The Balco Memorial takes place tonight at the Stadium and there almost was a very interesting participant – Ichiro.
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reports that Ichiro was approached by MLB officials about participating but turned it down because of his tight hamstring. "It was discussed,'' M’s interim GM Lee Pelekoudas said. "I think it would have been nice for him to participate if he wanted to. You watch him in batting practice and he puts on a show.''
Manager Jim Riggleman agreed, "I think he would have won the thing,'' he said
The participants will be Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins, who has 14 home runs and will represent the American League along with Josh Hamilton (21) of the Texas Rangers, Evan Longoria (16) of the Tampa Bay Rays and Grady Sizemore (23) of the Cleveland Indians.
The National League will be led by Lance Berkman (22) of the Houston Astros, Ryan Braun (23) of the Milwaukee Brewers, Dan Uggla (23) of the Florida Marlins and Chase Utley (25) of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Morneau is the only repeat offender from last year's event.
Agent Nez Balelo, a one-time Seattle Mariners prospect, will be the pitcher for the Brewers' Ryan Braun in the BALCO Memorial Home Run Derby.
Mick Billmeyer, the bullpen coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, will pitch to Chase Utley.
Lance Berkman wanted Astros bullpen coach Mark "Beetle" Bailey to accompany him to New York, but Bailey opted to take the three days off to be with his family in Houston and Berkman will have one of the Rockies' coaches pitch to him instead.
Normally in Marlins batting practices, Dan Uggla will face either bullpen coordinator Pierre Arsenault or manager Fredi Gonzalez. Uggla plans on just finding someone in New York to pitch because he wants his coaches to take the break off.
Cleveland bench coach Jeff Datz will pitch to Grady Sizemore.
Clay Council, a 71-year-old volunteer high school coach from Raleigh, N.C., will pitch to Josh Hamilton. Council has been throwing batting practice to Raleigh-area kids, including Hamilton, for more than 30 years. Hamilton promised Council many years ago that if he was ever invited to the Home Run Derby, he would ask Council to pitch to him.
Evan Longoria doesn't have a "pet" pitcher who knows how to lay them in there just right. His plan: "I'll pick somebody based on what I see when I get there."
Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra will be Justin Morneau's pitcher.
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com (www.Billy-Ball.com) and, with JimKaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller, published by ACTA Sports, and available worldwide. Autographed first editions are available by contacting, Bill@billy-ball.com or order directly from Acta Sportsor from your favorite bookstore.