Dodgers prospect named Futures MVP
Shortstop in LA's system shines on World Team at AT&T Park
SAN FRANCISCO -- The 2007 Futures Game turned out to be quite a growth experience for Chin-Lung Hu.The Dodgers' little shortstop prospect from Taiwan became a bigger prospect in his organization's eyes by being named Most Valuable Player of Team World's 7-2 victory over Team USA in sun-splashed AT&T Park on Sunday. And as it turns out, he also became a bigger shortstop. The roster in the official game program listed him at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds, which might have filled some veteran Dodgers fans with visions of Pee Wee Reese as they watched Hu slice a pair of opposite-field RBI hits and steal a base. But one postgame glance at the 23-year-old product of Tainan City belied those vitals. "That's what I was about five years ago," Hu said with a wide grin. "They just never change the numbers. "I'll still never be a power hitter, not like A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). But I just want to hit for a good average and play good defense." Hu did so for a second consecutive Futures Game to help Team World match its scoring high in the nine-game series. Last year in Pittsburgh, Hu went 1-for-3 with an RBI in the 8-5 defeat. On Sunday, he teamed with Michael Saunders in both the first and third innings to give the World Team a jump start and keep it spinning. Saunders singled and walked and both times stole second before scoring on inside-out swings by Hu for a double and a single. The impression he quickly made endured throughout the seven-inning game for one of those charming ironies: A Dodgers farmhand winning a major trophy in his first afternoon in the lair of the hated Giants.
"First time here. Very nice park," Hu said. "It's a very exciting feeling. I wanted to do something special, and all [Saturday] night I was thinking about doing something to help the team win."In a game where mere participation is virtually confirmation of big-league destinies, to be selected MVP is to be branded a chosen one. MVPs of the Futures Game's first eight editions have included Alfonso Soriano (1999), Jose Reyes (2002) and Grady Sizemore (2003). A pretty impressive scorecard, even if no guarantee that superstardom and seven figures are in Hu's own future. He has had a difficult time correcting the original impression -- perhaps because of that enduring perception of his slight build -- that he is a smooth-glove, slow-bat shortstop. He did hit a mere .254 last season, his first on the Double-A level, but had started 2006 with a .300-plus career Minor League average; back in Double-A this season, he's hitting .325. "Honestly, I thought I hit pretty good last year. But you always try to get better," he said. "It's a fun time now. I'm building on the experience of Spring Training, when I had a chance to be around a lot of good players." In Vero Beach, Hu also had a chance to leave some good impressions, and he didn't blow it. He hit .381 in 11 exhibitions with the Dodgers -- who do still have Rafael Furcal at shortstop, but must also know that they have a maturing option in Hu. As one of the lower-profile World players, Hu entered this contest cloaked in anonymity. Having him stand out surprised many, but Hu anticipated something special because of developments 2,600 miles away. In the Bronx, countryman Chien-Ming Wang was in the process of blanking the Los Angeles Angels, 12-0. "And every time, he pitches good," Hu said, "I have a good game. Like, I had three hits a few days ago, then I went on the Internet and saw that Chien-Ming Wang had pitched seven shutout innings [on July 3, against the Twins]." Between Wang starts, Hu is on his own. Those days have been going well, too.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.