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2005 Futures Game: World 4, U.S. 0
By Jim Callis
Futures Game Notebook: LaRoche and Wood aware of HR chase
Futures Game Rosters
DETROIT—The Futures Game annually showcases some of the game's up-and-coming young talent. Many players have used the game as a springboard to the majors.
Royals first baseman Justin Huber and Mariners outfielder Shin-Soo Choo haven't been able to establish themselves as big leaguers yet, getting only brief cups of coffee earlier this season. So they were available to play in their third Futures Game Sunday, and both played integral roles in the World team's 4-0 victory at Comerica Park.
Choo opened the scoring in the third inning with a solo homer off Zach Jackson (Blue Jays), and Huber broke the game open in the fifth with a two-out, two-run double off Paul Maholm (Pirates).
While Huber would have preferred to be in the majors, he was happy to settle for the Futures Game MVP award, which also has been won by the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Grady Sizemore and Aaron Hill. As a bonus, his uniform will be sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
"Probably 70 percent of the guys I played with in the Futures Game in 2002 are in the big leagues," said Huber, who has made the transition from catcher to first base after joining the Royals in a midseason trade last year. "Though it's a tremendous honor to be here, this is not the highlight of your career. Hopefully it's a stepping stone, helping guys catapult and get over your hump."
U.S. manager George Brett's team took the loss, but he was delighted by Huber's success. Brett is vice president of baseball operations for the Royals and has grown close to Huber after working with him in spring training. Brett took him to dinner the night before game, and Huber said they engaged in a little trash talk.
"I tried to get him drunk. I guess it didn't work," Brett joked. "I gave him a little wine, a few beers and a little Sambuca. It didn't work."
Huber had gone 0-for-3 in the 2002 and 2003 Futures Games, and his homer easily surpassed him throwing out Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy on a steal attempt as his highlight. Similarly, Choo had struggled in the 2002 and 2004 games, going 0-for-4 and misplaying a fly ball in last year's game. He made amends by punishing a hanging slider from Jackson.
"I feel better now," said Choo, who said it was easier to perform because he was used to the hoopla. "A lot of players were out there taking pictures, but I did that last time."
Like Huber, Choo enjoys the event but would rather be in the big leagues. "I'm happy," he said, "but hopefully next year I won't be in the Futures Game. If they ask me, I'll say, 'Sorry, I can't.' "
Pitching Rules Again
For the second straight year, the pitchers dominated the hitters. The World's shutout was the second in the event's seven-year history and the first since its 7-0 win in the inaugural game in 1999.
The U.S. team, led by elite hitting prospects such as Devil Rays shortstop B.J. Upton, Diamondbacks outfielder Conor Jackson and Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young, managed just four hits in seven innings against nine pitchers. Several of the U.S. pitchers also stood out, including prospects Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya of the hometown Tigers.
Six pitchers topped 95 mph with their fastballs, with Zumaya and Juan Morillo (Rockies) both peaking at 99 mph. Both Brett and World manager Willie Hernandez said they never had seen so many pitching prospects in one place.
"Everyone was coming in throwing 95-99 with pretty good control," Brett said. "It's just amazing. I guess that's why they were in the Futures Game."
Indians catcher Ryan Garko saw much of the pitching first-hand, handling the U.S. staff for five innings and having the misfortune of batting against Edison Volquez (Rangers), who hit 96 mph, and Morillo.
"Both sides were really good," Garko said. "Guys were throwing strikes and putting 98s and 99s flashing up there.
"Morillo was pretty impressive. Guys were talking about him in the dugout."
Said Scott Mathieson (Phillies), who merely reached 94 mph while retiring Upton and Conor Jackson: "I was like a righthanded thumber out there today."
Add in some nifty defensive plays, and it made for a lowest-scoring Futures Game ever. Upton opened the game by making a nice running play on a slow roller off the bat of Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, and Betancourt trumped that play by ranging up the middle to rob Upton in the fourth. Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion turned a hard smash by Garko into a second-inning double play.