The Futures Game Is Christmas In July

MIAMI--At some point in their careers, it’s almost certain that some players in Sunday’s Futures Game have been a part of a Christmas in July promotion. Whether it’s their team or as a visitor, they’ve seen the silly jerseys, heard “Jingle Bells” sung in sweltering heat and empathized with whatever poor intern had to wear the Santa Claus costume for the day.

There’s always one part conspicuously missing, however: the gifts. On Sunday, when they got to their lockers, that all changed.

Every Futures Gamer got some sort of swag as a reward for making it to the minor leagues’ most prestigious showcase. Some gifts came from their agency. Others came from companies with whom the players have advertising deals. Still others, like the nameplates above their lockers or the commemorative baseball in their lockers, came as part and parcel with the game.

Bo Bichette, one of the Blue Jays’ top prospects, got a pair of cleats with a little bit of a personal touch worked into the design.

“Everything was great. I got a pair of Nike shoes I’m wearing now that my agent brought for me as a surprise. …,” Bichette said. “(The shoes) say Bobo on them, which was my nickname growing up, so it says Bobo and has my favorite Bible verse and things like that.”

Beyond the shoes, Bichette had at his feet an equipment bag full of gear waiting to make the trip northwest to Dunedin, Fla., where he’ll resume his season after spending the first half of the season with low Class A Lansing. Some of the gear was there because he wasn’t going back to Michigan, but a whole lot of it was part of his Futures Game haul.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get all this stuff home,” he said. “It’s awesome. We’re definitely all blessed to be here and to have the opportunity to play together.”

And while some players were in love with their new cleats, batting gloves, gloves or bats, Phillies phenom Scott Kingery was a big fan of the bag he was going to use to take it all home, too. As part of his gift from Under Armour, Kingery was given a heavy duty backpack with room for clothes, cleats, gloves and pretty much everything else he would need at the park.

It wasn’t like a regular duffel-style equipment bag, though, but rather a heavy-matte version designed to be worn over both shoulders.

“I’m with (Under Armour) right now, and they gave us this bag over here and that had all our cleats and stuff in them,” Kingery said, before noting all the goodies that came inside. “I think the cleats were my favorite part, really, because they kind of have that Miami Beach theme. You’ve got the palm trees right there, so I think that was my favorite part.”

Milwaukee outfield prospect Corey Ray listed a few pairs of shoes as his favorite piece of new gear. The pairs he enjoyed the most came courtesy of Jordan Brand, which sent him two of its most recent creations.

“I got a care package from Jordan, a few pairs of gym shoes--maybe like five or six--a book bag, some shirts and some shorts,” he said, but he wasn’t done yet. The new swag didn’t stop at apparel. “I got a few bats from a few different companies and my agent gave me a care package with a customized suit.”

Even for the normally understated player, the Futures Game swag-fest offers a chance to widen the fashion palette. Diamondbacks righty Jon Duplantier, who doesn’t consider himself a flashy type, found a pair of shoes he loved.

"These runners from New Balance. They're sweet. I've been looking at this online. I was afraid to pull the trigger because these are a little loud for me,” he said. “I'm not loud. My mom was 'Hey, you can get white, black and grey, you can wear it with everything.”

The calendar says Sunday was July 9, but the smiles on the players’ faces recalling the moment they saw their newest gear made it seem like Christmas morning. And Santa’s first stop was in Miami.