07/11/10 10:50 PM ET
U.S. overpowers World in Futures Game
Conger powers up for 'home' crowd; Hosmer goes 4-for-5
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Hank Conger and Mike Trout hope to make Angel Stadium their home park shortly. They certainly felt at home Sunday.
The way they performed for the U.S. Team in its 9-1 Futures Game victory over the World Team, that jump from the Angels system to Angel Stadium didn't feel that far off. After Conger's three-run home run turned what had been a pitchers' duel into a U.S. runaway, the roar of the crowd made it feel like home.
"Unbelievable feeling for me," said Conger, who was awarded Most Valuable Player honors after the game. "I'll never forget this ever in my life."
In a game that the U.S. Team controlled from the outset for its first Futures Game victory since 2006, the ultimate home-field advantage went to the homegrown talent. Conger, a switch-hitting catcher who was a first-round pick by the Angels in 2005, has progressed a step a year through the farm system with double-digit homer power. He owns five home runs at the midway point this season at Triple-A Salt Lake City, all of them batting left-handed.
After a pair of flyouts with runners on base, Conger had another chance in the fifth inning thanks to Mariners prospect Alex Liddi's two-out error, the third of four World Team miscues for the game.
Henderson Alavarez lost Eric Hosmer to a single on an 0-2 pitch to bring up Conger, who fell into a two-strike hole himself. After shrugging off a ball, he got a 96-mph fastball he couldn't pass up.
"He made two great pitches on me, a fastball away and then he came fastball in," Conger said. "At that point, I was just trying to battle, trying to hopefully find a good pitch to hit. I saw the fastball, I think it was middle in, and I just tried to put a good swing on it."
He put a better swing on it than many thought. Right fielder Wilkin Ramirez, a Tigers prospect making his second Futures Game appearance in three years, backpedaled like he expected to make a play on the warning track.
"I thought that I had a good play, and then I stopped," Ramirez said. "I had to stop, because the wall's right there. I stopped, and then it's gone. The ball was like right there. I really thought I had it. And then it went out. That's pretty good."
Conger wasn't completely sure he had it, either. For someone who didn't know until a week ago that he would be playing in this game, it was another surprise.
"I hit it, and I was like, 'Man, I hit it pretty good,'" Conger said. "And the right fielder tried to deke me out to make me think he was catching it. I was like, 'Oh, man.' When it cleared the wall, I was pretty relieved."
It was a good carry for someone who had hit in this stadium before. He played a game here in an elite camp as a high schooler before taking part in a pre-Draft workout in 2006. Of course he's thought about big hits here, but not quite yet.
As he rounded the bases, the smile on his face told his reaction.
"I was trying to keep a straight face, and then rounding third, I had to break out into a big smile," he 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."
All three runs were unearned off Alvarez thanks to Liddi's error, which had let Trout reach. Trout was on base five times, even though he only batted four; he entered the game as a pinch-runner in the opening inning after Phillies prospect Domonic Brown tweaked his hamstring on an RBI single to open the scoring.
Trout, the youngest player in the game, doesn't turn 19 years old until next month. He received some of the biggest applause during pregame introductions. He showed off his speed to first on two errors and an infield single in which Cubs shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee double-pumped on a throw. Once his ninth-inning line drive fell into short right-center field, he gave Angels fans one more highlight.
"Every time I hit a gapper, I'm thinking two [bases]," Trout said.
Trout never hesitated rounding first base. In fact, he sped up, startling right fielder Eury Perez.
"The adrenaline started running after [the introductions]," Trout said. "I knew they were all behind me, and I wanted to put on a show for them. I just did what I could."
That started a run of three consecutive doubles, including Hosmer's fourth hit of the game and an RBI for Yankees catching farmhand Austin Romine.
U.S. starter and Rays top prospect Jeremy Hellickson gave up the World Team's lone run when Mariners prospect Carlos Peguero singled and scored in the second inning. Peguero doubled into the gap in left-center his next time up, giving him and Perez the World Team's lone multihit efforts.
By game's end, it was a long afternoon for the World Team. Given the showcase, however, it wasn't something they lamented.
"It's the Futures Game," Ramirez said. "Personally, I don't like to lose, no matter where I play. But whether you win or lose, it's like you're winning anyway. You're already here."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.