Wedge Remembers 2001 All-Star Futures Game

Major League Baseball’s Futures Game (to be held this year on Sunday, July 8 in Kansas City) is designed to give baseball fans a look at the best prospects in the game. The 2001 Futures Game, held in Safeco Field, gave Mariners manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis a glimpse of their own future.

Wedge was the manager and Willis the pitching coach for AAA Buffalo during the 2001 season. On their way to leading the Bisons to a franchise record 91 wins, the pair was tapped to travel to Seattle for the ’01 Futures Game.

Wedge was a coach for the World Team, while Willis was in charge of the pitching for Team USA.

Eric Wedge was the coach for the World squad in the 2001 Futures Game.

Cal Willis was member of the USA coaching staff in the 2001 Futures Game.

The World Team (which had Mariners farmhand RHP Joel Pineiro on its roster, as well as a young catcher named Miguel Olivo, although Olivo was promoted before the game) lost a 5-1 decision to Team USA, which was managed by Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

“I remember I got to Seattle and discovered that the whole Team USA pitching staff was starting pitchers and that, other than Perry, all the Team USA coaches were minor league managers,” Willis said. “I decided I would just stay in the bullpen the whole game, because none of those pitchers knew how to get ready to pitch in relief, and they all would be going one inning.

“I wrote out a plan for Perry, then just hung out in the bullpen the whole game getting guys ready, and rolling them out there. It was great.”

The Team USA offense was led by homers from Chase Utley, Toby Hall and Adam Dunn.

“This place is unbelievable,” Utley said at the time. “It gives you more than enough motivation to want to play in a ballpark like this every night. First-class all the way in every way.”

Willis’ Team USA pitchers stole the show, though.

“Our kids were in control of the game all the way” Perry said.

“I tell you what I remember,” Willis said. “When Eric first got handed the telegram telling him he was going to coach the World Team I was laughing at him. I’d already booked my flight home for the break, and I was telling him what a relaxing three days I was going to have. About two minutes later, here comes the guy with a telegram for me, saying I was going to Seattle, too. You think Eric had a couple of comments for me?

“I never thought the two of us would be back here together some day.”

Here are some fun links from that game in 2001 at Safeco Field:

2012 Futures Game

The 14th annual Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game, a part of the Taco Bell All-Star Sunday festivities at the Mid-Summer Classic, will be played at 2 p.m. (PT) on July 8, at Kauffman Stadium.

The Team USA roster includes left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen and right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker.

The Futures Game can be seen live on MLB.TV, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on MLB.com’s Gameday. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on MLB Network Radio XM 89. MLB.com will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game. Fans can stay updated by following @MLBFutures on Twitter and can send/receive tweets to/from the U.S. and World team dugouts during the game by following @USDugout and @WorldDugout.

Major League Baseball, along with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America and the 30 Major League baseball clubs, selected the 25-man rosters. George Brett will manage the U.S. Team, with Bernie Williams manning the World Team dugout.

- TH

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