The Kansas Stars captured curiosity in their first year, as a sold-out Lawrence-Dumont Stadium crowd took part in the novelty of their first appearance in the National Baseball Congress World Series last year.
Interest has remained high without reaching the peak of the build-up to, and spectacle of, their first game. Some of the Stars’ later games in last year’s tournament didn’t sell out and Monday night’s crowd was sparse in comparison to the team’s first night.
The Stars defeated Everett (Wash.) 10-1 in a seven-inning run-rule to improve to 2-0 and ensure a spot beyond pool play, which ends on Wednesday. The game was televised by ESPN2, which captured several empty seats behind home plate and down the lines when the game began.
Fans filled some empty seats as the night progressed but not all of them. Light rain fell in early innings and temperatures dropped into the low 70s.
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“If fans come, they don’t, we’re here to just to enjoy it, enjoy the moment,” Stars shortstop Jack Wilson said. “Sometimes we were slow offensively, so maybe they got bored with us (Monday) night. We’re here to hopefully help out the city of Wichita, help out this tournament and get people to come out more often or whatnot. Whatever it is, we just love being here.”
Seating behind home plate appeared full or mostly full after Monday’s early innings. Unlike in Saturday’s game, when the Stars scored their only three runs in the ninth inning to pull off a late win, a late-arriving crowd missed some early highlights.
Andy LaRoche cracked a three-run home run in the first inning in his first at-bat of the tournament. The Stars only had four other hits but were helped by 12 walks and a pair of Everett errors.
“They clutch up, they hit the ball hard,” Everett manager Harold Pyatte said. “They only got five hits tonight, but the hit they got in that first inning really put us back behind the eight ball. Then our defense fell apart, our pitching fell apart a little bit. We didn’t throw a lot of strikes and that hurt us.”
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay started for the Stars and retired the first nine batters. His velocity didn’t reach 80 mph but his sinking fastball was still plenty sharp enough to keep his inexperienced opponents off-balance.
Halladay struck out five in four innings.
“Finally getting to play behind him and not having to face him is always great,” Wilson said. “It shows the players watching on how he pitched without his same velocity, but he knows how to pitch. That’s where a lot of these guys have an advantage, they’re insanely smart on the mound. He was able to move it all over the place. Those are really tough at-bats no matter what the miles per hour are.”
Chipper Jones makes his Stars debut on Wednesday and is scheduled to be in uniform for all of the Stars’ remaining games. The headliner of 30 former major-leaguers is making a long-awaited appearance after being announced for the roster last year but withdrawing due to injury.
It seems sure to draw a crowd.
“If they want to come out and see a bunch of old guys run around, with the exception of Jack Wilson still – I think he should still be in the league,” Stars third baseman Brandon Inge said. “A lot of it is about us interacting with the kids on the other team, too. That’s been so much fun. All those guys are so appreciative of us coming here and playing.
“There may be people who say it’s bad, but if you ask any of those guys over there if it’s a good experience and I guarantee you they’ll tell you it is.”
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