BY JIM DOLAN
As a part of the Major League All Star weekend, the most promising minor leaguers from all major league affiliates came to Citi Field this past Sunday to show why they deserve to be someday “called up to the bigs.”
For this 2013 All Star Futures Game, former 2011 Cyclone right-handed pitcher Rafael Montero and 2012 Cyclone outfielder Brandon Nimmo got their first call to play on a major league field in front of a national audience and the Mets General Manager, Sandy Alderson.
Started back in 1999, this showcase game for standout minor league talent is usually a player’s ticket to “The Show” as 80 percent of the participants routinely “get the call.”
Instead of American League affiliates playing the National affiliates, the teams have recently been divided up between USA-born players and a World Team, which includes players from all the Latin and Asian countries as well as Canada. This year, Team USA beat the World players in a close 4-2 win.
Starting for the World Team was Montero, who pitched an impressive scoreless first inning, throwing just nine pitches to retire the USA in order. Coming to the Cyclones late in the 2011, Montero was called up from the Kingsport Rookie League team to help the Cyclones in their stretch run against the Staten Island Yankees.
After advancing four levels of minor league baseball over two years, Montero is one of Manager Wally Backman’s most valued starters on the Triple-A Las Vegas team.
With consistency to throw strikes and a natural command of his pitches, the 22-year-old Dominican shows why he owns the strike zone. Currently, the thinking is to keep Montero in the minors for further seasoning for the rest of the summer, considering the recent resurgence of Met pitching. However, don’t rule out a September call-up for Montero as an audition for a spot in next year’s starting rotation.
Still a number of years away from a potential call up to the Mets, Nimmo made the South Atlantic All Star team for Savannah after batting .302 for the first half of the season.
Playing centerfield for the Cyclones last season in 2012, Nimmo became the face of the Cyclones by embracing the fans and any opportunity that he got to learn from veteran Manager Rich Donnelly.
Fondly remembering Nimmo from last season’s team, Donnelly said, “It couldn’t happen to a better kid. He’s the most polite player that I ever met and he’s got a lot of potential.”
Despite that potential, Nimmo went 0 for 2 as he was inserted in left field late in the Futures game. However, just playing at Citi Field was encouragement enough towards Nimmo’s ultimate objective. In fact, the 20 year old from Cheyenne, Wyoming was even assigned All Star captain David Wright’s locker, which should be enough inspiration for any young hopeful.