will feature Las Vegas' Allan Dykstra, the MVP of the Double-A Eastern League last year for the Binghamton Mets, Reno's Mike Jacobs and Omaha's Francisco Pena, son of Yankees bench coach and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Pena.

Hessman, who has participated in three previous derbies, and Jacobs are both former Bisons. Hessman, then with Oklahoma City, joined Johnson in taking part in the 2012 derby in Buffalo. Hessman had nine homers in the first round but was eliminated in the semifinals.

In addition to the championship belt pictured above, players will be batting to win money and prizes for fans in attendance if they hit a home run off the famous snorting bull above the left-field wall at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, made famous in the 1988 film "Bull Durham."

The pitcher for the final round will be 76-year-old North Carolina resident Clay Council, who earned some fame as Josh Hamilton's pitcher during his 28-homer binge at the 2008 MLB HR Derby in old Yankee Stadium.

More than 11,000 tickets sold for Triple-A All-Star Game; Kelly, Jackson, Gronk slated for HR Derby

Online balloting began today and runs through June 22 for the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11 in Coca-Cola Field and the Buffalo Bisons have just released more information on ticket sales and some of the festivities surrounding the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 9. Here's a rundown:

Tickets: The Bisons have announced that fewer than 7,000 tickets remain for the All-Star Game, meaning more than 11,000 have been sold, and fewer than 8,500 remain for the Home Run Derby. All party areas and luxury suites have also been sold for both events. The Triple-A All-Star Gala July 10 at Shea's Buffalo and the All-Star Luncheon July 11 at the Adam's Mark are both sold out.

Tickets for the game are $25 and for the Home Run Derby are $15. They can be purchased at the ballpark, at or by calling THE-HERD (716-843-4373). Fans can get both events for $35 and can save $5 per ticket by hosting a group outing of 20 or more people.

There are also limited spots remaining for an all-you-can-eat pavilion for the home run derby. For $30, you get a ticket to the derby and an all-you-can-eat buffet for two hours in the ballpark's pavilion area in right-center field. Fans who already have derby tickets can upgrade for $20. These spots can be ordered by calling THE-HERD (716-843-4373).

Home Run Derby: The derby will start at 7 p.m. on July 9 and it will feature three sluggers from the Pacific Coast League and three from the International League (good bet you'll see Bisons star Valentino Pascucci in it). Between rounds, a Celebrity Home Run Derby has been added with a lineup that has more spots to fill but already includes some big names. Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will take his swings, as will current Bills running back Fred Jackson and CEO Russ Brandon, a St. John Fisher College Hall of Famer in baseball. 

New England Patriots tight end and Williamsville native Rob Gronkowski is on the list, and so is Buffalo native and Hollywood writer/actor Nick Bakay. Appearances by The Famous Chicken are also on tap for the derby.

Youth initiatives: The Bisons have teamed up with Subway restaurants for a "Subway Shagger Lottery." Local youth teams can sell tickets to both the Home Run Derby and the Triple-A All-Star Game with a part of the proceeds going back into their league. For every 30 tickets sold, the team receives an entry in a lottery, with two teams being chosen to be Subway Shaggers at the Triple-A Home Run Derby.

---Mike Harrington

Around the horn, leading off with Triple-A stars

Bisons---The Triple-A All-Star Game played Wednesday night in Salt Lake City was a lot like its MLB counterpart: Good pitching silences good hitting. The International League beat the Pacific Coast League, 3-0, getting all the runs in the second inning on a three-run homer by Durham's Russ Canzler. Bisons pitcher Chris Schwinden needed just seven pitches to toss a 1-2-3 fifth and aid the IL cause.

So now the countdown to Buffalo is really on. The next one is at Coca-Cola Field on July 11, 2012, as indicated by the banners in Salt Lake (left) the Bisons posted in this picture from their Twitter feed.

Here's hoping MLB Network does a dramatically better job with its telecast. Last night's was a joke. No player introductions or national anthems and incessant chatter from Chris Rose and Kevin Millar, neither of whom seemed to know much about any of the players other than MLB retreads Jeremy Hermida and Cody Ransom. 

And enough about the stupid sound effects. MLB Net talked more about the mics on the umpires than the players. It was a terrible showing.

As for the Bisons, they open a two-game set against Rochester tonight at the ballpark at 7. The teams play again Friday at 7:30.

---The Yankees open a four-game set tonight in Toronto (cheap plug: I'll be covering the final three) and the talk in New York this morning was about the potential lame-duck status of GM Brian Cashman, who would be in big demand if he ever tires of the Baby George Steinbrenners, Hank and Hal.

---The Mets don't open the second half until Friday against the Phillies and the team will work out today in Citi Field, which will be Terry Collins' first chance to tell his troops the K-Rod trade to Milwaukee was not a white-flag special. Tough call. The Mets had to do it to avoid paying his $17 million option for next year but now they're relying on Bobby Parnell to close? Might work. Might not. In a conference call Wednesday, GM Sandy Alderson said the Amazins are not giving up.

---The Mets say David Wright might be ready July 22. With no home games after tomorrow, that means no rehab in Buffalo. Bummer.

---Speaking of the Brewers, how are they going to mix and match K-Rod and former Canisius pitcher John Axford at the back end of their bullpen?  It's a dilemma to figure out.

---Mike Harrington

Triple-A All-Star Game: Tonight in Salt Lake City, next year in Buffalo

Not much to say about last night's MLB All-Star Game, a 5-1 win for the National League in Phoenix. Bud Selig insists it counts, so I'm sure the Phillies, Giants, Braves, Cardinals, etc are happy for the chance to have homefield advantage in the World Series.

