Rhinelander’s Martin Hoger stands in the batter's box during the 48th Wisconsin American Legion All-Star Game at Miller Park in Milwaukee Sunday, Aug. 11. Hoger went 1-for-2 with a stolen base and played three innings in right field for the Stripes team. The Stripes lost to the Stars team, 4-2. (Dean Hoger/Submitted)
8/17/2019 7:33:00 AM Hoger collects hit in Legion All-Star game
Not many people can say that they recorded a hit at Miller Park. Rhinelander's Martin Hoger can - and he can say he stole a base, too.
Hoger was productive in three innings last Sunday as he represented the Stripes team in the 48th annual Wisconsin American Legion All-Star Game at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Hoger started, played three innings in right field and went 1-for-2 at the plate in a game the Stripes squad lost to the Stars, 4-2.
"Everything all-around was solid - exactly what you would expect out of an all-star game," Hoger said. "I definitely saw faster pitching. Everyone got to pitch about an inning and I got to see the two fastest pitchers, which is my luck. But the quality of play was good. The pitchers were definitely better than what I had seen this year."
Hoger was one of 48 legion players statewide to be selected for this year's All-Star event, which included a lot more than a baseball game.
The Legion All-Stars took the field shortly after the Brewers' 1-0 loss to the Texas Rangers in interleague play. The All-Stars also got to take part in pregame festivities prior to the Brewers game, including on-field introductions. As part of the visiting Stripes team, Hoger was introduced with the Rangers.
"Getting announced in front of (a) standing room only (crowd) was amazing," Hoger said. "It just looks giant with 40,000 people standing there watching you on the field. Getting to talk to people like (Rangers middle infielders) Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus was awesome. That was really exciting."
Hoger said the biggest adjustment was remembering the dimensions of the diamond - save a little more room in the outfield - were the same despite the grand scale of the stadium.
"On TV Miller Park looks so giant, but when you get out there, it's like, 'Oh, this is just a baseball field with 40,000 seats,'" he said. "It didn't feel like just another game because getting to play at Miller Park is special, with the big scoreboard in center in everything. The stadium is massive, it's giant. It's a little intimidating going into that, but getting to play in the park, in the end you're playing a baseball game and you've got to do the same things you always do. You can't change anything just because you're at Miller Park."
The other difference, Hoger said, was the condition of the field.
"Everything was so flat and nice, it was such a nice change from what we're used to with all the nasty hops and everything. Everything was just smooth. There were no problems with any hops or anything," he said.
All-star festivities began Saturday evening with a banquet that included a speech from former St. Norbert College baseball player Jordan Stauber and the induction into Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame for Don Miller of Elk Mound and Judson Schlieve of Waupun.
Hoger said Stauber's speech focused on setting short-term goals as part of a process to achieve long-term success.
"Everything can come back to baseball, you can connect everything. You've got to take everything one step at a time," Hoger said. "You can say, 'Oh, my goal's to hit .400?' Well, how are you going to do that? It's going to take a day-by-day (approach)."
Overall, Hoger called the event a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For example not many people can say they patrolled the same part of the field as a reigning National League MVP. Hoger did when he took Christian Yelich's normal spot in right field.
"I got to play where Christian Yelich plays. That was pretty cool," he said.
Hoger hit .425 with 13 RBIs for the Rebels this summer and on Monday was named first-team All-Great Northern Legion Conference as a utility player. He played outfield, catcher, third base and pitcher for the Rebels this summer. On the mound, he went 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA and 34 strikeouts while pitching a team-high 42 1/3 innings.
Hoger was nominated to play in the All-Star game, by the Rebels' coaching staff.
"I'd like to thank the American Legion and my coaches - Todd Johnson, Ken Zuiker and Dan Huhnstock - for giving me this opportunity. It seriously is once in a lifetime. I'd like to thank all of them," he said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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