BUFFALO — The home run derby is over. The all-star gala is over. The tour to Niagara Falls is over.

Time to play ball.

A national TV audience will tune into ESPN for the 25th Triple-A All-Star Game that will be played at 7:05 p.m. at Coca-Cola Field.

While most guys look forward to the three-day break there’s no doubt getting picked to play is an honor. And no matter how many times you’ve been named, each all-star nod is special in its own way.

“Yeah they’re always different,” said former Buffalo Bison Mike Hessman who now plays for Oklahoma City of the PCL. “You come in and different folks set up different things for you. So I’m really looking forward to being back in Buffalo and spending some time here again. I had a really good time I really had a great time when I was here in 2010.”

The IL is on a three-year winning streak in the Triple-A midseason showdown and leads the series 8-6 since it changed to the IL v. PCL format in 1998.

Before 1998, the all-star game was a National League v. American League format because of the third Triple-A league, the American Association.

While the game certainly has it’s fun side as old friends can reconnect and new friendships are made as they enjoy a couple days away from the grind of the regular season.

But at the heart of it every player is a competitor that wants to win and showcase his skills.

“Everybody does. Pitchers want to come out and they want to throw hard, throw strikes and get people out,” Bisons slugger Valentino Pascucci said. “Just like every hitter wants to come out and have a good game. When the game kicks in your competitive edge kicks in, too.”

Sacramento’s Graham Godfrey (8-0/2.88 ERA) will get the start for the PCL. Opposing Godfrey will be Lehigh Valley’s Tyler Cloyd (8-1/2.01 ERA) who will get the start for the IL.

The game took on an additional local flavor when Buffalo’s own Jim Negrych was added to the International League lineup on July 7. Negrych is batting .284 with 30 RBI for Syracuse.

“It’s exciting. My manager (in Syracuse) asked me what I was doing (for the break) and I said I was going home anyways,” Negrych said with a big smile. “It helps with the travel and I going to be home anyway, so it’s nice to be able to play.”

Pregame events will also feature the appearance of two Hall of Famers, as New York Mets legend and three-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Seaver will throw the first pitch to Chicago Cub great Ryne Sandberg.

Sandberg is serving an IL bench coach for the All-Star Game.

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