The stage shifts tonight to Salt Lake City for the 24th Triple-A All-Star Game. It will air at 9 p.m. on MLB Network and Radio 1520 AM with Brad Mills (Las Vegas-Toronto) starting for the Pacific Coast League and Zach McAllister (Columbus-Cleveland) going for the International League. The Bisons' lone representative is pitcher Chris Schwinden.

Once tonight's game is over, the focus shifts to Coca-Cola Field, which will host the 25th anniversary game on Wednesday, July 11, 2012. The all-star game began at then-Pilot Field on July 14, 1988 but was a much simpler affair back then with few ancilliary activities. Next year's activities will include the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 9 and a gala luncheon at the Adam's Mark on gameday.

The Bisons have opened ticket sales for the events, at $35 for the Home Run Derby and game, and $25 for the luncheon.

---Mike Harrington

MLB HR Derby party starts Bisons' countdown as hosts of 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game

Monday night -- July 11, 2011 -- will mark the one-year mark for the countdown to the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game, which will be held July 11, 2012 in Coca-Cola Field. The giant signs advertising the game (and the Home Run Derby on July 9, 2012) have been hanging in the left-field corner for a few weeks.

To start the festivities, the Bisons will be hosting a watch party for MLB's Home Run Derby from Chase Field in Phoenix Monday night at 7. For a $5 donation to Team Gary, the fund to aid injured Buffalo police officer Gary Sengbusch, fans can watch the derby on the BisonsTV HD Board and will receive a free hot dog and Coca-Cola product, as well as chances to win prizes based on the result of the derby.

Fans will also have a chance to compete in the Bisons' Home Run Distance Challenge. Fans will get one swing off a tee at home plate with the longest hits winning prizes that include tickets to next year's Triple-A game. There will be live music from Tom Stahl and the Dangerfields from 7-8 as well as a cash bar at Pettibones Grille and open concession stands. 

In addition, the team will be opening sale of the Triple-A All-Star Game/Home Run Derby ticket packages and making merchandise available for the first time at the MLB Derby watch party.

The 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game will be a signature element of Coca-Cola Field's 25th anniversary season. The first Triple-A game was held in Buffalo on July 13, 1988. in front of a sellout crowd of 19,500.

---Mike Harrington

Misch named to IL All-Star Team

Buffalo Bisons left-hander pitcher Pat Misch was named to the International League All-Star Team today. Misch, 28, has spent the entire season with the Bisons and is 7-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts. He leads all International League left-handed pitchers with seven wins (T-3rd overall) and is 4th in the IL with 96.1 innings pitched. Misch is also one of 10 International League pitchers with a complete-game shutout this season. He allowed four hits and no walks while striking out six in a 4-0 win over Norfolk on May 15.

Misch has worked six or more innings in 11 of his 15 starts this season and leads the Bisons’ staff with 10 starts. The Bisons are 11-4 when he's on the mound, the best record on the team. After starting the season with three no-decisions, Misch was 4-0 in a five-game stretch from April 25-May 20. Misch is 7-3 with a 2.78 ERA at home in Coca-Cola Field.

The Triple-A All-Star Game at 7 p.m. July 14 at Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley, Pa. The game will be broadcast live on the MLB Network. WWKB 1520 AM, the flagship radio home for Bisons Baseball, will also carry the game live.

---Rodney McKissic


Triple-A All-Star tidbits

Bisons public relations guru Brad Bisbing provides the following nuggets related to Friday's announcement that the Bisons will host the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game:

--Buffalo has had more participants (55) than any other team in the game's 23-year history. The Bisons have been represented by 44 players (tied for 1st, Albuquerque), five coaches, two managers, 2 trainers and even two radio broadcasters (Pete Weber, Jim Rosenhaus).

---Seven Bisons managers have served on All-Star staffs with Jeff Datz (1999) and Marty Brown (2005) managing the IL team.

---Famous Bisons alums in the game include Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famers Dorn Taylor, Rick Reed, Carlos Garcia and Bill Selby, as well as other names such as Jhonny Peralta, Alex Ramirez, Richie Sexson and Ryan Garko. Taylor and IF/DH Ernie Young are the only players to represent the Bisons twice.

---There have been 72 players in the Triple-A All-Star Game who have played in the major-league version. The most prominent are Derek Jeter, Pedro Martinez, Jim Thome, Todd Helton, Justin Morneau, Chipper Jones, Bernie Williams and Mike Piazza. The 2008 MLB game in Yankee Stadium included 15 Triple-A All-Star alums.

---Mike Harrington


Bisons fans like what Collins has to say

Mets GM Omar Minaya was the featured speaker and the announcement of the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game coming to Buffalo was the key nugget of news, but Terry Collins stole the show at the Bisons Winter Hot Stove Luncheon.

The Mets' new minor-league field coordinator is a beloved figure here. A member of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame who managed the Herd to 246 wins from 1989-1991, Collins is no-nonsense guy. He would have never tolerated the shenanigans that went on here last season. Check out what he said Friday before a packed ballroom in the Adam's Mark.

"I know you had a tough year here last year. That's over. It's gone. There's nothing we can do about it," Collins said. "We're going to to move forward. But I will promise you: There is change coming. It's going to get better. My love for this town and this team, I will not stand for going through the season we had last year.

"I've always said the one thing we want to have happen is when you leave the ballpark, we want you to come back because we've played the game correctly. We may not win all the games but we're going to play the game right. We're going to play the game wtih some fun and passion and the way the game should be played here in Buffalo."

Applause interrupted Collins' remarks at one point. You can hear them in their entirety by clicking the box below.


---Mike Harrington


About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |