Homegrown catcher leads U.S. to victory in Futures Game

Published 12:13 am Monday, July 13, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — A catcher who grew up rooting for the Reds had an All-Star day in their hitter-friendly ballpark. So did the rest of the U.S. team.

Kyle Schwarber hit a two-run triple that got the U.S. rolling to a 10-1 victory Sunday in an All-Star Futures Game managed by two members of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine. And Schwarber could appreciate what that meant — the Reds were his favorite team while he was growing up in nearby Middletown, Ohio.

In the ballpark where he dreamed of playing, Schwarber got the hit that put his team ahead to stay.

The 22-year-old Cubs catcher estimated that he had more than 100 relatives and friends scattered around the stands on Sunday at Great American Ball Park, which is a 45-minute drive from his home. Many of them were in Cleveland last month for yet another big moment.

The Cubs called up their 2014 top pick for a one-week stint as a designated hitter during interleague play in June. He went 8 for 22 and homered in Cleveland. He was sent back to the minors, making him available to play in the Futures Game.

“I wasn’t disappointed at all to go back down,” he said during batting practice. “One of the benefits is being able to play in this game. This is awesome.”

Schwarber showed ‘em the swing that made him the fourth overall pick last year. He is working on his defense — a passed ball set up the World team’s first run — but he has proven he can hit. He tripled into the right-field corner for a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning.

The U.S. team — managed by former Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. — piled up 13 hits, including a two-run homer by the Pirates’ Josh Bell. The game’s only homer was another unexpected moment for the first baseman, who figured to be fresh out of college right about now.

Bell showed power as a switch hitter in high school. Both of his parents were college professors, and he intended to go to Texas. He was so determined to finish his education that his family sent a letter to all 30 teams telling them not to bother drafting him. The Pirates took him in the second round and offered him a $5 million deal that changed his mind.

There weren’t many good moments for the World team managed by Hall of Famer Tony Perez, who was the first baseman on the Big Red Machine. Leadoff hitter Ketel Marte from the Mariners had a pair of singles and drove in a run. The 21-year-old Marte is batting .343 at Triple-A Tacoma this year.

WIDE RANGE

The rosters included 13 first-round picks and those who waited a long time to get picked. Right-hander Carl Edwards went to the Rangers in the 48th round in 2011 and was later traded to the Cubs in the deal for Matt Garza.

NICE PLAYS

Left fielder Michael Conforto of the Mets threw out Marte when he tried to score from second base, making a perfect peg to Schwarber. Later, World shortstop Orlando Arcia of the Brewers went up the middle to get to a grounder, then did a 360-degree spin before throwing to first for an out.

IT NEVER ENDS

Griffey was asked whether there was any personal incentive in winning the game against his former teammate known as Doggie. “I want to beat Doggie,” Griffey said. “I don’t want to hear about it for the next 20 years, because you know Doggie can rub it in.”

MANAGING IN CINCY AGAIN

Perez was fired as the Reds’ rookie manager after only 44 games in 1993. He quickly accepted the offer to manage the Futures Game in Cincinnati, where he is still a beloved figure.

“It feels like I’ve got a second home,” Perez said. “Every time I come back here, I’m coming home. People on the street yell my name. They’re really happy when they see me.”

SMILE

U.S. first base coach Tom Prince had a camera mounted atop his batting helmet, allowing for close-ups when runners reached base.

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