It all started when a scrawny shortstop from the Yankees organization put two balls over the Green Monster. In the next 15 years of the All-Star Futures Game's existence, many memorable moments have followed.
The 16th annual SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game takes place today at 5 p.m. ET on All-Star Sunday at Target Field in Minneapolis and can be seen live on MLB Network and MLB.com and can be followed live on MLB.com's Gameday. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on MLB Network Radio XM 89. MLB.com will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game. Fans can stay updated by following @MLBFutures on Twitter and can send/receive tweets to/from the U.S. and World Team dugouts during the game by tagging tweets with the hashtags #USDugout and #WorldDugout.
The moments from this year's game will be added to the history of the event in the future. For now, here's a timeline of some of the top moments from Futures Games past.
1999: In the first year of this Minor League exhibition, no one knew exactly what to expect or whether this event would take hold. Two swings of the bat from one player helped cement it in place. At the time, Alfonso Soriano was a thin shortstop with the Yankees' Double-A affiliate. When he smashed not one, but two homers over the Green Monster, he jumped firmly on the map along with the game. Soriano would make his Major League debut later that season, establishing himself as a power-speed threat two years later in 2001.
"I'd like to make my mother proud. I'd like to be a star," a reserved Soriano had said prior to the game.
2000: Carlos Pena homered for the World Team in Atlanta in the game's second year. The United States took the lead, but CC Sabathia let in the tying run, though he did strike out the side. Barry Zito tossed a perfect frame, and Josh Becket also struck out the side. Sean Burroughs had three hits to win Most Valuable Player honors.
2001: Safeco Field had (and has) a reputation for being pitching-friendly, and that's pretty well deserved. But at the Futures Game there 12 years ago, the United States team didn't get the memo. The squad hit three homers -- one each by Adam Dunn, Chase Utley and MVP Toby Hall. Dunn's was the most memorable, an absolute blast that slammed off the restaurant window well beyond the right-field fence. Dunn would make it up to Cincinnati just a couple of weeks later and finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting by hitting 19 homers in just 66 games.
"I have heard that the ball doesn't carry that well here," Dunn said after the game, "but it seemed to carry pretty well today."
2002: Mets shortstop, and 2011 All-Star, Jose Reyes still talks about winning the MVP in this contest, held in Milwaukee. On a stacked World Team that included 19-year-old Miguel Cabrera, Reyes broke the game open with his bat and his legs. He took a 3-2 pitch from Aaron Cook and ripped it into right-center with the bases loaded for a three-run triple. Reyes was up with New York the following season at age 20.
2003: With pitchers largely going just an inning or two, at most, in each Futures Game, it's not a surprise that the arms have often dominated over the years. The U.S. team really had it going on in Chicago in this edition of the Futures Game, tossing three straight perfect frames. It started with John Van Benschoten, followed by Gavin Floyd and then Zack Greinke. Both Floyd and Greinke struck out two each. All three made their Major League debuts the following season.
2004: Aaron Hill wasn't even supposed to be in Houston for this game. Russ Adams was slated to represent the Blue Jays organization, but a rib-cage injury sidelined him and Hill was the last-minute replacement. He made the most of it, doubling in what proved to be the winning run to earn the game's MVP award. He would hit Toronto the following season.
"It still hasn't sunk in yet," he said after winning MVP honors. "I had to put the trophy in my locker. If I carried it around I would've dropped it."
2005: Justin Verlander had already made his Major League debut prior to the Futures Game, but it came in Cleveland. He got sent back down to the Minors, so he got to make his Comerica Park debut on All-Star Sunday. He started and tossed a scoreless frame for the U.S. team. He'd get a chance to make a Major League start at home later that month and, of course, would go on to win Rookie of the Year honors the following season.
2006 and 2009: Velocity and plenty of it have been common in the Futures Game, with many a plus fastball on display over the years. But these two were particularly special. In Pittsburgh, Matt Lindstrom came in to close things out for the U.S. team and hit triple digits repeatedly. He struck out Pablo Sandoval to start the inning, then threw pitches of 101 and 100 mph to Yunel Escobar before whiffing him on a 78 mph changeup. Carlos Gonzalez flew out to left to end the game.
