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Weeks' progress fast since return

Weeks' progress fast since return

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When the rosters for the upcoming XM All-Star Futures Game were announced on June 25, Jemile Weeks' cell phone went into overdrive.

There were calls to be made to the family and friends of the Oakland Athletics second base prospect, in celebration of his being named to the U.S. Team, which will take the field against its World Team counterpart at Busch Stadium on July 12.

There were even more calls to be answered, and countless text messages of congratulations to be read and responded to.

So it's a small wonder that in the excitement, Weeks never got around to looking at the roster itself, specifically the names of the team's manager and coaches.

When Weeks learned that his manager would be none other than Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, he was momentarily speechless.

"That will be such an honor, just to be in the presence of someone I looked up to so much when I was young," said Weeks, the Athletics' first-round pick in 2008 out of the University of Miami. "This is going to be big for me, personally."

The 11th annual XM All-Star Futures Game, pitting the best Minor League prospects from the United States against the best from the rest of the World, will be held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on All-Star Sunday, July 12, at 1 p.m. CT. MLB.com will provide complete coverage before, during and after the game, which can be seen live on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD, and followed live on Gameday.

About a dozen of those aforementioned family members will be in attendance for the game, including his older brother Rickie.

The Milwaukee Brewers second baseman is out for the season after injuring his wrist on May 17, so he'll be in the stands to cheer on his younger brother. In fact, thanks to Rickie, it will be the second Futures Game for many of the Weeks family, who flocked to Houston's Minute Maid Park in 2004 to watch him in action in the same contest.

As a result, the Weeks brothers become the fourth set of siblings to both suit up for the U.S. Futures Team in the 11 years of the game, following in the footsteps of the Pattersons (Corey in 1999-2000 and Eric in 2006), the Uptons (B.J. in 2004-2005 and Justin in 2007) and the LaRoches (Adam in 2003 and Andy in 2005).

For Jemile, however, it will be his first trip to a Futures Game, as he was not able to attend Rickie's game, since he had prior baseball commitments of his own. Not that his thoughts weren't with his family that day.

"I wasn't able to make it but I would have loved to," said Weeks. "And I remember hoping that maybe it would be something I'd be able to do in the future."

The same dedication to his sport that kept him from attending has paid off big time for Weeks, who has been tearing up the Advanced A California League with the Stockton Ports.

Though he was drafted by his brother's Brewers in the eighth round of the 2005 First Year Player Draft out of high school in Altamonte Springs, Fla., he opted to pursue his education while playing college ball for the University of Miami.

With the Hurricanes, the 5-foot-9 switch-hitter helped lead his team to the College World Series in two of his three seasons. He batted .363 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 22 steals (and was caught stealing just once), as a junior before the Athletics took him with the 12th pick overall last spring.

That status made the Weeks brothers just the eighth pair of siblings to both be taken in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft since its 1965 inception.

Weeks signed with the A's July 6 and headed right to Class A Kane County, where he got off to a solid start, hitting .301 in his first 18 games.

On July 29, the team headed to Chicago to take on the Cubs' Midwest League affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs, in the "Road to Wrigley" game, the first-ever Minor League game played at Wrigley Field.

Weeks was the leadoff hitter in that game and hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop, but while hustling to first base, he heard and felt a loud pop in his right hip and fell to the ground as he crossed the bag.

"It was one of those things where my initial thought was that it was something bad but my hope was that it wasn't," said Weeks, who turned out to have suffered a torn right hip flexor. "I pretty much knew, though, from what I felt and heard that it was bad."

After remaining motionless for several minutes, he was helped off the field. Although initial reports listed him as day-to-day, the MRI results came back and his season was officially over, beginning what would turn out to be a grueling eight-month rehabilitation period.

Between a stint at the Oakland complex in Phoenix in the fall and back home in Florida with his family after that, Weeks worked through the slow but steady return to action, dealing with both the physical grind and the mental disappointment of having his pro debut cut short in such abrupt fashion.

"My faith is what helped me through so that I wouldn't break down over it, and instead I could look at the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and understand that this sort of thing sometimes happens in a career," he said. "But if you have the drive and ability to keep on working, you never know how the story will end."

By the time the regular season began, Weeks was able to participate in extended Spring Training games, once again showing the offensive potential that had made him, in many opinions, the best hitter in the Athletics' 2008 draft class.

Finally, on May 27, he returned to the lineup for Stockton and, as the saying goes, looked like he'd never left.

Starting with a two-RBI game that night at Bakersfield, Weeks embarked on a 22-game hitting streak to open the season, the best he can recall ever having at any stage of his career. The streak included nine multi-hit games before it was snapped June 28.

"I was revitalized in my mind and body knowing that I could finally get back out there and show what I could do," he said. "It was a great feeling to be able to help my team."

Through July 5, he was hitting .336 in 28 games with seven homers, 24 RBIs and a .595 slugging percentage. Those numbers, combined with the high regard the A's have for him, earned him one of the coveted spots on the U.S. Team that will take the field on Sunday.

"It was a surprise because it was so soon and so I was caught off guard," Weeks said of the honor. "But when I got to the field and they announced it in front of the team, it was a really good feeling. It's going to be an exciting time.

Lisa Winston 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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