Casey-Gillaspie
Bowling Green's Casey Gillaspie, who leads the Midwest League with 16 home runs this season, will go head-to-head with teammate Jace Conrad in the All-Star Home Run Derby. (Photos courtesy Joshua Lindsey)

HR Derby pits teammates with their own claims to baseball fame



Teammates for a season, opponents for about an hour.

Bowling Green teammates Casey Gillaspie and Jace Conrad are preparing for that role reversal on Tuesday.

The Hot Rods first and second basemen, respectively, will go head-to-head in the Home Run Derby that precedes the Midwest League All-Star Game at Peoria’s Dozer Park, scheduled for 7 p.m. on American Sports Network.

“I just hope Casey doesn’t show me up completely, ” said Conrad, who’s had a front-row view of his slugging teammates league-leading 16 home runs while batting third in front of the team’s cleanup hitter. “This guy is the real deal. I’ve been pitched a lot different this year with him in the lineup behind me. Casey hit a home run ball a couple weeks ago that was an absolute blast. I still don’t think that ball’s come down yet.”

Indeed, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound power hitting Gillaspie is off to a torrid start in his fist full season of professional ball. Through 61 games he’s batted .275 with 10 doubles, a league-leading 16 home runs and 122 goal bases. He’s also already racked up 44 RBI, which ranks third in the league.

“Having home-run power is just something that’s always been a part of my game,” said Gillaspie, a 22-year-old, first-round pick (20th overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays last year out of Wichita State.

In his professional debut last year, Gillaspie led the New York-Penn League in walks and tied for fourth in RBI. A natural right-hander, he started to work on being a switch hitter when he was 8.

Of course, baseball runs in the family. Casey’s older brother, Conor Gillaspie, was the San Francisco Giants first-round selection (37th overall) in the 2008 draft, and now plays infield for the Chicago White Sox. Their father Mark was an All-American outfielder at Mississippi State. He later became an 11th-round draft selection by the San Diego Padres in 1981 and spent eight seasons in the minor leagues.

Both Conor and Casey were standouts at Millard North High School in Omaha, Neb. They each went on to play at Wichita State before becoming first-round draft picks. Grounded, polite and respectful, Casey is proud of how hard he’s worked to reach the professional level.

“We were just raised to respect the game and play the right way,” Gillaspie said. “If you put your work in, success will come. Just put your head down and only try to control what you can control. The rest just works its way out.”


Conrad’s path hasn’t been as celebrated, yet the a 5-11, 195-pound, 22-year-old has enjoyed his own solid start this season. He’s batting .292 with 11 doubles, 10 home runs and 30 RBI through 59 games. Conrad has also amassed 21 stolen bases, having been caught just four times in 25 attempts.

Conrad’s home run total is tied for fifth among league leaders, but Conrad’s game centers around speed and getting on base, as his stolen bases are tied for fourth best in the MWL.

“I love hitting home runs, but that’s really not my forte,” said Conrad, who was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 13th round of the last year’s draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette. "Stealing bases is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. It’s a skill I work on a lot in the off season. I’ll have my buddies come out with me and stand on the mound pretending like they’re about to throw a pitch. As soon as they lift their leg, I’m off running. With my team now, they don’t tell me when to steal. It’s a calculated risk I take on my own.’

Conrad has his own claim to baseball fame. In 2005, his little league team reached the semi-finals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

“At the beginning of the season, we were just a regular Little League team that only our moms and dads paid attention to,” Conrad said. “But we kept winning and winning. Soon, the whole town was behind us. Suddenly, we’re 13 years old and we’re doing all kinds of newspaper and television interviews. It was such a whirlwind.”


The way Lafayette lost in the LLWS semifinals still remains a touchy subject for Conrad.

“I threw a 1-hitter, but we still lost,” said Conrad, whose father was the team’s coach. “I still blame my dad for that loss. I’m facing the best hitter on Hawaii’s team, a guy we identified as a really good hitter and talked about being careful with. Yet, my dad calls for a fastball. I was thinking we should with a change up or something like that. But he calls for the heat. I’d walked the kid ahead of him and and then I gave up the game-winning home run. I was crushed.”

The newspaper articles and other tokens from Williamsport are stored away in a box that hasn’t been touched in years. Conrad joked that maybe he’ll finally be over the loss by the time he has kids and digs out the box’s contents to show them. Or, maybe not.

