Rays prospect leads U.S. to victory in Futures Game
By Jim Street
U.S. Roster | World Roster
SEATTLE -- The theme of the day was the future, and if you asked any of the 50 minor league players who participated in Sunday's All-Stars Futures Game, they can't wait to do this all over again -- at the highest level.
"This place is unbelievable and it gives you more than enough motivation to want to play in a ballpark like this every night," said Phillies farmhand Chase Utley after Team USA beat the World All-Stars, 5-1, before 40,850 at SAFECO Field. "First-class all the way in every way."
Utley, the Phillies' first-round draft choice last year out of UCLA, went 2-for-3 in Sunday's game, including a solo home run in the fourth inning. He also was on the front end of a double steal with Toby Hall (Devil Rays), who stole home in the second inning.
Hall went went 2-for-3, scored two runs, hit a home run and walked away with the Most Valuable Player award. Although Hall and Utley batted at the bottom of Team USA's lineup, they provided most of the offensive punch in a stadium supposedly known as a pitcher's park.
Hall blasted a solo homer leading off the fourth inning deep to right field and Utley followed with a blast into the left field seats.
Team USA's long-ball barrage began in the third inning when Adam Dunn (Reds) belted a home run, boosting the Team USA's lead to 3-0.
"I have heard that the ball doesn't carry that well here," said Dunn, "but it seemed to carry pretty well today."
Seven USA pitchers held the World team to seven hits, walked one and struck out eight.
Team USA manager Gaylord Perry said Hall had a lot to do with the way the USA pitchers shut down the World hitters.
"Our catcher just took charge out there," the Hall of Fame pitcher said. "I wasn't going to play him the whole game (seven innings), but I asked him how he was feeling and he said he felt great. So I left him in there. He was doing such a good job I didn't want to mess with success.
"Our kids were in control of the game all the way."
Spoken like a true former pitcher.
Although none of the nine World pitchers worked more than one inning -- manager Minnie Minoso got a lot of airtime because of the number of trips he made to the mound -- Perry stuck with his hurlers a little longer.
"The plan was to pitch them one inning apiece," Perry said, "but they were throwing so many strikes and having such low-pitch innings, a couple of our guys went two innings."
Team USA starter Chris George (Royals) and Brett Myers (Phillies) each pitched two scoreless innings.
"I think our kids knew they weren't going to throw more than 30 or 35 pitches, so they went out and threw strikes," Perry added. "They worked the corners all day and worked the corners. Everybody played, everybody had a good time and we got it done."
So what do they take from the game?
"I think their hopes have to be a little more now," Perry said. "They played in front of a big crowd and that didn't faze them a bit. We just told them to go out there, have fun and play to win."
Team USA third baseman Sean Burroughs (Padres) went hitless in the game (0-for-2) but had a grand time. Just like last year in Atlanta when he played in his first All-Star Futures Game and was selected as that game's MVP.
"It's always a lot of fun to play in a game like this, in a Major League ballpark, in front of a lot of fans," said Burroughs, the son of Jeff Burroughs, a former American League MVP and also one of Perry's ex-teammates with the Texas Rangers. "This is my second one and it's so much fun it makes you want to play in the real one."
This was Dunn's first Futures Game and it was a blast, in more ways than one.
"I hit it pretty good," he said of his home run. "I had a great time, a lot of fun to play in a park like this on a team like this."
Team USA grabbed a two-run lead in the second inning, scoring both runs with two outs.
Nick Johnson (Yankees) led off the inning with a single but was still there after Joe Borchard (White Sox) and Ryan Ludwick (Athletics) struck out. Hall kept the inning alive with a single to center field and went to third when Utley also singled to center, scoring Johnson with the game's first run.
On the suggestion of is coaching staff, Perry flashed Utley the steal sign.
"We figured the worst thing that could happen is we have the leadoff guy (Cody Ransom of the Giants) leading off the next inning," Perry explained.
World catcher Mike Rivera (Tigers) threw high to second base and the ball sailed into right field, but Hall already had started toward home plate and probably would have had it stolen even if the throw had been on target.
The World team was shut out until eighth inning when Wilson Betemit (Braves) hit a home run off Jerome Williams (Giants). Betemit went 2-for-3.
One of the game's loudest ovations came when Jamal Strong entered the game in the fifth inning.
The Mariners' prospect, playing for Class A San Bernardino, Calif., received a noisy welcome.
"This experience was everything I expected, and more," he said. "To get a standing ovation from the fans is something I will always remember. Maybe someday, I will be here playing every day. It sure makes you want to get back up here."
That sentiment was echoed about 49 times.
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jae Soe delivers a pitch to Team United States during the first inning of the All-Star Futures Game.