2019 Futures Game: Rangers Slugger Sam Huff Wins MVP
CLEVELAND — Come Monday evening, Sam Huff expects to be in Myrtle Beach with his teammates at high Class A Down East doing what he’s done nearly every day this season. He’ll take batting practice, get a quick meal, strap on the catcher’s gear and try his best to stay in the moment.
It’s been his mantra all season long, and it’s what helped him put together a season that ranks among the minor leagues’ biggest breakouts. It’d be hard to blame him, however, if he wanted to let his fantastic Sunday linger just a little bit longer.
With his team down two runs in the seventh and final scheduled inning of this year’s Futures Game, Huff unloaded on a 94 mph fastball from National League closer Ben Bowden and sent it 417 feet into the Cleveland night to re-tie the score and send the game into an extra inning.
"When I saw it go,” he said, "my heart started going and then I started just smiling in my head. I just felt like it was something I didn’t think I was ever going to experience in my life.”
Though the game ended in a tie, Huff’s blast still stands as the inarguable signature moment. For his efforts, he was awarded the game’s MVP, giving the Rangers their first Futures Game MVP since 2014, when the honor went to another prodigious slugger, Joey Gallo.
"It was a really cool experience, and something I didn’t think I was going to be doing before the game,” Huff said. "It was just cool to have that experience and do that for my team.”
And while hitting the game-tying home run in the Futures Game was obviously a first, Huff also was asked to step a bit out of his comfort zone as far as his defensive position was concerned. Though he’s earned a rep as a solid or better defensive catcher, Huff got into the game as a defensive replacement for starting first baseman Evan White.
Although Huff has played four games at first base this season with Down East and 11 more in 2018 with low Class A Hickory, he didn’t pack his own first baseman’s mitt. Instead, he had to cross enemy lines and borrow some leather from Pirates prospect Will Craig.
"They came to me probably 15 minutes before the game started, and I kind of looked at them like, 'OK, I'll try first base out,'” he said. “It was a good decision. It was pretty fun over there. I don't play there a lot, because I'm mainly a catcher."
By the time the game was over, Huff had already gotten his home run ball back, given it to his dad and posed for a few pictures with his family. There were only a few more hours left in the day before he had to re-pack his things, flip the switch back to regular season mode and get ready for the second half of the Carolina League season.
Nobody would fault him, however, if he took a little more time to dwell on what he’d accomplished and all the memories he’d created on Sunday.