Not surprisingly, the dugouts during the XM All-Star Futures Game will have a decidedly Angelic feel to them.
That's because this year's managers for the game, to be played on Sunday, July 11, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, have some serious ties to the host team. U.S. manager Don Baylor spent six years playing for the Angels, winning AL MVP honors and going to his lone All-Star Game as an Angel in 1979. World team manager Cookie Rojas worked in the Angels' front office and scouted for them before serving as the club's manager in 1988.
"I think it's a great honor that I was asked by Major League Baseball to manage the team," said Rojas, a five-time All-Star who played 16 seasons in the big leagues and is now a Spanish-language broadcaster for the Florida Marlins. "Having been with the Angels and with the All-Star Game there, it made for a perfect combination. I think it's very nice that I was asked to go back to where I stayed a lot of years."
Now in its 12th year, the XM All-Star Futures Game features the top Minor League prospects competing in a nine-inning contest as part of Taco Bell All-Star Sunday. The game will begin at 6 p.m. ET and can be viewed live on ESPN2, ESPN2 HD and MLB.TV. SIRIUS XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game on XM 175 in addition to its other comprehensive live coverage from Anaheim. Taco Bell All-Star Sunday is the first of three days of All-Star events at Angel Stadium, culminating with the 81st All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 13.
Rojas will be trying to extend the World team's three-game winning streak and improve its 6-5 record over the first 11 editions of the game. He knows he'll have to rely heavily on his coaching staff, made up of Minor League managers and coaches, to bring home another World victory.
Futures Game managers
"There will be managers from all the organizations, and I have to let them pass along their knowledge," Rojas said. "We have to give the players the opportunity to go out and perform. We have to get together and do the best we can to win the ballgame. I trust them; they're great baseball people. It has to be a total agreement with all of us."
Not that Baylor will roll over so easily. Now in his second season as the Colorado Rockies hitting coach, Baylor played 19 years in the big leagues and is one of just 18 players to collect at least 250 home runs and 250 steals. One thing he's never done, however, is represent his country on the baseball field.
"Heck, yeah, it's exciting, having U.S.A. on my shirt," Baylor said. "They didn't have to ask twice, just put it that way. They asked me in Spring Training, really. You accept it then, then you get through the season. Now, the All-Star Game is getting closer, and people are thinking about it. I hadn't heard from them in a while, so I called and said, 'Do you still want me to do this?'
"Any time you have that U.S.A. responsibility, especially in baseball, especially those kids -- I put myself in their spot. I told myself I'd have loved to have played in something like that, on a Major League field for a bunch of All-Star people."
Baylor's U.S. coaching staff will be comprised of five Minor League managers -- Mike Sarbaugh of the Columbus Clippers (Indians), Steve Decker of the Fresno Grizzlies (Giants), Tony Franklin of the Trenton Thunder (Yankees), Bill Dancy of the Tennessee Smokes (Cubs) and Brian Poldberg of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals) -- and one pitching coach -- Rod Nichols of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies).
Rojas' World team staff, meanwhile, has the highest-profile name, in that of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who serves as manager of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Sandberg will be joined by Durham Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo (Rays), New Hampshire Fisher Cats manager Luis Rivera (Blue Jays), Chattanooga Lookouts manager Carlos Subero (Dodgers), Frisco RoughRiders manager Steve Buechele (Rangers) and Sacramento RiverCats pitching coach Rick Rodriguez (A's).
Baylor and Rojas found out who their players are on Tuesday, when the rosters were unveiled, and both are eager to spend time with them and see what they can do on the field.
"The top rookies, the future stars -- it's great to be around young kids, it makes you younger," Rojas said. "I'm looking forward to being around all that talent."
"Those young guys have passion," Baylor added. "That's all I want: Have passion, playing in a big league stadium in an exhibition."
While both skippers will gladly take the players that were chosen for the 12th Futures Game, Baylor did have one personnel request, one he realizes is likely to be denied.
"I told them the other day, 'Can you get them to [send down] Strasburg?'" Baylor quipped.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.