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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Great Lakes’ Jerry Sands won the MVP thanks to his two-run home run in the first inning Tuesday.

Great Lakes star powers to MVP

– With a league-leading 18 home runs and top of his class in five other categories at the midway point of the season, Great Lakes first baseman Jerry Sands might have been the odds-on favorite to take Monday night’s home run derby – if odds on such things are given.

But Sands managed to hit only two out of Parkview Field, didn’t make into the final round, and slipped quietly out of sight.

It was the last time that the 6-foot-4 Los Angeles Dodgers prospect was quiet.

By hitting the first pitch he saw into the right-field picnic tables for a two-run first-inning homer Tuesday, Sands staked the East Division to a three-run lead and consequently was named most valuable player in his team’s 6-2 Midwest League All-Star Game victory over the West.

It was the exclamation mark to a first half that has established Sands as one of the lethal weapons in the league thus far. Along with his 18 dingers, he leads the league in slugging percentage (.646), extra base hits (37), total bases (157) and intentional walks (6).

And even though they might not have been intentional, the two different West pitchers weren’t about to let Sands burn them again, issuing two walks to go along with the game’s only home run.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Sands said of receiving a commemorative bat. “It’s been a fun experience, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the world. I would have like to have done better (in the derby), but in the long run it’s not going to benefit my swing. I’d much rather have that (the bat) than the home run derby award.”

Ask him a year ago about being the All-Star game MVP and Sands likely would have been perplexed.

Shortly after arriving in Midland, Mich., last year, Sands, whose signing bonus was for $5,000, had two hits in 17 plate appearances and was quickly issued to Ogden, Utah.

It was there where he found his stroke, his confidence and eventually his way back to the Loons for the latter part of the 2009 season.

“I was working to show them that it was kind of a fluke and that I just had a tough time; that I didn’t really take in the experience as I should have,” Sands said.

“I was trying to do way too much. My swing got long. I was striking out a bunch. When you get that tight and that tense, you can never do anything good. You’ve got to be relaxed.”

While the East dominated offensively, the offensive stars were scattered.

Left fielder Bo Greenwell of Lake County had three hits and scored twice, and starting second baseman Henry Rodriguez turned a 3-0 lead into 5-0 with a two-run single in the second inning.

The TinCaps chipped in with two hits – one each from Nate Freiman and Danny Payne. Reserve second baseman Jeudy Valdez was hitless in two appearances.