NORMAL — When Normal manager Brooks Carey signed Nolan Meadows, he told the rookie outfielder to learn from and follow around CornBelters veteran first baseman Aaron Dudley.
Meadows has followed those instructions so completely he will be following Dudley to the Frontier League All-Star Game next week in Florence, Ky.
"It's awesome. I honestly didn't expect it as a rookie," Meadows said. "I came in trying to do my part to help out the team. Being an all-star is a privilege, and I'm really thankful for it."
Dudley's roommate with their host family and on the road, Meadows entered play Tuesday with a league-leading 12 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .287 batting average.
"I've never really been a home run hitter. It's kind of clicked these past couple years," said Normal's right fielder. "I'm happy for it."
A first baseman batting .342 with nine home runs, Dudley also will start for the West Division in the all-star tilt near Cincinnati.
"Brooks told me when he first signed 'you need to take him under your wing. Show him the right way to do things. Let him be your shadow and do what you do,' " Dudley said. "He's my partner in crime right now."
Meadows is second in the league with 53 strikeouts in 174 at-bats, but Carey has been pleased with how the San Pedro, Calif., native has responded to adversity.
"He's got a bunch of strikeouts, but he's keeping a level head about himself," Carey said. "He's gone 0-for-4 then 0-for-4 again. Mentally, that can start to get to them. It hasn't gotten to him yet."
Meadows credits the advice of Dudley and the confidence shown by Carey as a large part of his success.
"Aaron has helped me mentally and physically. Any adjustment I've had, he's known," said Meadows. "I easily could have been the rookie who came in and struggled. He calmed me down and showed me the ropes. I definitely thank him for that.
"Brooks is so supportive. He's seen me, so he knows what I can do. With a coach like that, it helps you out so much. I'm glad he has faith in me and sticks with me even when I'm doing bad."
Carey first saw Meadows last October in winter league action in Florida. Meadows had batted .354 in 130 Pecos League at-bats in 2015 after a college career at Long Beach State.
"I knew he was going to be pretty good. I could tell with that swing," said the Normal manager. "There is no wasted motion. The bat head gets right to the baseball. I thought he might hit 15 to 20 home runs. He might hit more than that."
Lepre keys walk-off win: Craig Lepre lined a 1-2 pitch from Gateway reliever Will LeMarche up the middle to drive home Meadows with the winning run as the Belters claimed a walk-off 4-3 victory in 10 innings Tuesday.
Meadows led off the bottom of the 10th with a single, Dillon Haupt was hit by a pitch and R.J. Perucki reached on a sacrifice bunt and throwing error to pack the bases before Lepre's hit past a drawn-in infield hiked Normal's record to 21-25.
"He made some good pitches. I was able to foul a couple off," Lepre said. "I was looking to put something in play hard and hope for the best. Luckily, it got through the infield."
Normal prevented wasting a stellar start from Chris Carmain. The right-hander retired the first 15 batters he faced and allowed three unearned runs and struck out six in 7 1/3 innings.
Lepre singled home Jesus Solorzano and Haupt in the second inning. Haupt's solo home run to right field in the fourth pushed the Normal lead to 3-0.
A throwing error from Normal second baseman Michael Skoller and three walks by reliever Francisco Carrillo helped the Grizzlies tie the contest at 3-all in the eighth.
Belters' reliever Race Parmenter (3-1) worked 2 1/3 innings to notch the victory. The series continues Wednesday with a 6:35 p.m. game.