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BA Extra: Futures Game Notebook
July 14, 2004
Houston Fans Have Plenty To Cheer For
HOUSTON--The Futures Game was full of players with local connections, including two players who hope to make Minute Maid Park their permanent address soon.
Astros farmhands Chris Burke and Willy Taveras got loud ovations from the crowd of 34,556, with Burke getting the loudest cheers, likely because fans are more familiar with him.
The second baseman was a first-round pick in 2001 and made his major league debut a week before the Futures Game. The Astros sent him back down to Triple-A New Orleans two days before the game so he was able to stay on the roster.
"My first road trip was on San Diego, and I'd never been to San Diego," Burke said. "It was a pretty nice for a first road trip. It's good to get back to Minute Maid, though. This is where I want to end up."
Righthander Clint Everts plays in the Expos organization, but he made a name for himself in high school at Cypress Falls High in suburban Houston. He and high school teammate Scott Kazmir--a Mets farmhand who was not selected for the game--were both first-round picks in 2002.
Everts said he had to scare up 30 tickets for family and friends after being named to the game. He said it was a thrill to play in the Futures Game anyway, and doing so in his hometown made it all the more special.
"I was an Astros fan growing up," Everts said. "Just to be down on the field during batting practice was exciting."
Everts pitched a perfect fourth inning, showing his trademark curveball and fanning DH Tony Blanco (Reds) with a changeup.
Another Texan who returned home for the Futures Game wasn't as pressed for tickets. Rangers lefthander John Danks, who’s from Round Rock (a suburb of Austin), had only six ticket requests but said many of his friends paid their own way into the ballpark.
"I'm only two hours from home. This is awesome," said Danks, who picked up the victory after wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam to pitch a scoreless third inning. "I never dreamed I'd be a part of this."
• Diamondbacks outfielder Conor Jackson was excited about being chosen for the Futures Game in his first full professional season, but he said it felt strange not to have Carlos Quentin and Jamie D'Antona along for the ride. They were Arizona's first three picks in the 2003 draft, opened the season together at high Class A Lancaster and were promoted together to Double-A El Paso in late June. They have punished pitchers all year, combining for .317-42-190 numbers. Jackson, Quentin and D'Antona bat 4-5-6 in the Diablos order, right behind another Futures Gamer, first baseman Jesus Cota. "I'm used to having my two boys next to me," said Jackson, who hit .341-12-60 between the two leagues. "It could have been any of three of us invited here, no doubt about it. They're having great years as well."
• Two players had to be replaced from the initial Futures Game rosters. Toronto's Robinzon Diaz replaced Humberto Quintero at catcher on the World team after Quintero was promoted to San Diego. And when one Blue Jays shortstop (Russ Adams) strained his ribcage, another (Hill) replaced him on the U.S. club. Hill's two-run double in the fifth inning provided the game's decisive runs and earned him the MVP trophy.