The journeys for Tyler Hermann and Daniel Salters were much different. But the destination for the third and fourth hitters in the Eau Claire Express lineup is the same.
Both will be playing in today’s Northwoods League All-Star Game at Kapco Park in Mequon, home of the Lakeshore Chinooks.
Hermann started by mashing balls at Eau Claire North, then went to a community college before earning a spot at Division I UW-Milwaukee this spring. He began the summer on a temporary contract for the Express. His consistent hitting from day one earned him a full-time deal and has had among the league leaders in hitting all season.
“It’s just a great honor, first of all to be in the Northwoods League, then to be an All-Star selection, it’s pretty cool,” Hermann said.
Salters grew up farther away, in Africa. He didn’t play competitive baseball until high school, but his talent earned him a spot at Eastern Oklahoma State. A year later he transferred to Dallas Baptist. Earlier this summer, he was drafted in the 22nd round by the Nationals but turned them down to come to Eau Claire. Expectations were high when he finally arrived in town on June 13. He initially struggled before catching fire in a three-week span that started in late June to earn an All-Star bid.
“With the way things were going, I didn’t think I would make it, but then things heated up,” Salters said. “It means a lot. I know a lot of good players have gone through this program. Making it is an honor and I feel really blessed.”
While Hermann didn’t enter the season thinking about making the All-Star team, it was certainly something he thought he was good enough to accomplish. He started fast at the plate and kept it up. Game after game he continued to hit, and he slowly started to realize he was having a pretty impressive season.
“I wasn’t really aware of my numbers and stats, but I felt I was consistent and playing good baseball to help the team win,” Hermann said.
In the middle of June, Hermann climbed to the top of the league with a .370 average. He has cooled off a little since then, but he’s still hitting .330, good for 12th in the league. His 63 hits are fourth-most, and his 15 doubles are tied for the league lead. Hermann has 19 multi-hit games and seven in which he’s tallied three or more, but it’s been the lack of a prolonged slump that’s kept his production so high.
“I’m just trying to slow the game down,” Hermann said. “My college coach said that was a big part of baseball for him when he got up to Double-A, Triple-A. Anyway you can slow the baseball down, take your time and relax at the plate, that helps.”
Hermann was carrying a mediocre Express offense early in the year until Salters arrived to add some extra punch. Although he quickly impressed fans at Carson Park with a mammoth walk-off home run on June 20, he was hitting just .222 on June 22 before figuring things out. By the time he was selected to the All-Star team on July 11, his average had soared to .310, and he had 18 RBIs in 24 games.
“I just stick with it, taking each day one day at a time,” Salters said of the turnaround. “Just working on seeing the ball. I was not hitting very well, then slowly started having some good games, started putting the barrel on the ball and it started working out.”
Salters is now hitting .313 with 29 RBIs in 34 games, hitting in front of Hermann most nights. The two typically switch spots in the order if a left-hander is on the mound, but they almost always hit back-to-back, anchoring the middle of an improving Eau Claire lineup. They’ll be together again today as they represent the Express in a showcase of the best of the best in the Northwoods League.
“It’s nice to go down there with someone you know,” Hermann said. “We both support each other, and hopefully we both have a good game down there.”