In the height of the summer season, there is no better time for world-class athletes to compete for a victorious title – the summer 2012 London Olympics, the 2012 European Cup, the Minor League All-Star Future Game, just to name a few. While the Olympics and Euro Cup are highly anticipated tournaments due to their every-four-year-occurrences, the Minor League All-Star Futures Game is no exception to the great levels of excitement and spectatorship these athletic events tend to draw.
This year marks the fourteenth anniversary of the All-Star Futures Game. On July 8, at 5 p.m. EST, in Kansas City, Mo., two teams representing players from the United States and from other countries around the world will face off in a baseball showdown. The rosters of both the World and US teams each consist of 25 elite Minor League players. Selected for their superior statistics and mastery of baseball skill, these players have trained hard to earn their respective right to play in such a prestigious competition.
Although every athlete prepares for and excels in his career differently, it is clear that Baseball Factory was one such training method that several Minor League players utilized. The US team alone is home to eight Baseball Factory alumni, and even on the World team, one Baseball Factory alumnus, Francisco Lindor, is on the roster.
Lindor, a Puerto Rico-native, plays short-stop for the Lake County Captains in Cleveland. Although he plays for an American team, he will be representing his homeland as a member of the World team in the Futures Game. In 2009, Lindor attended an Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryout and participated in a Team One South event. After he completed high school at Montverde Academy in Florida, the Cleveland Indians selected the 18-year-old as the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
While Baseball Factory is moderately represented on the World team through one player, a grand 32% of the US team are Baseball Factory alumni. One such player is Nick Castellanos, a third-baseman for the Erie Sea Wolves in the Double-A Eastern League. From 2006 to 2009, Castellanos had attended eight Baseball Factory events, including three Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryouts in Miami and the 2009 Under Armour All-America Game. He graduated from Archbishop McCarthy High School in Davie, Fla., in 2010, and went on to play for the Sea Wolves. Just over halfway through the 2012 season, Castellanos has achieved a batting average of .286.
Another Baseball Factory alumnus and US team member is Ryan “Scooter” Gennett. Like Castellanos, Gennett also went to school in Florida, as he graduated from Sarasota High School in 2009. In 2008, Gennett participated in the Under Armour Pre-Season All-America Tournament and the Under Armour All-America Game. He currently plays second base in the Double-A Southern League for the Huntsville Stars in Milwaukee, Wis. Since his start in the Minor League in 2010, Gennett has been honored with seven various all-star nominations, including the 2012 Futures Game and several mid- and post-season selections.
Fellow US team member Mike Olt began his career with Baseball Factory in 2005 attending a Premium Video Program in his home state of Connecticut. Although he is only 24, Olt is the oldest player on the US team this year. He was born in New Haven, Conn., and graduated from University of Connecticut in 2010. Olt now plays as a third-baseman for the Frisco Rough Riders in Frisco, Texas, in the Double-A Texas League. In the 2012 season so far, Olt has maintained an aggressive offensive stance, with a batting average of .305, 20 homeruns, and 58 RBIs.
Baseball Factory participant and member of the 2012 US team, Zach Wheeler played in the 2008 Under Armour All-America Game. Wheeler graduated from East Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., in 2009 and the San Francisco Giants selected him as the sixth overall pick in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. The 22-year-old pitcher now plays for the Binghamton Mets in the Double-A Eastern League in New York, where he has earned a 2.29 ERA so far this season. Wheeler will be making his second appearance in an All-Star Futures Game, as he played on the US team in 2010.
Baseball Factory alumnus, Jameson Taillon participated in three Baseball Factory events prior to launching his career in the Minor Leagues, including the 2009 Under Armour All-America Game and an Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryout in Irving, Tx., in 2007. The 6-foot-6 pitcher was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first round draft choice (second overall pick) in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Taillon currently plays for the Bradenton Marauders in Bradenton , Fla., in the Class A-Advanced Florida State League, having struck out 71 players so far in the 2012 season.
In addition to the aforementioned players, Kolten Wong, Springfield Cardinals second-baseman; Christian Yelch, left-fielder for the Jupiter Hammerheads; and Nolan Arenado, Tulsa Drillers third-baseman, are Baseball Factory alumni who will be playing for the US Team in this year’s All-Star Futures Game.
As each Minor League player advances through the farm system, exposure in the All-Star Futures Game not only prepares them for a possible future in the Major Leagues, but also provides them with an opportunity to flaunt their baseball prowess. The nine total Baseball Factory alumni participating in this year’s tournament are prime examples of how aspiring young athletes can achieve their dreams to become professional baseball players. Through dedication, hard work, and years of training, these alumni have honed their skills well enough to be considered fit for an All-Star team.