Florida Roots Run Deep At Futures Game
MIAMI—Lewis Brinson was understandably excited when he got the call informing him he was selected for the Futures Game.
As soon as the Brewers prospect and Fort Lauderdale native realized it meant he would get to play in his hometown ballpark, his excitement grew even more.
“This is great,” said Brinson, beaming from ear-to-ear standing in front of the Marlins dugout. “Being from Florida, this is a great opportunity for us to play in front of our families and friends and the people we grew up with and helped us get to where we are today. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Brinson was one of eight Florida natives selected for the Futures Game at Marlins Park. He was joined by Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (Orlando), Rockies shortstop Brendan Rodgers (Winter Park), Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker (Tampa), Twins shortstop Nick Gordon (Avon Park), White Sox catcher Zack Collins (Pembroke Pines), Royals lefthander Foster Griffin (Orlando) and Reds righthander Jimmy Herget (Tampa). That doesn’t include Indians righthander Triston McKenzie, who was born in New York but grew up in Royal Palm Beach.
In essence, the game was a homecoming for more than one-third of the U.S. team.
“Playing with a lot of these guys growing up, you definitely knew playing at a young age that they would be here,” Gordon said. “They worked hard, put in the work, and they were great ballplayers. It’s great to see everyone here. It’s like a family reunion.”
That is especially the case for Rodgers and Gordon. The two were double-play partners on various teams in their youth, and on Sunday were the starting second baseman and shortstop for the U.S. team.
“It’s surreal, I’m speechless,” Rodgers said. “The fact we get to play there tonight is something we’re excited for.”
The excitement for the native Floridians went beyond just the fact they were playing. Brinson, who grew up attending Marlins games and was nine years old when they won the 2003 World Series, saw it as an opportunity to mingle with his childhood heroes serving as coaches for the game.
“I grew up watching these guys with the Marlins,” Brinson said. “Charles Johnson, Cliff Floyd, this is what I was looking forward to. Meeting all these Marlins legends and greats. I saw Pudge Rodriguez in the hotel yesterday, that was great. I’m just looking forward to picking these guys brains from the day that we have them.
“Juan Pierre, I’m hoping he’s somewhere around here so I can meet him. He was my idol. I was a center fielder growing up, I’d always try to sit in center field, yell his name, ask for a ball, watch his mannerisms. I modeled myself after him. Obviously we’re a little different build, but I definitely looked up to him.”
Most said they had anywhere from 8-15 friends and family members coming to root for them in Marlins Park. As much as the game itself, that is something the hometown players said will make the experience special.
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“I’m excited to see everyone,” Rodgers said. “Anybody that can or doesn’t have work or baseball or whatever, they’re coming out to see. It’s all my best friends from high school I haven’t seen in six, seven months. It will be good to see them. I’m glad they’re going to be here.”