So far, 2004 has been a season full of accolades for the Potomac Cannons.
For the first time since 1995, the Cannons have qualified for postseason play by winning the Carolina League's first-half Northern Division title with a 37-32 record. The Cannons finished the first half, which ended last Sunday, by winning eight of 10 games to pull away from Lynchburg and Wilmington.
Additional cause for celebration in the clubhouse was news that five players and first-year manager Edgar Caceres will represent the Carolina League in the Class A California/Carolina League All-Star Game in San Bernardino, Calif., on Tuesday night.
Cannons players selected for the game were outfielder Chris Denorfia (.318 batting average, 11 home runs, 51 RBI entering last night), first baseman Tony Blanco (.309, 16 home runs, 46 RBI), second baseman Kevin Howard (.303, 44 RBI), third baseman Mark Schramek (.260, eight home runs) and right-handed pitcher Rich Gardner (8-2, 2.21 ERA).
* CLUTCH PERFORMER: While Blanco has the gaudiest offensive statistics on the team, Caceres said it was Howard who came through in the clutch most often in the first-half's stretch run. Howard raised his batting average above .300 by hitting over .380 in June.
* HOME SHOW: Getting the nod for the all-star game meant more than a midseason pat on the back for California natives Howard (Thousand Oaks) and Gardner (Santa Rosa). Gardner, a lanky right-hander from the University of Arizona, said his family and several close friends will make the trip from his native San Francisco area to see him play.
A sixth-round pick in 2003 playing his first season of professional baseball, Gardner has been consistently able to keep hitters off-balance.
"I haven't been afraid to throw the slider or the change-up on a 3-2 count when most hitters are looking for a fastball," he said. "All my pitches are working."