- 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.”


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.”


TWEETING WITH THE STARS: Want to let Jose Bautista or David Ortiz know how you felt about that blast they hit into the Chase Field seats in the Home Run Derby? Just tweet him.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox sluggers are among a handful of players who have agreed to communicate with fans via Twitter from the field at Monday night’s festivities.

Others taking part include Heath Bell, Gio Gonzalez, Joel Hanrahan, Matt Kemp, Howie Kendrick, Hunter Pence, Brandon Phillips, Gaby Sanchez, Justin Upton, Shane Victorino and C.J. Wilson.

Bautista, Ortiz and Kemp are Home Run Derby participants. The others are schedule to play in Tuesday’s All-Star game, with the exception of Victorino, who has withdrawn due to injury.

The MLB says other players on hand Monday night will have the opportunity to provide live commentary, photos and video through the Twitter and Facebook accounts of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The players’ Twitter accounts are as follows: Bautista (at)JoeyBats19, Ortiz (at)davidortiz, Bell (at)HeathBell21, Gonzalez (at)GioGonzalez47, Joel Hanrahan (at)hanrahan4457, Kemp (at)TheRealMattKemp, Kendrick (at)HKendrick47, Pence (at)HunterPence9, Phillips (at)DatDudeBP, Sanchez (at)GabySanchez15, Upton (at)RealJustinUpton, Victorino (at)ShaneVictorino and Wilson (at)str8edgeracer.

On Twitter, the league’s account is (at)MLB and the players association (at)MLB_PLAYERS. Their Facebook accounts are Facebook.com/MLB and Facebook.com/MLBPlayers Assoc.


CHAIN GANG: Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” in America, plans to deploy a chain gang to pick up litter outside Chase Field at the All-Star game.

The inmates, who are clad in cartoon-like striped jail outfits, include some from the holding tank for illegal immigrants, all of whom have been convicted of driving under the influence. The group also will include other DUI offenders.

Arpaio said the idea is to show the perils of drunken driving in Arizona, which has among the nation’s toughest DUI laws. Asked why illegal immigrants are included in the chain gang, he said, “I would be discriminating against the people here illegally in this country who have been convicted of the same crimes U.S. citizens have been convicted of. Should I say, ‘Oh, no, you can’t be on a chain gang because you’re from a different country?’”

The sheriff’s office, known for its anti-illegal immigrant sweeps of neighborhoods and businesses, said all chain gang participants volunteered for the duty rather than remain in “Tent City,” jail homes, which have no air conditioning.


GOLDEN HOMERS: A few of the balls used in Monday’s home run derby will have a little something extra for the fans who catch them: gold.

The special balls will be made with one panel that’s infused with 24-carat gold leather and will be used once a batter is down to his final out in each round of the derby.

The balls have a retail value of $149.99, so anyone who manages to snag one at Chase Field will get a little extra value for their effort. Major League Baseball, along with State Farm Insurance, also will donate a combined $18,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for each golden ball that goes out for a homer.


BERNIE PLAYS: Former New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams played the national anthem on his guitar before Sunday’s Futures Game.

Williams won four World Series titles and four Gold Gloves in 16 years with the Yankees and was an accomplished musician even during his playing days. He released his first album in 2003 and put out another in 2009 that was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Williams, who last played in the majors in 2006, played a flawless rendition of the national anthem on Sunday, receiving a warm ovation.


COOLING TREND: While dashing from hotels to taxis to the enclosed air conditioned comfort of Chase Field, the All-Star experience for fans is a scorching one, but perhaps not as bad as had been forecast.

The temperature cooled to 102 degrees on Sunday afternoon and, thanks to the threat of thunderstorms, might not even reach triple digits on Monday. The forecast high for Tuesday, the date of the All-Star game, is a mere 101. The average high for this time of year is 107.

On July 2, the high in Phoenix hit an incredible 118, a record for that date. That was a dry heat, but then so is a blow torch. Then came the massive dust storm that sent a wall of dirt through the city, a spectacle widely displayed on video across the country.

The lower temperatures bring higher humidity, and still-miserable conditions. Paramedic units were deployed around the ballpark and the nearby FanFest to provide aid for anyone overcome by the heat.


CELEBRITY SOFTBALL: Former Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star Luis Gonzalez had quite an All-Star Sunday.

He started off the day managing the World Team in the Futures game, won MVP honors in the celebrity All-Star softball game after hitting a homer in the “Nationals” 5-3 win and capped it with a homer on his first swing to give his team a win in the home run contest.

“It was a pretty good day,” said Gonzalez, now special assistant to the president and CEO for the Diamondbacks. “What a great experience for the fans in Arizona.”

The All-Star game had its usual bit of hijinks and hamming it for the camera, including Jenny Finch serving up a pitch with a soccer ball to U.S. soccer team captain Carlos Bocanegra.

There were also some impressive plays.

Rickey Henderson got it started the way he often did during his baseball career, leading off the game with a homer to left.

That might have been expected. Henderson does, after all, hold the all-time record with 81 leadoff homers.

“Glee” star Chord Overstreet had one of the more surprising moments, ranging from center field all the way to left to make a diving catch in front of country music singer Jason Aldean.

“I saw that it was low and between me and Jason, so I took a spring for it and did what I had to do to catch it,” said Overstreet, who plays Sam Evans on the Fox TV show. “I ended up having to dive for it. Adrenaline kind of took over. it was fun and I had blast. I always dreamed of playing in a park like this ever since I was little.”


AP Sports Writer John Marshall contributed to this report.

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