LANCASTER — Twenty-six times this season, Travis Witherspoon walked into Lancaster's Clipper Magazine Stadium and headed toward the home team's clubhouse.
Wednesday, he likely did it for the final time this season and, if he had it his way, for the final time in his career.
On June 16, Witherspoon was traded from the Barnstormers across the Susquehanna River to their Atlantic League rivals, the York Revolution. At the time, Witherspoon was hitting just .256 with 45 strikeouts. But what York saw in Witherspoon was a speed option, something it greatly lacked in the early part of the first half of the season.
When Witherspoon was acquired, he had seven stolen bases, instantly putting him atop the Revs' stolen-base category. What followed after the acquisition was a revived Witherspoon, who quickly became one of York's most consistent offensive and defensive weapons, hitting .327 in 23 games with the Revs going into the All-Star break, with 11 stolen bases and 11 RBIs.
It was enough to lead Witherspoon back to Lancaster on Wednesday night and back into the home team clubhouse, this time, for the Atlantic League All-Star Game.
"It's a prestigious honor just to be recognized for your accomplishments throughout the season and the work you've done so far," Witherspoon said. "It just means a lot to know that I'm putting the work in day in and day out and it's getting recognized by my peers, my teammates and coaches."
Despite being named an All-Star as a member of York, Witherspoon admitted it's never easy getting traded because you build chemistry with your prior teammates and expect to be there for the long haul.
The change of scenery, however, made something click for him. He increased his average by more than 50 points and lived up to his reputation as a threat on the base paths.
"Having a clear mind and knowing that I would be playing every day and not putting too much pressure on myself to go out and get four hits in a game," Witherspoon said about his increase in production with the Revs. "Knowing that I could take my approach and process day-by-day and the results I get will build up and having a clear mind of playing every day."
Witherspoon was a guy who never made it past Class AA with the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners' organizations, but he has shown the tools to be a good baseball player. Still only 27 years old, Witherspoon is one of a handful of players on the York roster who still has the potential and is young enough to possibly earn another shot in affiliated ball. That was proven by his selection to the Freedom Division All-Star team, one of five Revs players to earn the honor.
Wednesday's game gave Witherspoon a bit of a homecoming and a chance to see some old, friendly faces, at least for one more night.
"It brought back memories," he admitted about stepping back in the home clubhouse. "Stepping in your old stomping grounds. I had a couple teammates messing with me. But, just brought back some memories, but the group of guys in here are really good guys and just vibing with them another time brought back memories."
Home run derby canceled: The Home Run Derby, which was supposed to be part of the All-Star Game festivities, was canceled Wednesday night because a lengthy rain delay.
The choice to cancel the Derby was made in order to avoid any further delay for the start of the actual game, which still began 85 minutes late.
York slugger Andres Perez was selected as the team's representative in the Derby. In 69 games this season, Perez hit nine homers for the Revs, driving in 41 runs and hitting .297.
All-Star Game: The Freedom Division erased an early 1-0 deficit, scoring three unanswered, to down the Liberty Division, 3-1 in the actual game.
Barnstormer outfielder Caleb Gindl earned the game's MVP award, recording two hits in the contest, including a long home run to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth. He also came up with a great defensive play, throwing out a Liberty Division runner at home to end the bottom of the sixth.
Both Witherspoon and Perez started the game for the Freedom Division, with Witherspoon leading off and playing center field, while Perez hit seventh and played second base. Witherspoon went 0 for 2 with a walk in his return to Lancaster. Perez went 1 for 3 with a single and a run scored. He scored the Freedom Division's third run on a wild pitch that led to the Witherspoon walk in the fifth.
York reliever Ricardo Gomez entered the game in the top of the fifth inning for the Freedom Division. He pitched a scoreless frame, inducing a ground out, fly out and strikeout. The only runner he allowed came on a hit batter with one out, but Gomez left him stranded at second. By pitching the top of the fifth prior to the Freedom Division taking the lead in the bottom half of the inning, Gomez earned the win.
Revs' slugger Joel Guzman entered the game defensively at first base in the top of the sixth and then got his first plate appearance of the night in the bottom half of the frame. He grounded out to deep third in that at-bat, his only one of the night.
York closer and league saves leader Mike DeMark was in his familiar position in the game, coming in for the top of the ninth to close things out for the Freedom Division. And, like he's done much of the season to this point, he had little trouble nailing it down, allowing just a walk and finishing the job with a strikeout.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.