By Bill Francis
It has been a decade since Hank Conger visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His bat is staying for good.
Conger came away with Most Valuable Player honors for the 2010 Futures Game held at Angel Stadium on Sunday afternoon. He donated the bat he used to club a three-run home run with two out in the fifth inning off of Henderson Alvarez that gave his U.S. Team a 5-1 lead on the way to a 9-1 victory over the World Team.
Conger, a switch-hitting Angel farmhand playing catcher for the Triple-A Salt Lake City squad, finished the game batting 1-for-3.
“It’s awesome,” said Conger in the winning team’s clubhouse after the game, referring to being asked to donate his bat. “It’s a great honor. I wasn’t really expecting it, to be honest.”
The Hall of Fame has made it a point over the years to ask for an artifact from the game’s MVP honoree.
“The Futures Game showcases the greatest minor leaguers,” said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, “and by being able to represent them and document them in Cooperstown before they make that final step in a lot of ways talks about the journey of all major league players.”
It was Idelson who first approached Conger, who grew up 15 miles from Angels Stadium in Huntington Beach, Calif.,about the possible donation.
“I was like, ‘Really, you want my bat?'” said Conger with a laugh. “This whole event has been great, so to have that be in the Hall of Fame is just unbelievable.”
Conger knows of the Hall of Fame firsthand, having visited back in the summer of 2000 as a 12-year-old when his travel baseball team from California played in one of the Cooperstown-area baseball camps.
“I loved Cooperstown,” Conger said. “I was really expecting something different. You think its going to be in a big city, but there was just so much green. Even for me as a little kid I thought it was an awesome view.
“The Hall of Fame, just looking at everything that was in there, the jerseys, the plaques, for any baseball fans it’s a must.”
Asked if had any more hits left in the bat, Conger smiled and said: “For the Hall of Fame, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to give that one up.
“And I’ll get to tell everybody for the rest of my life that I have something in the Hall of Fame.”
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.