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Published: Thursday, 7/13/2006

IL, PCL to play for title Winner-take-all game is set for Oklahoma City

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ross Carr, 72, an usher at Fifth Third Field, cleans seats from yesterday's rain as the teams prepare for last night's Triple-A All-Star Game. Ross Carr, 72, an usher at Fifth Third Field, cleans seats from yesterday's rain as the teams prepare for last night's Triple-A All-Star Game.
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Triple-A Baseball announced before yesterday's ProMedica Health System All-Star Game that it will host a one-game, winner-take-all championship game at Oklahoma City, Okla., starting this year.

The event, billed as the "Bricktown Showdown," will be played at Oklahoma City's AT&T Bricktown Ballpark on Sept. 19, 2006. The contest, which will be televised by ESPN2, has been confirmed for one year with a two-year mutual option between Triple-A Baseball and Major League Baseball.

"We view it as taking place for at least those three years - and longer," International League president Randy Mobley said. "If we perform, and things go smoothly, there's really no reason for Major League Baseball not to agree [to continue it]."

Triple-A Baseball will assume the financial burden of the event, including players' salaries and transportation.

The two leagues agreed on a one-game format for a variety of reasons, including the cost savings of avoiding a longer series as well as the opportunity for players to advance to the major leagues quicker.

"That [one-game] format had to be completely re-analyzed to achieve the more lofty goal, which was competition between the two leagues," said Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey III. "It's kind of a crazy idea, but we have a 'let's try it' attitude."

Joe Zarn, 10, left, Jake Kokinda, 7, and Zach Kokinda, 9, of Port Clinton get a visit from Las Vegas 51s mascot Cosmo. Joe Zarn, 10, left, Jake Kokinda, 7, and Zach Kokinda, 9, of Port Clinton get a visit from Las Vegas 51s mascot Cosmo.
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Oklahoma RedHawks president John Allgood said his team is not worried about hosting an event that may not include the home team.

"Oklahoma City has shown a history of [successfully] hosting neutral events, and the attendance has been very strong," he said. "We have the support of the city chamber, and we have the support of the state of Oklahoma's tourism. They've invested a lot of time and money to this event.

"We're looking forward to hosting whomever it may be in Oklahoma City."

Mobley said the success of the ProMedica Health System All-Star Game has provided the impetus for the postseason contest.

"The idea of the Bricktown Showdown is very exciting, and we're excited because it's another special event for Triple-A baseball," Mobley said. "If we can take a little bit of the magic from the Triple-A All-Star Game and transfer it to the Bricktown Showdown - and we think we have the elements in place - we think we can have another special event for fans, for television and for Triple-A baseball."

PITCH COUNT: With a limited number of pitchers on each staff, both managers may have faced tough decisions in covering nine innings.

But both teams got strong performances from their starting pitchers and had no problems covering the necessary innings.

International League manager Larry Parrish had only eight pitchers available. But when Charlotte's Charlie Haeger and Heath Phillips went two scoreless innings apiece, Parrish had six pitchers available to cover just five frames.

"We had preliminarily mapped out what we wanted to see, and it went according to plan," Parrish said. "Haeger and Phillips started the game out on the right foot, no doubt."

The Pacific Coast League had nine pitchers, but Rich Hill of Iowa and Ben Hendrickson of Nashville each went two innings, giving PCL manager Mike Jirschele seven pitchers to finish five innings.

"We ended up having one guy who didn't get into the game [Andy Cavazos of Memphis]," Jirschele said.

"Rich Hill and Ben Hendrickson threw two innings each, so we weren't strapped."

ANOTHER NEW HEN: The Mud Hens will add another player when they return to action today as Detroit's Dmitri Young joins the team in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Young is continuing a rehab assignment that began with two contests in Single-A Lakeland - he went 2-for-5 with the Tigers - and then played in four games for Double-A Erie, where he was 2-for-13.

PASS LIST: The Mud Hens issued 160 media credentials for the event, but that number is misleading.

A total of 40 credentials went directly to ESPN staffers, while many of the others went to media who did not directly cover the event.

Local media were allowed to use their regular-season passes.

BY THE NUMBERS: Last night's crowd of 11,300 is the fifth-largest crowd for a baseball game at Fifth Third Field. The only baseball crowds that were bigger are the opening day crowds for 2002, 2004, 2005 and this season.

Including last night's crowd and the crowd for the ProMedica Health Systems Home Run Derby, both of which will not count in the team's regular-season attendance total, the total attendance for baseball events at the five-year-old facility has grown to 2,511,044.

THREE-DOT DATA: Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch was Jamie Farr and fellow M*A*S*H alumnus Mike Farrell. Also in attendance was Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, who was there to watch his son, Tony Gwynn Jr., play for the PCL team. The game took just 2:16 minutes to play, making it the fastest Triple-A All-Star Game in history. The shortest game before last night was in 1996, which went 2:22.


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