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Futures Game no mere sideshow

Futures Game no mere sideshow

DETROIT -- They say there's some big game being played here on Tuesday. Frankly, that's not what I'm here for.

To me, the best part of All-Star weekend happens on Sunday. And no, I don't mean celebrity softball. MLB's current All-Stars? Not interested. I'm much more forward-thinking than that. I'm all about the future.

Which is why Sunday is the best day of the entire All-Star event. Heck, I'm even leaving town on Monday (the fact I have a work assignment to cover the Southern League All-Star Game is besides the point).

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At 4 p.m. ET the best Minor League prospects in the game will take the field for the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game. Everyone already knows how Roger Clemens pitches on a national stage, or what David Ortiz can do in a big at-bat.

But how many of you have seen Juan Morillo dial up triple-digit heat in a big-league ballpark? Zero. How many have witnessed professional baseball's home run leader, Andy LaRoche, take shots at Major League fences? Zippo.

Sure it's a temporary stage, but that's the beauty of it. Watching Albert Pujols take swings in Comerica Park? Ho-hum. We get to see that -- or in some other stadium -- 162 games a year. Watching Delmon Young take his hacks here? Now that's something special.

It's extraordinary on several fronts. Looking into the future is a skill most wish they had, but few possess. On Sunday, we all get that chance. With the amount of Futures alumni now in the Major Leagues -- 105 at last count (17 have been Major League All-Stars) -- there's no better means of prognostication. Find out who the next Pujols or Alfonso Soriano will be by tuning into this exhibition.

Tigers fans should be flocking to this game on Sunday for that reason. Justin Verlander may have gotten a glimpse of big-league life with his Major League debut last week. But that was in Cleveland. On Sunday, Detroit's faithful can see him take the mound here, hopefully something they'll see a lot of in the not-too-distant future.

But wait, there's more. It's a two-for-the-price-of-one deal for those interested in the Tigers' future. Joel Zumaya joins Verlander here, and he'll be bringing his upper-90s heater to Comerica on a full-time basis soon as well.

And it's not just for the locals. Every organization's future will be on display in proud fashion. Players who have been just names and stats from the time they were drafted or signed will be showing off their skills. And believe me, this experience will make them even hungrier to reach The Show for good. The Futures Game, complete with big-league treatment for players used to busing all over creation, serves as the ultimate carrot at the end of a stick. Hey, prospects, this is what you're working your tails off to get. We'll give you a little taste now, but you better go back to Erie or Rancho Cucamonga or Clearwater or Tacoma and work a little harder to get the rest of it.

Quoting a line from an '80s song about the need to wear sunglasses now would be appropriate. Be sure to bring them on Sunday.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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