Topping his slugging buddy Gillaspie in Tuesday’s Midwest League All-Star Home Run Derby might help ease some of that disappointment.




EASTERN DIVISION ALL-STARS






NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Cael Brockmeyer
C
South Bend
CHC


Rowdy Tellez
1B
Lansing
TOR


Jace Conrad
2B
Bowling Green
TB


Zach Shepherd
3B
West Michigan
DET


Gleyber Torres
SS
South Bend
CHC


Anthony Alford
OF
Lansing
TOR


Charcer Burks
OF
South Bend
CHC


Michael Gerber
OF
West Michigan
DET


Ryan McBroom
DH
Lansing
TOR




RESERVES





NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Nick Ciuffo
C
Bowling Green
TB


Casey Gillaspie
INF
Bowling Green
TB


Michael Ahmed
INF
Great Lakes
LAD


Claudio Bautista
INF
Lake County
CLE


Grant Kay
INF
Bowling Green
TB


Coty Blanchard
INF
Bowling Green
TB


Nick Torres
OF
Fort Wayne
SD




PITCHERS





NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Brent Honeywell
P
Bowling Green
TB


Hunter Wood
P
Bowling Green
TB


Chris Pike
P
Bowling Green
TB


Brian Hunter
P
Dayton
CIN


Tejay Antone
P
Dayton
CIN


Tyler Mahle
P
Dayton
CIN


Thomas Dorminy
P
Fort Wayne
SD


J.D. Underwood
P
Great Lakes
LAD


Grant Holmes
P
Great Lakes
LAD


Justus Sheffield
P
Lake County
CLE


Shane Dawson
P
Lansing
TOR


James Farris
P
South Bend
CHC


Jeremy Null
P
South Bend
CHC


Joe Jimenez
P
West Michigan
DET


Spencer Turnbull
P
West Michigan
DET




FIELD STAFF





NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Shaun Larkin
Manager
Lake County
CLE


Steve Karsay
Pitching Coach
Lake County
CLE


Larry Day
Hitting Coach
Lake County
CLE


Matthew Beauregard
Trainer
Lake County
CLE






WESTERN DIVISION ALL-STARS






STARTERS





NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Jacob Nottingham
C
Quad Cities
HOU


Trey Vavra
1B
Cedar Rapids
MIN


Mott Hyde
2B
Quad Cities
HOU


Nick Tanielu
3B
Quad Cities
HOU


Oscar Mercado
SS
Peoria
STL


Caleb Adams
OF
Burlington
LAA


Estarlyn Morales
OF
Clinton
SEA


Colin Bray
OF
Kane County
ARI


Sandber Pimentel
DH
Beloit
OAK




RESERVES





NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Carlos Leal
C
Wisconsin
MIL


Marty Herum
INF
Kane County
ARI


Andrew Daniel
INF
Burlington
LAA


Cody Regis
INF
Kane County
ARI


Yairo Munoz
INF
Beloit
OAK


Jake Yacinich
INF
Burlington
LAA


Natanael Delgado
OF
Burlington
LAA




PITCHERS





NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Brett Graves
P
Beloit
OAK


Jeremy Rhoades
P
Burlington
LAA


Jared Wilson
P
Cedar Rapids
MIN


Cam Booser
P
Cedar Rapids
MIN


Felix Jorge
P
Cedar Rapids
MIN


Trevor Hildenberger
P
Cedar Rapids
MIN


Lukas Schiraldi
P
Clinton
SEA


Cody Geyer
P
Kane County
ARI


Ethan Elias
P
Kane County
ARI


Markus Solbach
P
Kane County
ARI


Daniel Poncedeleon
P
Peoria
STL


Austin Gomber
P
Peoria
STL


Luis Perdomo
P
Peoria
STL


Austin Chrismon
P
Quad Cities
HOU


Cy Sneed
P
Wisconsin
MIL




FIELD STAFF





NAME
POS
TEAM
MLB ORG




Joe Kruzel
Manager
Peoria
STL


Dernier Orozco
Pitching Coach
Peoria
STL


Jobel Jimenez
Hitting Coach
Peoria
STL


Brian Pruitt
Coach
Peoria
STL


Brent Neuharth
Trainer
Peoria
STL


Kevin Schmalzried
Strength Coach
Peoria
STL



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