The National Division All-Stars borrowed a page from the Salvador Perez postgame celebration manual Sunday night at Hidden Valley Park.
During his career as a catcher for the Kansas City Royals, Perez has developed a habit of giving his teammates a ceremonial water bucket shower when they’re being interviewed on television after a Kansas City win. Following the National Division’s 10-9 win over the American Division in the American Legion Zone 2 All-Star Game, some National Division players gave Independence Bears representative Colton Best the Perez treatment after Best had been named Most Valuable Player.
“It was fun,” Best said of the shower. “Cold.”
Offensively, Best received the MVP honor – and ceremonial drenching – for going 1-for-1 with a sacrifice and three RBIs. He also received it for pitching a hitless, scoreless sixth inning.
“I just tried to come out, throw strikes, let them hit the ball, have fun,” said Best, who struck out one batter.
Before Best provided his contributions to the National Division’s one-run victory, Independence Post 21 representative Myles Odom scored on a wild pitch to give the National Division a 1-0 second-inning lead.
“The ball just bounced off Caleb’s mitt (catcher Caleb Marquez),” said Odom, a 2016 Truman graduate who’s attending Metropolitan Community College-Longview. “I was anticipating it to begin with and I just scored on it. Easy as that.”
Baxter Mays of the Sedalia Post 642 Travelers then scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0 in the third. The American Division cut it to 2-1 with a run in the fourth and took the lead with three runs in the top of the fifth.
The National Division answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth, then reclaimed the lead with a six-run sixth. Best contributed one of the National Division’s three hits during the sixth – a no-out, two-run, right-field single.
“I was just looking to choke up on the bat, widen my stance, shorten up my swing, go the other way,” Best said.
After Best’s scoreless inning of relief pitching, he made it 10-4 National Division with a sacrifice fly that scored Bryson Howell in the seventh.
The American Division made it a one-run game with two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth. A game-ending strikeout stranded the American Division’s tying run at third.
For Best, who will be a senior this fall at Fort Osage, the win and the MVP honor capped a summer of pleasant surprises, he said.
“This was my first year of American Legion, didn’t really know what to expect this year,” Best said. “I came out with a bunch of really good players, real all-star players. Had fun – just did our (jobs).”
The Zone 2 showcase served as an interlude between Saturday’s Zone 2 Tournament play-in game between the Bears and Hillcrest Merchants Post 69 (see related story), and the double-elimination tournament, which will begin Wednesday at Hidden Valley Park. Blue Springs Post 499 Fike’s Quinton Weld, for one, welcomed the break the game provided.
“It’s just a way to have fun and not really worry about the game too much. … It’s an outlet, really,” said Weld, who caught two innings for the American Division. “It’s a good experience.”