La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

All-Star Game: Workout Day, Home Run Challenge

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 15, 2013 - 4:04 PM

Greetings from The Big Apple, where All-Star workout day and the annual Home Run Derby will take place. It also is Twins Alumni week, as Grant Balfour has been added to the roster. That makes seven former Twins in the All-Star Game....or is it eight....or 15. Anyway, there are many here - and that's not counting Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins.

SUNDAY: FUTURES GAME

The Futures Game on Sunday drew 39,000 to CitiField - well, the ticket now is part of the bundle for the week. They were treated to some good baseball. A lot of power arms, as one kid hit 99 miles an hour. I sat next to Twins GM Terry Ryan for one inning and watched high-priced signee Michael Ynoa hit 96 without any signs of command.

I thought I could shoot the breeze about his team during the game, but Ryan had all his charts and a stopwatch out, breaking down every player. Ryan whispered, ``Uh-oh,'' as soon as Matt Davidson connected with his two-run home run in the fourth. When Christian Yelich dug in at the plate, Ryan commented, ``This kid is a pretty good hitter.'' I try to remember these moments after the year I went to the Arizona Fall League and Ryan uttered seven kind words about Curtis Granderson before he became a star.

I was impressed with how Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton handled the media throng after the Futures Games. Both didn't do much at the plate but they showed good plate discipline and got into hitters counts on a day in which the first 96 mile an hour fastball thrown had most hitters hacking at the first thing they saw.

I shouldn't be surprised about Sano. He's had movie cameras following him around for years, once for the filming of Pelotero. Now, `The Miguel Sano story,' is in the making. But Sano's English continues to improve, and you can begin to see some of his personality. He's a good kid who likes to laugh.

Buxton was very quiet when we met him in spring training but he seemed to be at ease Sunday when he talked about his first visit to the The Big Apple.

``I walked for 30 minutes, then went to FanFest,'' he said. ``We went to the hotel and then walked for like three more hours. I know I walked at least 10 pounds off.''

He got near the Empire State Building but didn't go in: ``Oh no, I'm scared of heights,'' he said while shaking his head. ``I don't do heights.''

Who knows? It's not out of the question that both players will be in Twins uniforms as some point next years. It's not a rebuilding program until Sano and Buxton show up.

BEHIND THE SCENES

There are around 30 members of the Twins organization here, following Mets officials around to get an idea of what will be in store for them next year when the event will be held at Target Field. I looked up a few times on Sunday and saw John Avenson, Twins vice president in charge of technology, getting a feel for internet demands and other challenges.

Look for the Twins to begin making announcements about the 2014 game in the coming weeks.

ALL-STAR GALA

The annual All-Star Gala took place Sunday night - which I didn't attend. It used to be a bunch of, media, team and league officials and a few of the All-Stars. It has exploded in recent years as rightsholders show up with entitled kids, buddies and business partners. Scribes used to get an invitation in their media packet. Not this year. You had to be near someone who was handing them out. They ran out, and a bunch of scribes were left out.

That's not the issue, however. This year's Gala was held on an AIRCRAFT CARRIER with food stations touting the best New York has to offer. Was told the food was...O.K.

At breakfast this morning, I sat with a handful of writers and said, ``I have no idea where Minneapolis will hold next year's Gala.''

One of my west-coast based writing buddies said: ``We were talking about that last night. We're worried that we will be taken to the Mall of America.''

Ugh. I hope we can come up with something better than that.....


 

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