ALTOONA, Pa. — Portland’s Derrik Gibson had hit just eight regular-season home runs in his minor league career, which began in 2008 when the Boston Red Sox drafted him out high school.
And even though Gibson has batted leadoff this year for the Sea Dogs, it was not a shock that Tony Franklin, the manager of Yankee affiliate Trenton, put Gibson in the No. 9 spot in his lineup for the Western Division on Wednesday in the Eastern League All-Star game. And it had nothing to do with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
But starting shortstop Gibson, who has two homers this year, performed like a hulky cleanup hitter and not the slender 6-foot-1, 170-pounder who has played in Portland for each of the past three years. Gibson accounted for both of his team’s runs as he hit a solo homer in the third and later tripled past Harrisburg’s Michael A. Taylor (Nationals), a defensive whiz in center field, and scored in the eighth in a 5-2 loss to the Western Division before 6,055 fans.
“You don’t expect to see him in the No. 9 hole,” said Portland pitcher Robby Scott, who pitched a scoreless fourth inning with two strikeouts. “I’m so happy for the guy.”
Gibson said he hit a fastball for his homer and a cutter for the triple.
“It was a great experience and I’m so thankful to be a part of it,” said Gibson. “I just tried to relax and have a good time. This was very fun. I want to thank the Altoona Curve for putting on a good show tonight.
“I just try and square it up,” he said of his homer. “The ball was elevated a little bit so that helps. I got under it a little bit. Like I said I am just trying to square it up.”
Erie’s Steven Moya (Tigers), the game’s MVP, crushed a grand slam to right in the last of the fifth to give the Western Division a 5-1 lead. Taylor had an RBI single in the last of the third to make it 1-1.
Gibson is hitting .314 this year for Portland.
“We call him the hardest-hitting center fielder in the league,” said Blake Swihart, the Portland catcher who started and was hitless in two at-bats. “That is what we call him.”
It was a challenge for Sean Coyle, the fourth Portland player in the game, just to travel from the Futures Games in Minnesota on Sunday to the Eastern League All-Star game in northwest Pennsylvania.
Coyle was supposed to fly from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., and then get a flight to Altoona. But a flight to western Pennsylvania was canceled so Coyle asked for a flight to Philadelphia, near where he grew up.
He then called two high school friends who drove him about four hours to Altoona on Tuesday.
Coyle made a stop at his home near Philadelphia before his friends made the trek west.
“They drove me back to my house and then I asked them if they could drive me to Altoona,” said Coyle.
Leading off and playing second base, Coyle was one of three Sea Dogs in the starting lineup. He had one hit in three at-bats. He said playing in two All-Star games was not that taxing.
“It was a really neat atmosphere to play in,” Coyle said of the Futures Game. “It was really packed and the fans are right on top of you. It is kind of like a refreshing break. I have played two games in four days.”
NOTES: Former major league player and manager Del Crandall threw out the first pitch. He made his major league debut with the Boston Braves in 1949 and last managed in the majors with Seattle in 1984.