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Marichal cherishes his Futures role

Marichal cherishes his Futures role

SAN FRANCISCO -- Juan Marichal's spirits soared higher than his incomparable leg kick as he considered his surroundings on Sunday.

Managing the World Team in the annual XM All-Star Futures Game fulfilled Marichal on multiple levels.

As the first native of the Dominican Republic to be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, Marichal felt proud to be associated with the richly diverse crew of upcoming stars -- Latin and Asian, Canadian and Arabian.

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"It's a great thrill and honor to be chosen to manage a bunch of kids that, someday, we're going see some of at the Major League level," Marichal said. "You don't know the feeling that I had when they asked me if I wanted to be the manager."

Returning to San Francisco, his base while recording all but five of his 243 career victories for the Giants, also excited the legendary right-hander.

"I feel like I'm in heaven, because I love this city so much," Marichal said. "I lived here 17 years. So you know how many friends I have here. When I left in '78, I told my friends I left my heart in San Francisco -- like Tony Bennett's famous song."

Marichal's presence loomed large at AT&T Park for the Futures participants, if they knew where to look. His retired jersey number, 27, remained displayed on the third-deck facade down the left-field line. The bronze statue that captures Marichal at the apex of his leg kick about to unleash a pitch stood outside the ballpark's Lefty O'Doul Gate.

Marichal served as a worthy example to the World players -- particularly those from the Dominican, where the right-hander continues to be revered although he retired as an active player in 1975.

Right-hander Henry Sosa, a Giants prospect from the Dominican, comprehended the significance of spending a day playing for a man he'd love to emulate.

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"I never imagined I'd be in the Futures Game," said Sosa, speaking through an interpreter. "It means a lot to me. I want to be somebody famous like Juan Marichal."

Fittingly, Sosa, who compiled a 6-0 record with an 0.73 ERA for low-Class A Augusta this season before being promoted to high-Class A San Jose, pitched a perfect fourth inning for the World in its 7-2 victory over the U.S.

Marichal, 69, uses more than just his reputation to influence players. He frequently provides pitching tips at a baseball academy operated by a cousin of his in Santo Domingo. From 1996-2000, he took an active role in his nation's welfare as Minister of Sports in the Dominican.

Asked if he felt a sense of responsibility to his would-be proteges, Marichal said, "You have to. There are so many eyes on you, from so many kids. You become an idol. When I was a kid, I used to have idols. That's why you have to conduct yourself the right way."

A check of the rosters for Tuesday's All-Star Game reflects the legacy Marichal and his peers have left. Of the 64 Major League participants, 26 are foreign-born. Marichal cited Ozzie Virgil, who became the first Dominican to reach the Majors in 1956, along with Felipe Alou, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente as figures who hastened the inevitable creation of baseball's melting pot.

"They opened the door for the young generation," Marichal said.

Chris Haft 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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