Results tagged ‘ World Team ’

Future history

Francis_90.jpgBy 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.

All-Stars headed to Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Prior to Sunday afternoon’s All-Star Futures Game of minor league talent, Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, a coach for the World Team, was looking forward to his trip to Central New York in two weeks to welcome an old teammate to the game’s most exclusive fraternity.

Currently the Triple-A manager of the Iowa Cubs, Sandberg talked in the visiting team clubhouse of Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., prior to the U.S. Team’s 9-1 win over the World Team.

07-12-10-Francis_Sandberg.jpg“I’m looking forward to coming to Cooperstown. Andre Dawson’s election was well overdue,” said Sandberg of his Cubs teammate from 1987-92. “I’m looking forward to seeing him take his spot there.”

The last time Sandberg saw Dawson was during this past spring training.

“I was just touching base, seeing how busy he had been. He’d been very busy doing things,” Sandberg said. “That’s always part of that first year. But he’s loving every minute of it, so I think that’s the key thing.

“And he’s looking forward to that day. So I’ll be there pulling for him. And I’ll be right there sitting behind him.”

Sandberg used part of his induction speech in 2005 to plead Dawson’s case for enshrinement. 

“So that makes it somewhat gratifying to see a fellow teammate go in,” Sandberg said. “A guy that is very deserving, worked hard, maybe a little bit overshadowed through the steroid era, and now he’s right where he should be.”

Sandberg then talked about the kind of teammate that Dawson was. 

“Just his work ethic. He was team-first, he played the game hard all the time, gave it his best, and at times he really overdid what he had to do to be able to play,” he said. “He was the first one at the ballpark working on his body and working on his knees to be able to play a game. And he was the last one to leave.

07-12-10-Francis_Dawson.jpg“And with that being said, he was in the lineup every single day, never complained about anything, played hard, never took anything for granted, and really played the game the right way, even with two sore knees. I was very impressed with that and just the Hall of Fame quality of play that he’d bring year to year. Very impressive.”

Sandberg was also eyewitness to Dawson’s historic 1987 season with the Cubs, leading the National League with 49 home runs and 137 RBI en route to capturing the senior circuit’s MVP Award while playing outfield for a last-place team.

“That was one of the most impressive seasons I watched first-hand like that,” Sandberg said.

As for Sandberg, he has attended every Induction Ceremony since his induction and has no plans to end the streak any time soon.

“I haven’t missed one yet. I’ll try not to miss one as long as I can help it,” he said. “It’s a big thrill every time and it’s great to see the new guys go in and reflect back what that felt like. It was just like yesterday. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling of the year going in 2005.”

And so far, the team’s he has been managing have been more than accommodating when the last Sunday of July rolls around.

“The organizations have been all for that. They’re very understanding about that. Not only that, they tell me to go. Sometimes it’s hard to leave the team, but it’s a good getaway and it’s for the right reasons and I’m looking forward to it once again this year.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

 

Stars Come in All Forms

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

ST. LOUIS — The All-Star Game has come to represent so much more than just the top 30 or so players from each league who are having the best seasons to date.

7-13-09-Horn_Smith.jpgThrough an All-Star Week — featuring the XM All-Star Futures Game, the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game and the ever-popular State Farm Home Run Derby — baseball fans have more and more reasons with each passing year to become immersed in All-Star extravagance.

This year is no different. Before the “All-Stars” had even arrived in St. Louis late Sunday night, many other Stars took centerstage. Hall of Famers Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Ernie Banks, Rollie Fingers and Ozzie Smith were on the diamond at Busch Stadium on Sunday evening. And fellow Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Luis Aparicio, Dick Williams, Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Gaylord Perry were just a few members of the baseball royalty out and about downtown and at FanFest.

The biggest star on Sunday? None other than Rene Tosoni, of course.

An outfielder by trade for the Minnesota Twins’ Double-A affiliate, the not-to-far-down-the-road-from-Cooperstown New Britain (Conn.) Rock Cats, Tosoni, who hails from Coquitlam, British Columbia, was pleased to be a part of the World Team in the Futures Game on Sunday. He just wanted to get in the game. But after a 4-hour rain delay, time seemed to be running out as the game reached the final inning — the top of the 7th — with his team down 5-3. 

7-13-09-Horn_Tosoni.jpgThen, in the blink of an eye, Tosoni finds himself this All-Star Monday morning on the way back to Connecticut — with his bat from his pinch-hit, two-run double on its way to Cooperstown. 

“Wow,” uttered Tosoni moments after being presented the MVP Award on Sunday night outside the visitor dugout — and learning his bat would join other Futures Game MVPs in Cooperstown, a tradition started with the very first Futures Game MVP, Alfonso Soriano, in 1999.

Tosoni has never been to Cooperstown, but his bat — brand new, with just one hit to its resume — will soon be on display. Tosoni may not be the best known star from Sunday, but he is the quintessential All-Star among us who represents what baseball can bring you: An unexpected spot in history, on any given day.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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