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Clubhouse Chatter - All-Star numbers game favors 3 Suns

June 10, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

Usually, they say stats don't count for much.

Of course, that's probably coming from the guy hitting .210 with no home runs and four RBIs in 60 games.

Stats are "thrown out" because they don't usually mean much in big games and championships.

When it comes to selecting all-star teams, that's not the case. Then, stats mean everything. And in the South Atlantic League, those digits are paramount.

It was a numbers game as the SAL announced the rosters for the June 19 game in Rome, Ga. Big numbers equaled an invitation to the big game for three Hagerstown Suns players - outfielders Chris Marrero and Mike Daniel and pitcher Cory VanAllen.

All three have key stats that helped them earn selections to the team.

"I don't know. I just hit over .300," said Daniel. "A lot of times, that's the magic number. I had that 4-for-5 game, too. I guess that helped me."

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It isn't a stretch to say that the stat packs were voters' biggest allies when it came to filling out ballots. The configuration of the league almost makes it a must.

In reality, only seven of the 16 teams in the league have seen the Suns play - and two of them were in the first two weeks of the season. Teams have regional schedules, playing mostly three other teams, to cut down on traveling.

So, teams in the South could only rely on stats to make their Northern selections and vice versa.

"Sometimes, guys have the numbers and don't get selected," Daniel said. "We had a lot of players who deserved to be chosen. All the league leaders seem to be in the Northern Division, so there were a lot of players to choose from."

For Marrero, the selection was almost a given.

The 18-year-old was the top selection by the Washington Nationals in the 2006 draft. He has proven he was worth the bother.

Marrero is hitting .292 and is tied for third in the SAL with 13 home runs, while leading the league with 52 RBIs. He has excelled hitting at Municipal Stadium (.390 with nine homers and 33 RBIs).

"It feels good," he said. "I'm not a 'look at the numbers' type. I've just been working hard and everything has been turning out for me."

Marrero has been a clutch performer for the Suns. He hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to end a 9-8 victory over Delmarva on May 25. He also drove in four runs on Wednesday in the Suns' 8-7 loss to Lakewood.

At one point, Marrero said he was getting lucky. But now he realizes that talent has something to do with it in his first professional all-star selection.

"There's luck, but there is dedication, too," Marrero said. "I just want to go and have a good experience and play with some different guys. I hope to have a good time."

For Daniel, the key statistic was his .300 average at the time of the vote. Daniel, Washington's seventh pick in the 2005 draft, has fallen to .297 with six home runs and 35 RBIs. He started the season as the Suns' leadoff hitter, but was moved down in the order after opening the season with a power burst.

"It's an honor," Daniel said. "It was a goal I set for myself at the beginning of the season, but I was fortunate to be selected. I was a little surprised."

Daniel is looking for an opportunity to soak in the experience while playing in front of his parents, who will head to Rome from Charlotte, N.C.

"I want to get a little of everything out of this," Daniel said. "I want to be around some different guys and pick up some things and also meet guys from other organizations who I will be playing against along the way. It's supposed to be fun, too, because they have some things planned for us."

For VanAllen, his numbers support and go against his selection to the team. On the surface, he was 0-3 with a 3.92 ERA when he was selected, which wouldn't be considered all-star figures.

But the left-hander's defining stat was 42 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings while allowing just four walks.

"I'm honored," said the Nationals' fifth pick in the 2006 draft. "I kind of laughed when I was told I was picked (because of the record), but I know I have been throwing the ball well. I try to consistently attack the zone."

VanAllen doesn't see himself as a strikeout pitcher, but he has had success in setting hitters down swinging. He had 12 strikeouts against Delmarva on April 28.

Tops with Topps

Justin Maxwell is becoming a real baseball card for the Suns.

The Suns outfielder was named SAL player of the month for May on Friday by The Topps Company, in conjunction with Minor League Baseball.

Maxwell hit .320 with 31 hits, including seven home runs, and 18 RBIs. He added a .411 on-base percentage and had 10 multi-hit games.

Maxwell was also named SAL Player of the Week for the week of May 7-13.

Voices carry

There was another move for the Suns on Wednesday, but this one didn't change the roster.

Suns broadcaster Nick Sekkas left Hagerstown after the Lakewood series to begin his new position as lead broadcaster for the Aberdeen Ironbirds in the New York-Penn League.

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