HAMPTON — After wearing a Peninsula Pilots uniform last summer in the Coastal Plain League all-star game, Nick Thompson wasn't the least bit surprised when he didn't get a hero's welcome Monday night upon his return to War Memorial Stadium for this year's all-star game.
Of course, the lack of a warm reception had a lot to do with the fact he's wearing an Edenton uniform this summer.
"It felt a little not like home I guess you could say," said Thompson, a graduate of Western Branch High in Chesapeake who just finished his sophomore year at East Carolina. "It's still a fun time coming to Peninsula. It's a great ballpark, and a little bigger than down in Edenton. It's a little different atmosphere."
The East division defeated the West 3-2 on a one-out RBI double to left-center field in the bottom of 10th by Petersburg's Nick Christopher.
Despite the change of scenery, Thompson, who went 0-for-2 Monday, has continued to excel in the league, putting himself in elite company. In the last 13 years, the league has seen 35 players earn spots in the all-star game more than once.
This season, five players earned CPL all-star distinction for a second time. Joining Thompson, who plays second base for Edenton, were Thomasville shortstop Kyle Brandenburg, Columbia pitcher Zack Russell-Myers, Asheboro pitcher Dylan Dickens and Wilmington second baseman Alex Freedman.
"I go out there every day like it's my last," said Russell-Myers, a 23-year-old native of Advance, N.C., who is headed into his senior year at NAIA Bluefield College in Bluefield. "I have a little bit more experience than most guys (at the all-star game), that's for sure."
As impressive as the achievement of picking up repeat all-star honors would seem to be, it doesn't come close to paving a direct route to a professional contract in the long run.
Of the 30 aforementioned players that were multi-time CPL all-stars prior to this season, only 14 have even been drafted. The average draft position for those 14 players was the 20th round.
Making it to the major leagues has to be considered a long shot for even the most talented players competing in more prestigious summer leagues, such as the Cape Cod League. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that among the 30 multi-time CPL all-stars since 2001 and prior to this season, only one has made it to the major leagues.
Outfielder Jerry Sands, who played at Catawba, was drafted in 2008 in the 25th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in 2011 and last season with the Dodgers. In '06, he was a CPL all-star with Spartanburg, and he was also an '07 CPL all-star with Wilson.
"You've really just got to stay positive and work to pass the next guy," said Brandenburg, who just finished his junior season at High Point, regarding the challenge of trying to make it to the pros. "When you get your shot to advance, take it.
"The (CPL) is about the same as it was last year for me. Maybe it does seem like (pitching has) slowed down a little bit, because this is my second year and I'm kind of used to it, but the pitchers have been great both years."
The reality of making an all-star team more than once in a league like the CPL is that the achievement can be akin to stunted growth.
A player that makes the CPL all-star team once could be perceived as a prospect, especially if he hasn't reached his junior year in college. On the other hand, a player who makes a CPL all-star team more than once could be questioned for why he wasn't able to make the leap to a more competitive summer league prior to his second or third year in the CPL.
CPL commissioner Justin Sellers refers to his league as one that helps players that have "fallen through the cracks." With the MLB draft getting cut from 50 to 40 rounds beginning last year, there are fewer opportunities.
"Any time you can be an all-star, it's going to help your opportunity, because you're going to be guaranteed to showcase your talents in front of scouts," said Sellers, who pointed out 16 CPL all-stars have gone on to become major league players, including 15 who only made the all-star team once and were considered prospects.
"We can't force scouts to draft guys, just like we can't control the weather. We tell guys that if they make the all-star team once or more than once, it can only help you. It can't hurt you."
Thompson said there was a chance he could've gotten a temporary contract this summer to play for a team in the Cape Cod League, but as the season approached, he still didn't have a permanent home to play this summer. He made an inquiry with Edenton, which eventually offered him a contract.
With 25 scouts in attendance Monday at War Memorial Stadium, Thompson believes he may eventually catch the attention of the right set of eyes.
"I guess the thing is with how competitive this game is, there's a lot of good quality players that don't even play in leagues like this during the summer, or they've already been drafted," Thompson said. "Of course, it's a one in a billion shot to begin with."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun