12 News in NJ for Eastern League All-Star Game - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

12 News in NJ for Eastern League All-Star Game

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TRENTON, N.J. (WBNG) -- This week we'll have special coverage of the Double-A Eastern League All-Star game in Trenton, New Jersey. 

That's where you'll find Tim Tebow and four other Binghamton Rumble Pony all-stars. 12 News is there, too!

The Home Run Derby is Tuesday at 8 p.m. and the All-Star game at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Click here for ticket information

Starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, we'll bring you live team coverage surrounding the celebration.

Follow Sports Director Larry Burneal and Reporter Annabelle Flaherty on Twitter this week for scenes from Trenton.

Related: Tebow earns Eastern League All-Star nod

Tim Tebow not participating in Home Run Derby

Tebow won't be competing in the home run derby Tuesday night, but he will be taking in all of the action down on the field. It's the former NFL quarterback's first trip to a baseball all-star game. He earned the selection by hitting .270 with five home runs during the first half of the season. On Wednesday, he'll compete against the best the Eastern League has to offer, and Tebow told 12 Sports he'll be ready for anything. 

"I don't really know," said Tim Tebow. "I've never played in an all-star baseball game like this so it will be the first time for me and honestly I think my expectations will be to enjoy it and have a lot of fun and when I'm on the field, compete like I would do in anything."

Levi Michael "MVP" of first half for Binghamton

Binghamton manager Luis Rojas told 12 Sports that Levi Michael was the team MVP during the first half of the season. With Peter Alonso and Jeff McNeil gone, Michael leads the Ponies in home runs with nine. Michael was a switch hitter until 2016, when he made the change to exclusively hitting right-handed. Michael initially struggled against right-handed pitchers, but this season he is hitting .279 with seven home runs against right-handed pitchers. Rojas credits the 27-year-old's offseason work for his breakout season.

"[Michael] getting acclimated to those sliders, curveballs from righty-righty, and two-seamers running into his swing from righty-righty, so we got him the reps," said Luis Rojas. "We got him where we want him so he can be comfortable swinging the bat from the right side only against righties." 

Eastern League All-Star Game Festivities

With more teams and visitors at the ARM & HAMMER Park than usual, Trenton Thunder General Manager Jeff Hurley said there was some extra preparation that went into the next few days. That preparation started two years ago when they found out they would be hosting the game. Hurley said the team advertised mostly through press releases and social media, but the festivities are not something totally new for them.

"We consider this like an opening night," said Hurley. "It's a brand new two days of the season, so we pretty much took it as if it was March and we were preparing for opening day so the staff came together. They did a great job and we're looking to have fun over these next two days."

Jon Mozes, Trenton Thunder Director of Public Relations, said that he's in charge of making sure the press has a schedule and a place to set up throughout all of the events. But this year, he has to also accommodate more people thanks, in large part, to Tim Tebow.

"We're looking at over 50 credentials for the All-Star Game event," said Mozes. "We were expecting that in the beginning, but we definitely did see some more media credentials roll in once we announced the roster about two weeks ago and having Tim [Tebow] on that roster obviously contributed to that."

Rumble Ponies manager Luis Rojas on Tebow's first All-Star selection

The Eastern League All-Star Game has seen plenty of stars in the past, but no one quite like Tim Tebow. He's a Heisman trophy winner, first-round pick in the NFL and now a professional baseball player. In April, it seemed like Tebow had no shot of earning an All-Star bid, but Tebow has improved every month, even raising his batting average to a respectable .270 to end the first half. Rumble Ponies manager Luis Rojas told 12 Sports that he has been impressed with how well Tebow takes to coaching.

"For me, it's really pleasant," said Rojas. "I know that Tim [Tebow] has been through a lot of good coaches. I mean unbelievable coaches and he's really a very humble person. A guy that's open to any angle you can use to get better."

Does Tim Tebow deserve to be an All-Star?

A little more than three months, 12 Sports Director Larry Burneal stood at NYSEG Stadium and explained why Tim Tebow was not very good at baseball. His 2017 season was below average across the board. But this season, Tebow is starting to show he can hold his own on the baseball diamond.

From the moment Tim Tebow first stepped into the batter's box at NYSEG Stadium and launched a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw, Binghamton knew it had a star on the Rumble Ponies. But the rest of April was filled with strikeouts. 

"It was tough for him," said Rumble Ponies manager Luis Rojas. "He was getting beat the first month."

"Somedays you'll feel you did really well, and it won't drop," said Tebow. "Somedays, you won't hit as good but you'll find a lot of open areas."

Tebow hit just .226 with 31 strikeouts in 18 games in April, but he kept grinding.

"Feel like I'm improving in every area of the game," Tebow added.

"He's made some big strides," said Rojas. "Once again, you've gotta give credit to his work ethic."

June was his best month as a professional baseball player, hitting over .300 in 24 games, eventually earning his first All-Star selection.

"It's a great honor and it's a privilege," said Tebow. "Something I'll look forward to."

And as we look toward Wednesday night, Tebow doesn't even know what he has in store for fans here in Trenton.

"I've never played in an All-Star baseball game like this, so it will be the first time for me," said Tebow. "And honestly, I think my expectations will be to enjoy it and have a lot of fun and when I'm on the field, compete like I would do in anything."

Binghamton's All-Stars not named Tim Tebow

Five Rumble Ponies earned their way to ARM & HAMMER Park as All-Stars. We know the headliner is Tim Tebow, but he's not the only Pony to keep an eye on Wednesday night. 

"This is kind of the things we want the guys, when they face adversity to keep grinding it, keep working hard and find the feel that they need in order to perform," Rojas said.

Just like Tim Tebow, the other four Rumble Pony All-Stars all faced challenges this season. 

Catcher Patrick Mazeika hit .176 in May. 

"He's a catcher known more for his hitting abilities than his defensive abilities," said Rojas. "They both are still a work in process for sure, but his bat at the beginning, how slow it was, it was something we knew was going to come around, but he needed the work."

Reliever Daniel Zamora turned his season around after allowing six earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in April. 

"Mainly just competing and throwing strikes," said Zamora. "Just trying to do what I do every day and just keep repeating it."

Reliever David Roseboom started the season in Triple-A before being sent down to Binghamton. 

Then there's infielder Levi Michael. 

"He's probably been our most valuable player," Rojas added.

He stopped switch-hitting in 2016 and is finally hitting right-handed pitching.

"It's always a work in progress," said Michael. "Everyday we come out here, we try to perfect our craft and keep working hard day-in and day-out. Hopefully in the long run it will pay off."

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