In 2009, it was Neftali Feliz's turn. A starter largely until that season, Major League fans got a glimpse of what he could look like as a high-octane short reliever when he entered this game. He popped a 100-mph fastball in St. Louis, creating a buzz after a very long delay (one that saw Brad Lincoln, Kyle Drabek and Mat Latos play Frisbee in the rain). Feliz, at age 21, was in Texas at the end of the year, blowing big league hitters away.
2007: Justin Upton homered, but it was the World Team's ability to manufacture runs that led to their victory in San Francisco. Michael Saunders stole two bases, Chin-Lung Hu drove him in twice, and stole a base of his own to earn MVP honors.
"Basically, [World Team manager Juan Marichal] looked at the stats and the scouting reports," Saunders said, "and gave us the green light to go."
2008: The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry trickled down to the Futures Game this year and it was an under-the-radar prospect, Che-Hsuan Lin who caught the brunt of it. Lin homered at the game in Yankee Stadium, a two-run shot that enabled the World team to win, 3-0, and earn Lin MVP honors. It came on the very first pitch he saw at Yankee Stadium, turning around a Ryan Mattheus 94-mph heater. Lin heard some boos -- he was a Red Sox farmhand, after all -- but got more than a fair share of cheers mixed in.
"I didn't think too much about the cheering," Lin said. "Maybe one day when I become a big leaguer, there will be no more. But it's something, with the tradition, I respect that."
2010: Just getting to play on what you hope will be your home field would be enough. But Hank Conger went one step further. Fellow Angels prospect Mike Trout, who got called up to the Majors on Friday, reached base four times (five, if you count his pinch-running for Domonic Brown) and excited the crowd with his speed. But it was Conger who took home MVP honors, thanks to his two-run homer on a 96-mph fastball from Henderson Alvarez.
"I was trying to keep a straight face, and then rounding third, I had to break out into a big smile," Conger said. "I mean, this game is supposed to be fun. Rounding third base, I just had a big smile on my face. I was just so happy. Just so much adrenaline, so excited. It was awesome."
2011: Second base was the place to be in Arizona, especially on the United States side. Jason Kipnis started things off with a homer to lead off the bottom of the first. Grant Green pitnch-hit for Kipnis in the fifth and doubled, then doubled again in a three-run eighth that allowed the U.S. to come from behind.
"I thought it was gone," Green said. "I didn't know it was a 15-foot-high wall. I thought it was a normal wall. I even heard from people in the stands when I got to second base, telling me to hit the weight room. The shortstop [Jurickson Profar] was cracking up behind me. It's all fun and games. That wall's huge. They need to lower that thing, make me feel good about myself."
2012: The United States made it three in a row in blowout fashion. Wil Myers and Nick Castellanos each drove in three runs. Castellanos had three of the U.S.'s 17 hits, including a home run, in the biggest offensive outpouring in Futures Game history.
"It still hasn't sunk in that I won the MVP at the Futures Game," Castellanos said following the game. "I'm just going to try to enjoy every moment of this ... this feeling, because it's a good one."
2013: The U.S. ran its streak to four straight, leaning heavily on power arms to shut down the World Team offense. The World didn't manage a hit after the fourth inning.
"It's a true showcase of talent," said U.S. lefty Jesse Biddle of the Philles, whose strikeout to end the fourth was one of the game's biggest outs. "We have a lot of pitchers with sheer, raw power. Guys that just bring it."
Matt Davidson's two-run homer in the fourth was enough to give the then-D-backs third-base prospect the Larry Doby MVP Award.
"You have guys throwing 95-plus and they have good offspeed stuff, so you have to pick one or the other," Davidson said. "I was sitting dead-red fastball. The first one, he got in on me a little bit. Then the next pitch, I'm going to stick with the fastball. He shook a couple of times, so I'm thinking the catcher is trying to throw something offspeed. He hung a changeup and it kind of ran into my barrel."