Glimpse of the future
Smitherman homer breaks late tie; Sizemore named MVPPosted: Sunday July 13, 2003 8:41 PM
Updated: Monday July 14, 2003 12:21 AM
CHICAGO (AP) -- Stephen Smitherman and his teammates in the U.S. dugout were worried. The All-Star Futures Game was tied in the sixth inning, and the game was supposed to end after seven.
Remember what happened in the big league All-Star Game last year in Milwaukee, which was called with the score 7-all after 11 innings?
"I think everybody was thinking of that," Smitherman said. "Are we going to tie the ballgame? Are they going to keep playing?"
According to the program, the game would have ended in a tie. But Smitherman made the problem go away, homering off Travis Blackley leading off the bottom of the sixth to give the United States a 3-2 win over the World team Sunday.
A 23rd-round draft pick in 2000, the 24-year-old outfielder started the season at Class AA. He made it up to the major leagues for the first time this month, pinch-hitting for the Cincinnati Reds on July 1 and flying out in the ninth inning off Pittsburgh's Scott Sauerbeck.
"My first swing, I was jittery, nervous, a little bit hyped up," he said.
Then he relaxed.
"The next pitch, I lined out to center field," Smitherman remembered.
He was brought up June 29 and sent back to the minors July 3. He didn't even get to save his $76.50 in daily major league meal money -- he used it to pay an airline for excess baggage charges for the trip.
A diabetic since he was 11, Smitherman needs four insulin shots each day. He once had an episode playing at Class AA Chattanooga, where he took boxes of Snickers bars to the ballpark just in case.
"It's a serious thing, but it's an easy fix, as I would put it," he said.
Smitherman's homer made a winner of Detroit's Preston Larrison, who had the most fan support among the crowd of 42,983. Larrison, a 22-year-old right-hander, is from the Chicago suburb of Aurora. In addition to his two free tickets, he paid $2,000 for another 50 and said friends bought about 50 more on their own.
They cheered loudly when relieved with two outs in the top of the sixth. He allowed a single, then got a groundout.
"Today was awesome," he said. "I can't wait to get to the big leagues. It's going to be just like this."
Players immediately knew things were different. In the center of the clubhouses, they had to sign 11 dozen boxes of baseballs, two batting helmets, a uniform shirt, a banner and a home plate. More than four dozen players have made it to the majors from the first four Futures games.
It was just the second win of the season for Larrison, 1-10 with a 5.32 ERA at Class AA Erie with 43 walks, 43 strikeouts and 10 hit batters in 88 innings.
Playing in the organization of the Tigers, a major league-worst 25-67, Larrison knows he has opportunity, especially when rosters expand to 40 in September.
"I hear they're going to go to a six- or seven-man rotation," he said. "That's good news."
His mom and dad were in the stands along with his grandmother, grandfather, fiancee Bre DeKing, and his high school and college coaches. Larrison, who had been on the field before at an amateur showcase event, will stay in Chicago until Thursday because the Eastern League breaks for its All-Star Game.
"It's so neat to be here," said his mom, Kathy. "He pitched here before, but there were only 100 parents in the stands. This is so thrilling."
Grady Sizemore, an outfielder in the Cleveland organization on the U.S. team, was selected MVP, an award named last year after Hall of Fame Larry Doby, who died June 18. Sizemore, acquired last year from Montreal in the Bartolo Colon trade, singled in the first inning and homered in the third off Montreal prospect Seung Song.
Toronto prospect Alexis Rios, playing for the World team, homered in the fifth off Seattle's Clint Nageotte.
Notes: RHP Rich Harden, who started for the World team, struck out three in the first inning, allowing a run, a hit and two walks. Oakland may call him up later this week. ... U.S. manager Carlton Fisk wore a White Sox cap but had uniform pants of the Boston Red Sox, the team that appears on his plaque at the Hall of Fame. Asked if he has talked with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Fisk said: "I haven't had any contact with him."