Futures recap

Well, I’m here in hot and sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico for the Triple-A All-Star Game, but I have some time now to reflect on the ninth All-Star Futures Game.

For me, it’s still the best part of All-Star Weekend, but maybe I’m biased. I also have to leave town before the other stuff happens, but I love the Futures Game and have done so since watching some scrawny kid named Alfonso Soriano go deep twice over the Green Monster in 1999. It’s gotten better and better every year and I think more people know about it and look forward to it than ever before.

As for the talent? Once again, outstanding. As a prospect fan, you don’t often get to see some of the top names in Minor League Baseball in person, even when you travel around like Lisa and I do. So getting to see all of them together on one field — and a big-league field — is exciting. And watching how pumped these guys are to experience it is unbelievable. I mean, Cameron Maybin asked if he could come even though he wouldn’t be able to play. Jacoby Ellsbury wanted to make sure he could still come after getting sent down even though he technically had been replaced when the Red Sox called him up. To me, that speaks volumes about the place this game has in the baseball landscape.

As for the game itself this year, Chin-Lung Hu showed he sure knows how to go the other way, didn’t he? If he can keep being a terrific situational hitter like he was on Sunday en route to capturing the Larry Doby MVP Award, he’s going to be an outstanding big leaguer soon. While the World Team manufactured some runs with their legs, there was more than a little muscle being flexed. Two guys from low-A ball — Johnny Whittleman and James Van Ostrand — went yard, evidently not getting the memo that guys at that level shouldn’t go deep in a game like this. Justin Upton hit a ball about 1,000 feet, and the whole time just looked like he belonged in this setting. Joey Votto tagged one as well, perhaps a sign of things to come soon for Reds fans. But the hardest ball hit of the day may have belonged to Jay Bruce, who absolutely tattooed an offering off the brick wall on top of the right-center field fence. Had it been 25 yards or so to the left, it’s a homer. Instead, it was a triple — a 450 foot triple — but a triple nonetheless.

Overall, a nice game with a good crowd and beautiful weather. What more could you ask for? The organizers of the game once again deserve plenty of kudos for a job well done and I already can’t wait for the 2008 game — I wonder if there will be any plans for the 10th anniversary of the game — maybe bring back some alumni, if possible (most are playing in the bigs now, so it wouldn’t be easy). Other than that — and my long-standing idea that the MVP of the Futures Game should get to stick around for the big league All-Star Game, take BP and sit the bench. I’m going to push hard for that in New York.

I’ll be back over the next couple of days with reports from Albuquerque. Looking forward to seeing Isotopes Park, starting with the Home Run Derby tonight.

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