CLEARWATER — Bradenton Marauders first baseman was named the game's Most Valuable Player in a losing effort Saturday as his South squad fell to the North 5-3 in the 50th Florida State League All-Star Game in front of 5,134 fans at Bright House Field.
Baker belted a two-run homer to right-center field in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 2-2.
His Marauders teammate, Ramon Cabrera, had a single.
Clearwater Threshers pitcher Trever May got the win.
"We all had one inning [to pitch]," May said. "I just happened to pitch in the inning [fifth] we score some runs in. I'm happy, I'll take it."
May sort of basked in the moment, smiling that there's "only one a year" who can claim a FSL All-Star victory.
"That was probably the easiest save I will ever get," Etheridge said with a war of postgame fireworks exploding over his head. "Two pitches and a ground ball — it happened so quick."
The moment must have seemed surreal to Etheridge, who not long ago gave up baseball and retired to become a youth minister. But a friend told him a higher authority was not finished with his baseball career.
After a stint in an independent league team in Maui, in the Golden Baseball League in 2010, Etheridge was a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities. He found his way to Dunedin and is now not just an all-star, but likely on to bigger and better things in baseball.
"I didn't want to play any more," Etheridge said of his retirement after the 2008 season. "I wanted to be a youth pastor. I was praying a lot and got a random call from a guy I don't really know that well who said 'God doesn't you to be a pastor. I think you are supposed to play baseball.’ "
Dunedin catcher A.J. Jimenez may have made the game's most exciting play. Initially, it appeared he had a two-RBI, inside-the-park homer in the bottom of the second when his fly ball to center bounced off the wall. But the play was ruled a triple with an error on the center fielder as he tried to corral the ball following a nasty bounce. Jimenez raced around the bases and slid head-first ahead of the throw to the plate.
"I had to because I was tired," Jimenez joked. When asked about the inside-the-park homer turned triple, he smiled, shook his head and said, "I was robbed."