- Associated Press - Monday, July 11, 2011

PHOENIX (AP) - Shelby Miller’s joy at being a part of Sunday’s All-Star Futures game was tainted by the sorrow of the tragic death of a friend.

Shannon Stone, who fell to his death Thursday night at Rangers Ballpark while trying to catch a ball tossed into the stands last week, was a fellow firefighter and close friend of Miller’s father Mitch in Brownwood, Texas.

Shelby said he was speechless when he heard the news and had a hard time preventing it from affecting him as he prepared for his role for the U.S. team in Sunday’s Futures Game, which features the game’s leading minor league prospects.

“I can’t weep over it or do anything that’s going to keep me from performing well or something like that,” he said after his U.S. team’s 6-4 victory. “It’s definitely in the back of your mind. You think about it, and then you get down, and then you just try to forget about it and it’s not easy. It’s something I’m going to have to get through, me and my family are going to have to get through and the Stones are going to have to get through.”

Miller is a 20-year-old right-hander for Double-A Springfield, Mo., in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, has a fastball in the high 90s. St. Louis made him the 19th pick overall in the 2009 draft. He is 5-4 in 14 starts for Springfield with a 2.44 ERA, with 114 strikeouts and 28 walks.

Miller pitched a scoreless inning on Sunday, allowing one hit, striking out one and walking one. He said his parents were with the Stones family on Sunday but taped the game and planned to watch it later.

He remembered Stone as a great person and a great father to the 6-year-old boy who watched his dad fall to his death.

“We’ll get through it,” Miller said, “but right now it’s pretty tough.”

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HARPER’S TOUGH DAY: Bryce Harper’s first appearance on a big stage was a bit unnerving for the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. The 18-year-old outfielder was miked for the All-Star Futures game on Sunday by ESPN and could be heard in warmups marveling at how many pitchers on the World squad who could top 100 mph.

Harper went on to go hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts.,

“I was just trying to get after that fastball,” he said. “If I swung through a changeup or a curveball and looked stupid, that is what happens. I was just trying to get a fastball and got it a couple of times, hit it. It looked really good off the bat, but … “

The Washington Nationals promoted Harper to Double-A Harrisburg last Monday after he hit .318 at Class A Hagerstown with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs. He knows there could be another futures game in his future.

“Hopefully I will be invited back here,” he said. “I am having a lot of fun _ a blast.”

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