PHOENIX — Punxsutawney native Devin Mesoraco was granted the opportunity to showcase his talent in two different All-Star showcases over the past four days, and he did everything he could to impress on the national stage.
Mesoraco played in the nationally-televised MLB XM Futures All-Star game Sunday night in Phoenix, a game that highlights the top prospects in all divisions of Minor League Baseball. Mesoraco was granted the start at catcher for the U.S. team, which won 6-4.
Mesoraco shined brightly in the game, going 1-for-1, scoring a run and being hit by a pitch his second at-bat.
"It was great," Mesoraco said. "I think the Futures game is the premiere All-Star game in the Minor Leagues so to get that kind of recognition was really good."
Mesoraco's performance this season has definitely merited the All-Star selections. Playing for the Cincinnati Reds' AAA- affiliate Louisville Bats, Mesoraco has been among the International League leaders in several categories this season, including doubles and slugging percentage. Mesoraco is currently tied with Jim Gallagher of the Charlotte Knights for the league lead with 30 doubles.
Some of Mesoraco's spring training games as a member of the Reds were nationally televised, so this was not his first time on that type of stage, but the Futures Game was broadcast on ESPN2 and allowed many local fans to watch Mesoraco for the first time since he was drafted by the Reds in the 2007 MLB draft.
Despite the large stage and the build-up to the Futures game, Mesoraco said that once he took the field, it felt like just another game.
"I kind of saw it as just another game," he said. "There was a lot of hooplah and lots of media attention, but once you got down to it, it was just a normal game."
There was one major difference, though. Because he is a catcher, and a different pitcher pitched each inning of the Futures game, Mesoraco owned the tough task of catching for five different pitchers.
"For me, being a catcher, it's kind of tough with pitchers you've never caught before," he said. "You never know what they want to throw. My guys did well, though, and didn't give up any runs, so I was happy."
The All-Star break is an opportunity for most professional baseball players to take a break in the middle of a long season, but Mesoraco's break was anything but restful. After Sunday night's Futures game, Mesoraco also played in the AAA All-Star game Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
Mesoraco started at catcher and singled in the top of the third inning for the International League All-Stars Wednesday.
"The AAA All-Star game is a little bit different than the Futures game, because it's voted on by the general managers," Mesoraco said. "So that's always good to be recognized in that manner."
With the trade deadline, and expanded rosters coming soon for the Major Leagues, there is a lot of buzz about Mesoraco making the move to Cincinnati sooner rather than later, but Mesoraco says he's just oblivious as anyone.
"They don't tell us anything, really," he said. "One of my buddies just got called up. They called him that morning, and he was playing that night."
Some analysts have even said that on most other ball clubs, Mesoraco would be playing in the majors already, but the Reds have one of the best tandems of catchers in the big leagues with Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez.
Mesoraco isn't frustrated about his situation, though. He knows his time is coming, and is taking advantage of his time in AAA to further polish his game.
"I couldn't be any happier with the organization and the way things are going so far," he said. "I'll get my time, and I'm just working hard to be ready for whenever my number is called."
The buzz here in Punxsutawney is getting louder, as people are asking questions about when Mesoraco will be called up, and Mesoraco is thankful to have such strong support from his home town.
"I can't imagine having any more support than I do," he said. "People are always telling me they've been watching. It's been great."