Zach Duke is getting ready to attempt a pretty nifty trick – turning wine into water.

No, Duke is not the Antichrist, nor is he attempting some miraculous liquid conversion. The veteran Cincinnati Reds pitcher instead will be hosting a charity wine event on June 30 in Cincinnati to benefit Water Mission, a Christian organization that designs, builds and installs safe water solutions for people in developing countries.

Duke is hosting the event, Uncork For a Cause, with his wife, Kristin, and it will feature many of the Reds’ top players. The night includes wine tasting, an auction featuring Reds memorabilia, and wine trips to Napa, Sonoma and Italy. It also serves as the release party for Duke’s limited-edition 2016 Sonoma red wine.

In spite of all the emphasis on vino, the event is designed to raise money and awareness for the charity, Duke said.

“It’s really all about Water Mission and the work that they do,” Duke said this week in an interview with 1530 AM in Cincinnati. “They provide clean water systems for people around the world who, for their entire lives, haven’t had access to clean water. I’ve seen first-hand down in Haiti the impact that it has on a community, and when you give a community of five, six thousand people their first opportunity to get truly, clean, sanitary water, it changes their lives.”

Duke is in his first year of a second stint with the Reds, having carved out a resilient career as a reliable journeyman relief pitcher over 15 years in the majors. The former Midway standout broke in with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005, and has also pitched for the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Brewers, White Sox, Cardinals, Twins and Mariners.

He’s appeared in more than 560 games, mostly out of the bullpen. Duke told 1530 AM that this Reds’ relief corps ranks among the most versatile groups with which he’s been associated.

“Yeah, we have elements of everything you need out there,” Duke said. “We’re all about picking each other up. If one guy’s struggling, the next guy is going to get the job done for them.”

Duke, 36, took a little time to get going this year. He owned an ERA of 11.25 after the month of April, but has since settled into more of a groove. The lefthander had lowered his season ERA to 4.79 through Thursday’s games, producing scoreless outings in 12 of his last 13 appearances.

“I started off on the wrong foot this season,” Duke said. “Then I picked my act up and put together a good streak, and it’s coming together for me a little bit.”

Duke is one of four Midway products currently playing pro baseball, along with Kramer Robertson (Cardinals’ organization), Aaron Wilkerson (Brewers) and Matthew Kent (Red Sox.)

Phillips saves the day in all-star game

For a pitcher, the only thing probably better than winning an all-star game is saving it.

Alex Phillips experienced the latter when he notched a save in the Florida State League All-Star Game on June 15. Phillips pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the South all-stars’ 2-0 win over the North.

The former Baylor pitcher certainly earned that all-star spot with his sparkling mound work for the Fort Myers (Fla.) Miracle. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has gone 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA and has converted four of six save opportunities for the Miracle, a Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

For his two-season minor league career, Phillips owns a 1.55 ERA and an 0.89 WHIP.

Indians, Janczak agree to terms

Jared Janczak’s pro journey has begun.

The former Belton and TCU pitcher made it official Wednesday, signing with the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland selected Janczak in the 31st round of the draft earlier this month.

Janczak had two terrific seasons at TCU to open his college career, going 16-6 with a 2.45 ERA in 2016 and ’17. He pitched in only eight games in 2018 due to injuries, including thoracic outlet syndrome. Coming back this year, he struggled to an 0-4 record and 6.18 ERA, but the Indians still believed in his potential enough to draft him for the second time in his career. The Los Angeles Angels took him in the 32nd round of last year’s draft.

Ex-Highlander retires from baseball

Former McLennan Community College outfielder Dimas Ojeda has decided to stop chasing the pro dream.

Ojeda had been a member of the Modesto (Calif.) Nuts, a Class A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. But he hadn’t seen any action this season, and on June 11 he announced his retirement from the game.

The Mariners took Ojeda in the 17th round of the 2016 draft. He spent two years with the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings, and the day after he retired his old minor league club wished Ojeda well on Twitter.

“The LumberKings learned that 2017-18 fan favorite Dimas Ojeda has retired from professional baseball. Thank you Dimas for your time here and for being a MAJOR part of the Clinton community!” the club tweeted.

CENTRAL TEXAS PRO BASEBALL STATISTICS

                 
PITCHERS
Player School Team League W-L ERA IP K BB
Braxton Ashcraft Robinson West Virginia (Pitt.) A 0-2 4.66 9.2 8 2
Nate Bertness MCC Inland Empire (LAA) A+ 2-2 5.79 23.1 29 13
Daniel Castano Baylor Jacksonville (Mia.) AA 0-2 3.30 43.2 40 10
Zach Duke Midway Cincinnati MLB 3-1 4.79 20.2 16 15
Jack Finnegan MCC Schaumburg Ind. 1-0 5.06 5.1 8 8
Kyle Hill Baylor West Virginia (Sea.) A 0-0 9.00 1 0 0
Matt Kent Midway Portland (Bos.) AA 2-6 5.61 67.1 30 28
Brad Kuntz Baylor San Antonio (Mil.) AAA 0-2 20.25 4 2 5
Chris Martin MCC Texas MLB 0-2 3.54 28 29 3
Ryan Merritt MCC Durham (TB) AAA 3-4 6.75 45.1 42 11
Logan Ondrusek MCC Harrisburg (Wash.) AA 2-2 5.08 28.1 21 9
Alex Phillips Baylor Fort Myers (Minn.) A+ 3-3 1.69 37.1 44 13
West Tunnell Baylor Visalia (Ariz.) A+ 0-0 1.27 21.1 29 14
Logan Verrett Baylor Midland (Tex.) AA 1-0 3.93 34.1 33 4
Tyler Watson MCC Kannapolis (CHW) A 0-0 3.86 7 6 3
Aaron Wilkerson Midway San Antonio (Mil.) AAA 6-1 2.50 57.2 60 20
POSITION PLAYERS
Player School Team League Avg. Runs HR RBI SB
#Josh Breaux MCC Charleston (NYY) A .295 12 7 30 0
Kameron Esthay Baylor River City Ind. .306 24 2 20 2
Brandon Grudzielanek MCC New Hampshire (Tor.) AA .156 5 0 1 0
#Zac Law Robinson Charlotte (TB) A+ .154 4 0 3 1
Nic Motley MCC Boise (Col.) A .167 2 0 2 0
Max Muncy Baylor L.A. Dodgers MLB .284 45 17 45 3
#Dimas Ojeda MCC Modesto (Sea.) A+
Nate Orf Baylor San Antonio (Mil.) AAA .285 44 6 23 7
Kramer Robertson Midway Memphis (StL.) AAA .269 44 9 38 7
Chris Roller MCC Great Lakes (LAD) A .276 24 4 17 3
Brendan Venter MCC Danville (Atl.) RK .183 11 3 15 0

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