The Northwoods League season can be a grind. The bus rides are long and frequent, the nights are short, and the days off are few.
The three-day All-Star break can be a welcome respite from that grind, but Honkers' closer Keon Taylor won't get to kick back and relax. He'll represent the Honkers at the 25th Northwoods League All-Star Game in Waterloo on July 16.
And Taylor is quite happy to be losing his days of rest.
"Anytime I'm on a baseball field it's a good feeling," he said. "I love being out here, and I'd come out here every day if I could."
He'll have plenty of familiar company, as the Honkers will send five players to Waterloo for the midsummer classic. Starting pitcher Ryan Middendorf, shortstop Evan Berkey, first baseman Tristan Peterson and catcher Ryan Wrobleski also have been named to the All-Star roster from the Great Plains Division.
Honkers manager Thomas Walker won't be at the game, but he's happy to see so many of his players rewarded for their hard work.
"People always say that the cream rises to the top," Walker said during batting practice on Friday before the Honkers took on Waterloo at Mayo Field. "I don't know how many of these guys would have been predicted to be all-stars coming in, but they definitely earned it, and it's been awesome to watch them this summer."
Peterson, a slugger from New Mexico State, would have been on any preseason all-star lists, and he's more than lived up to his reputation. Despite being walked 21 times and hit by pitches nine times, he's put up big numbers and said he's thrilled by the all-star selection. "This is one of the top leagues in the country, so to be one of the top players in this league is a big honor," he said.
Wrobleski is an Eden Prairie High School graduate who started the season swinging a hot bat. His offensive numbers have cooled a bit, but he's done a great job as the primary catcher for one of the best pitching staffs in the Northwoods League.
"At first I was kind of surprised that I'd been selected, but at the end of the day I'm just glad to be chosen and to be able to get on the field with a bunch of great guys," he said. "I just want to enjoy the experience, but I also want to play the best that I can, to show that I belong out there."
Middendorf, a 6-6 right-handed starting pitcher whose season with the Honkers will end after the All-Star game, has made the most of his half-season in Rochester. "It's a great honor, because this is a great league where you play against great players every day," he said. "To be recognized as an all-star is big, and it gives a great sense of accomplishment."
Berkey, a Southern California 19-year-old who played in Alaska's summer league last year, is enjoying a fantastic season at the plate while playing great defense at shortstop. "It's been a really a great experience to come out here to Minnesota," he said. "And now it's exciting to be in an all-star game with top players from all over the country. Hopefully I'll meet a bunch of guys and make some new friends."
Rochester's five all-stars is the most from any team in the Great Plains Division. Madison leads the entire Northwoods League with nine all-stars.