|Futures Game enters third year
By Jonathan Mayo
U.S. Roster | World Roster
Now that the All-Stars Futures Game is entering its third year of existence, it's time to come up with one of those catchy marketing slogans.
You know, the kind that sticks in your mind and makes you remember what the Futures Game is all about. Here are some suggestions:
The Future is Now
The Future's so bright...
The Futures Market is soaring
The Stars of Tomorrow
All kidding aside, it's time for you to pay attention to the Futures Game, when the best talent in the minor leagues come together for a United States vs. the World exhibition to be played this Sunday in Seattle (5:30 p.m. ET, shown live on ESPN2). It's a time to see how the top prospects for your favorite team, and around baseball, perform when put on the big stage.
"Major League Baseball is thrilled to give fans the unique opportunity of seeing some of our brightest young stars from around the world compete on the same field," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball. "This game showcases the exceptional abilities of these players - who represent the future of Major League Baseball - on a national stage."
The 25-man rosters, selected by Baseball America, Major League Baseball and the 30 teams, have players from every organization. The World team features players from seven different countries and Puerto Rico. Players from all full-season minor leagues were eligible to participate.
The World team will be managed by Minnie Minoso; the U.S. team skipper will be Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.
"I'm looking forward to it," Perry said. "I want to win. I know Minoso wants to win, also. We want to try to get everybody to play. It's very important for them to play. This is the kids' game. we just want to help them out and get them in the game."
There are 27 players from the first two Futures Games in the Major Leagues currently, and all Futures alum speak glowingly of the experience, when they were treated like big leaguers for the first time.
"The opportunity is front of you," said Brewers rookie ace Ben Sheets, who went from the Futures Game to the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team last year. "That's what it was about for me. Just to show that you can play and give you a little confidence for the second half of the season, that you have as high a ceiling as anybody."
"[There will be] a lot of excitement, for sure. Guys will be out there just trying to show their talent."
If you had watched the last two Futures Games, you would've glimpsed the Yankee Alfonso Soriano's potential when he homered twice in Boston in 1999. Or you might've noticed Colorado's Ben Petrick in both Futures Games, in Boston and in Atlanta last year. Petrick said the experience has created a bond between all the participants in the game, a resume-builder that all point to with pride.
"It was a really neat experience," said Petrick, now the Rockies' every-day catcher. "Just to get to play with a lot of the great minor league players, guys who will become big leaguers in the near future, it was a really neat deal.
"You're playing in a big league ballpark and you've got quite a few fans there to watch you play and you're playing against some of the best players from around the [world]. You know some of the guys from playing against them. That's a neat part of the game, getting to meet some of them. I got to hang out with Sean Burroughs and Drew Henson, some of those guys. It's kind of cool to get to know them so when you play against them here in the big leagues, you have a connection there."
Who are the prospects attending this year's game worth watching? Everyone has an opinion, but a few names probably stand out:
Nick Johnson, New York Yankees: The future at first base for the Yankees, probably by next year.
Sean Burroughs, San Diego: The Padres could deal Phil Nevin to make room for this two-time Futures participant (and 2000 MVP).
Hank Blalock, Texas: Anybody who hits for the cycle twice in less than a week is worth watching.
Nick Neugebauer, Milwaukee: He's big, he's tall, he throws 100-mph. What else do you need to know?
Jae Seo, New York Mets: He's got 42 strikeouts and only nine walks so far this year.
Carlos Pena, Texas: One of the best power prospects in all of baseball.
Wily Mo Pena, Cincinnati: The guy the Yankees gave up to get Drew Henson back. Plus, you've got to love his name.
But you're entitled to your own opinion about which Futures player to tout. Just ask Petrick.
"You have to talk up my boy Brent Butler," said Petrick, who played with Butler in the Rockies system. "He'll be playing second base for the U.S. team."