Three Salt Lake Bees will have dual roles for Triple-A All-Star game
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Jeff Baisley, Gil Velazquez and Keith Johnson of the Salt Lake Bees are wearing two hats this week at Spring Mobile Ballpark, serving as both Triple-A All-Star representatives and hosts.
Baisley and Velazquez will be playing for the Pacific Coast League team in Wednesday night's game against the International League, while Johnson is serving as a coach. He's in the midst of his first season as manager of the Bees.
"It's awesome," Johnson said. "I'm having a great time and just trying to make sure I stay out of everybody's way right now."
Johnson, however, hasn't had to vacate his office at the stadium. PCL manager Lorenzo Bundy of the Albuquerque Isotopes and coach Tommy Gregg of the Omaha Storm Chasers are hanging their hats elsewhere this week.
"They wouldn't take my office," Johnson said while noting that he even tried to be the last one to arrive in hope that visitors would make themselves at home.
The title belongs to Salt Lake and the Bees are excited about hosting Minor League Baseball's premier mid-season showcase.
"It's fun. It's a good time to represent not only your organization but your affiliate as well," Johnson said. "Having the All-Star game, obviously, put some buzz in the city."
Fans flocked to the ballpark for the Home Run Derby on Monday and are expected to congregate again for the game.
The players and coaches are also enjoying the get-togethers. They participated in batting practice, an autograph session and a "Miracle League" game with patients from the Shriners Hospital on Tuesday. Before today's game, they're scheduled to attend a luncheon at EnergySolutions Arena, where Hall of Famer Rod Carew and former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden are the featured speakers.
"It's an opportunity to talk to some guys that you might not ordinarily get to talk to — to pick some brains and just have a good time," Johnson said.
The Triple-A All-Star Game, he added, is a nice mix of veteran players and young prospects.
"But the bottom line, it's a great quality of baseball," Johnson said.
The diversity is manifested through Salt Lake's representatives. Baisley is a 28-year-old with seven years of professional experience, while Velazquez is 31 and in the midst of his 14th pro campaign.
"Those guys are having great years for us," Johnson said. ". . . I'm honored for them."
Baisley has been an All-Star at both the Double-A and Single-A levels. Velazquez, though, is making his All-Star debut.
Both are appreciative of the recognition.
Baisley acknowledged "it's fun." Velazquez expressed how meaningful it is.
"It's a big thing for me — 14 seasons and for it to be my first one, it's special," he said.
Johnson has similar thoughts. He was never an All-Star as a player, but is grateful to be part of the festivities in just his third season as a manager.
"It's an awesome honor for me," Johnson said.
The Salt Lake trio know they're part of something special.
"Seeing all these guys we've been playing against — just being at our place — is pretty cool," Velazquez said as the out-of-town players arrived on Monday. "Right now we're all trying to get a little feel for each other, trying to get to know each other."
That's a big part of the fun.
"We've seen their games and it's an opportunity to see them as people," Johnson said. "Interact with them, talk to them a little bit and then obviously go out and see how they work. So it's definitely a good environment."
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