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Futures' stars sound off in Houston

by Alan Schwarz
July 14, 2004

HOUSTON—Some people look forward to the Futures Game because, for the first time, they can watch the stars of tomorrow play. Me? I anticipate it for a different reason: I can listen to the stars of tomorrow talk.

Having cornered 20 members of the USA and World teams in Houston, I conducted the first-ever Futures Game Player Poll, a unique look at the mindset of baseball's next generation. Which big leaguers inspire them? What do they love and hate about the minors? And, most important, what did they score with their first bonus check?

1. The big leaguer I admire most is:

Roger Clemens: 3 votes

Derek Jeter: 2 votes

"Vladimir Guerrero. He has tremendous tools—and can hit everything." (Tony Blanco, Reds)

"Eric Gagne. I know he's a pitcher and I'm a catcher, but he's awesome. He's a goon. He goes out and gets the job done." (Koyie Hill, Dodgers)

"Darin Erstad, because of his work ethic." (Jeremy Reed, Mariners)

"Roger Clemens. I'd like to have the way he works—and Jamie Moyer's pitchability." (Jeff Francis, Rockies)

"Richie Sexson. When he was in Cleveland I liked how he drove the ball the other way. I said I wanted to be like him." (Andy Marte, Braves)

"Derek Jeter. He's a great all-around player, and he carries himself with a lot of class." (B.J. Upton, Devil Rays)

"Ivan Rodriguez. He's my idol. I like the way he plays and as a person, too." (Dioner Navarro, Yankees)

"Ken Griffey Jr. He has a lot of fun when he plays—he isn't worried about too much." (Prince Fielder, Brewers)

"I really don't have someone I want to be like. You can't really be Roger Clemens, so why wish it?" (Gavin Floyd, Phillies)

"Jim Thome. I like the way he carries himself. And he has a lot of power. He never gets cheated, and can hit anything up there." (Dallas McPherson, Angels)

2. The best thing about the minors is:

Camaraderie/teammates: 11 votes

Play every day: 3 votes

"There isn't as much pressure—you can go 0-for-4 and not wonder if you're gonna be in the lineup the next day." (Justin Morneau, Twins)

"The camaraderie. It's one of those things you're going to cherish—like your high school or college buddies. You'll always be happy to see them years from now." (Matt Cain, Giants)

"Seeing places I've never seen before—like Clinton, Iowa." (John Danks, Rangers)

3. The worst thing about the minors is:

Bus rides/travel: 13 votes

"The buses. I'm like 6-5, so I like legroom. A lot of times I get like three inches. For 14 hours." (Francis)

"The empty ballparks. And in the majors, the coffee is Starbucks. In the minors you just hope it's hot." (Hill)

"The monotony. No game seems to matter more than the next or the previous. The good thing about that is you learn to motivate yourself every day." (Chris Burke, Astros)

4. A major leaguer on rehab assignment should:

Tell us what it's like up there: 35 percent

Teach us a skill: 20 percent

Pick up the check: 45 percent

"Tell us what it's like. Raul Ibanez was a great guy and told us what to expect. He made it understandable." (Reed)

"Pick up the check. Last year Trevor Hoffman took us to Outback and it was a big highlight. We get like $20 a day and it doesn't buy a whole lot after clubhouse fees. Maybe Subway." (Tim Stauffer, Padres)

5. A player who takes steroids is:

Cheating: 75 percent

Doing what he needs to do to get ahead: 25 percent

(Players were afforded anonymity on this question.)

"I don't see why there's really any question about it. It's against the rules."

"It's a personal decision. I don't do it, but I'm not going to judge someone."

6. The first thing I bought with my bonus check was:

Car / SUV: 8 votes

"A trip to Australia." (Francis)

"Nintendo." (Wil Ledezma, Tigers)

"My wife's wedding ring." (Hill)

"A condo in Myrtle Beach." (McPherson)

"A pair of shoes—Timberlands. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I was still asking my dad for money and he was like, 'You're rich now—you get your own.' " (Fielder)

7. The biggest thing I need to make the majors is:

Defense: 5 votes

"Backhand plays. I'm getting better. I'm almost there." (Marte)

"Come to the ballpark with an open mind and tap the resources that are available to me." (David Wright, Mets)

"Repetition. You can mess up a pitch and you won't need 3-4 pitches to fix it." (Cain)

"Command. It changes each level you go to. Command in A-ball is different from Double-A and Triple-A. The hitters are better and ready for you." (Bryan Bullington, Pirates)

"Put the ball in play through the middle." (Navarro)

"A better changeup. And keeping the ball down—knees down, not belt down." (Danks)

"Learn how to pick up hitters' tendencies and see how they're making adjustments." (Floyd)

"Keep hitting bombs." (Fielder)

You can reach Alan Schwarz by sending e-mail to alanschwarz@baseballamerica.com.

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