The East team looks to go back-to-back in the 58th annual Lions East-West All-Star Baseball Game
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
EXETER – Kevin Kirkman grew up watching the Lions East-West All-Star Baseball Game turn into what it is today. Although, he was not selected as a player following the 1982 season he will look to leave his mark as a coach.
Kirkman will manage an East team looking to make it two wins in a row this Saturday, June, 9, at Rawhide Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It is an honor to me because I have watched four Exeter coaches participate in it,” Kirkman said.
There seems to be a connection between the games birthplace and its hometown coaches. When Kirkman exchanges his lineup card at home plate he will be the fifth Exeter head coach to manage the East team since 1986. No other team has more than three coaches in that same time span. Some of the coaches included Ray Strable, and the man Kirkman succeeded Steve Garver.
As a young man Kirkman saw the best high school players to come through Tulare, Kings, and northern Kern Counties. Players included Woodlake’s Ron Robinson who went on to pitch in the major leagues for eight years with the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers. Exeter has had some notable names as well. One of the players selected for 1982 game was Danny Riportella. He and Kirkman were close friends growing up, and seeing him get named Most Valuable Player was a joy.
“It was as an exciting experience as anything I have experienced,” Kirkman said.
On this year’s team there are three Monarchs who suit up one more time for their old coach. They include: Dillon Howell, Anthony Torres, and Justin Turner. Torres will likely play centerfield and Turner will see some time at second base. Howell will lead the trio after going 7-3 with a 1.91 ERA (earned run average). While Howell and Kirkman have the player-coach relationship already established Kirkman is being tight lipped on who he will start.
The duo of David Alcantar and Izaiah Davis will be in the consideration after both made eight appearances for the Mustangs last season. Porterville’s Derek Harris will be another after going 7-3 and allowing a 2.23 ERA. The only one however with a perfect record is Nikolas Gardea. He went a perfect 4-0 in 11 appearances last season for the Kennedy Thunderbirds.
The man at the helm for the West will be El Diamantes Jake Kiser. He will lead another team onto Rawhide’s diamond two weeks after his Miners came up short against San Joaquin Memorial 8-2 in the Division II valley title game.
Golden West’s Payton Allen could see substantial playing time in the game as well, but he will be used more on the offensive side. He finished the season with a .500 batting average, 20 runs batted in, and scored 24 runs.
Kirkman knows that if there is one thing neither team is lacking it is their pitching power, and overall talent. However, the desire to win has not overshadowed the real reason for the game.
“The all-star game is a fun night and you try to make it as fun for the kids,” Kirkman said.