Over the last decade, such future stars as Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett (2000), Astros slugger Lance Berkman (1999), Milwaukee outfielder and 2007 NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun (2006), Cleveland ace Fausto Carmona (2004-05) and Yankees rookie sensation Joba Chamberlain (2007) have gotten a taste of the big stage during the Futures Game. And that's just from the first three letters of the alphabet.
This year's game, a nine-inning contest that starts at 12:30 p.m. ET, has some added intrigue, as the 24 members of the U.S. team are all finalists for slots on Team USA, which will be headed to Beijing in early August for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
On that elite short list are such recent first-round Draft picks as pitcher Casey Weathers (Colorado, 2007), first baseman Matt LaPorta (Milwaukee, 2007; traded to Cleveland on Monday), shortstop Cliff Pennington (Oakland, 2005), and outfielders Greg Golson (Philadelphia, 2004), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh, 2005) and Colby Rasmus (St. Louis, 2005).
The U.S team will be led by Team USA manager Davey Johnson. A four-time All-Star second baseman and a member of two World Series championship teams (the 1966 and 1970 Baltimore Orioles), his name is certainly well known to New York fans from his stint managing the Mets, as he led them to a dramatic World Series championship in 1986.
At the helm of the World Team is former All-Star first baseman Tino Martinez, who won four World Series rings with the Yankees (1996, 1998-2000).
The World Team has a few Olympic hopefuls of its own in Canadian pitcher Philippe Aumont, a first-round pick by Seattle in 2007; Nationals pitching prospect Shairon Martis, a native of Curacao who is in the mix for the Netherlands squad; and Red Sox prospect Che-Hsuan Lin, an outfielder on the short list for the Taiwan squad.
In addition, the World Team boasts such top prospects as Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez, 17-year-old first-base phenom Angel Villalona of San Francisco and Philadelphia right-hander Carlos Carrasco, a three-time Futures Game honoree.
But if you're not familiar yet with the names of the Futures Game participants (and don't worry, you will be soon), you will certainly recognize the players who will take the field for the star-studded nightcap, which begins at 4 p.m.
Not surprisingly, this year's version of the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game features the most star-studded lineups in the game's history. The combination of New York and the farewell tour of Yankee Stadium clearly made it as "A list" an event as any Oscar-night gala. The celebrity roster is dotted with participants who are both Hollywood royalty and New York natives.
Names such as Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Spike Lee, for starters.
Crystal, though known as an actor, comedian and director, may have the advantage over some of his teammates. After graduating high school in New York, he attended Marshall University on a baseball scholarship before returning home and attending NYU to study acting.
An eight-time host of the Academy Awards, he is known in the baseball world for having directed the made-for-TV film "61*," about Roger Maris' and Mickey Mantle's joint chase of Babe Ruth's home run record in 1961. He also had an at-bat for the Yankees in a Spring Training game this year.
Goldberg has a lot in common with Crystal, as she is also a New York native and frequent Academy Awards host (four times, most recently in 2002). One of just 13 people to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy, she is currently a co-host of the TV show "The View."
Lee, a director, producer, writer and actor, grew up in Brooklyn, a location that is frequently highlighted in his many films. Also a trademark of his movies is some reference to baseball, even though he's better known for his devotion to the NBA's New York Knicks.
Among the other luminaries on the celebrity roster are Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin (the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Award, for "Children of a Lesser God"), comedians Chris Rock and George Lopez, celebrity chef Bobby Flay, and actors James Denton (Mike on ABC's "Desperate Housewives"), Kyle Massey (the title character in The Disney Channel's "Cory in the House") and Jerry Ferrara (Turtle on HBO's "Entourage").
Denton, who has been a regular in the event, calls it "easily the highlight of my year" -- pretty strong words from a man who spends many of his working hours in clinches with the lovely Teri Hatcher.
"The first year, I played third next to Ozzie Smith, and last year I was in an outfield with Fred Lynn and Rickey Henderson," Denton said. "I homered off of Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych. Sure, it was softball, but how do you beat that?"
Rock may not be too popular with Yankees fans after they find out that he is showing his allegiance to the surprise team in the American League East, those amazing Tampa Bay Rays. The comedian and actor surprised the team in its home clubhouse after its 11-2 win over Kansas City on Friday, having enjoyed the game from the comfort of the owners' box.
Rock had his own group of fans at his Thursday night performance in Tampa, a group that included Rays manager Joe Maddon; Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations; and team president Matt Silverman.
Massey will be a special draw for the younger set. The 16-year-old hails from Chicago, but as a die-hard baseball fan, he was thrilled by the invitation to play in this game.
"I'm so excited to be playing with all of these amazing celebrities and incredible Hall of Fame baseball players at Yankee Stadium, the most historic place in sports," said Massey, who gained popularity with the 'tween set playing the younger brother in the show "That's So Raven" and earning a spinoff.
"I always loved the game of baseball, but it became my favorite sport when the Chicago White Sox gave me a behind-the-scenes tour and I got to watch a game from the perfect perspective of the broadcast booth. I'm so honored for this once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I will be forever thankful to Major League Baseball."
Justin Tuck, defensive end for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, will also be on the celebrity roster, giving a little more athleticism to the squad.
They'll need it, since they'll be squaring off against a team of Major League Baseball legends that includes such Hall of Famers as Ozzie Smith, Tony Perez, George Brett, Ernie Banks, Gary Carter, Rollie Fingers, Wade Boggs and Paul Molitor.
In addition, former New York Yankees stars, such as Hall of Famers Rich "Goose" Gossage, the newest member of the Hall, and outfielder Dave Winfield (who managed last year's U.S. Futures Game team), along with former Yankees Martinez (who will be serving double duty that day), outfielder Paul O'Neill and seven-time All-Star Tim Raines.
Fans who don't get the chance to watch the game live and in person can tune in to ESPN on Monday night to see it rebroadcast after the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby. ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne will be in the dugout managing one of the teams, and ESPN Radio's team "Mike & Mike" will be emceeing the contest.