CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On an off-day earlier this season, Power catcher Kawika Emsley-Pai and two teammates paid a visit to Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark for a Reds-Pirates game and picked up some additional inspiration.
As Class A players with big dreams, they certainly owed it to themselves to allow their imaginations to transport them, if only for a moment, up the professional baseball ladder and into the big leagues. In other words, it was more than just another day at the ol' ballpark.
"It sent chills down my spine just watching them out there, just knowing that I could have the opportunity to be there,'' said Emsley-Pai, who was accompanied that day by outfielder Jonathan Schwind and pitcher Clay Holmes.
For now, Emsley-Pai and the Power have set their sights on a South Atlantic League playoff spot, and they strengthened their case with a 5-4 victory over the Hickory Crawdads Sunday afternoon at Appalachian Power Park.
The Power is now 35-20 in the second half and tied with Hagerstown, which was rained out Sunday, for the Northern Division lead. More important, the Power leads the third-place Crawdads by 41/2 games with 15 to play.
Even if the Power fails to win the division title, it would still qualify for the playoffs if Hagerstown wins and the Power finishes second. Hagerstown won the first-half division title and, if the Suns also finish first in the second half, the division's second-place team would earn one of the four SAL playoff spots.
"Anytime you're on a team, you want to win a championship,'' said Emsley-Pai, a resident of Bothell, Wash. "You always keep that in sight, but you just want to take it one game at a time and one pitch at a time. We try to play every game like it's just another game, and that way we won't get caught up in all the emotions that are involved in that, and we can go out there and play our best.''
Whatever happens, it's been a special season for Power right-hander Luis Heredia of Mazatlan, Mexico, who turned 19 earlier this month.