On July 11, 1999, Luis Tiant walked to the mound at Fenway Park and threw out the first ball in the inaugural MLB All-Star Futures Game. The new prospect showcase, which pitted a USA team against a World team, brought together the most promising youngsters in professional baseball -- regardless of their Minor League level -- for one game, overstuffing scorecards with the names of true future stars.
The brainchild of then-senior vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon, the Futures Game also played a part in turning the All-Star Game into a multi-day festival for the sport. In that first year, no less a figure than Ted Williams referred to the new All-Star weekend as "a celebration ... all fun for baseball fans."
It was fun, too, for Yankees prospect Alfonso Soriano, who drilled two homers over the Green Monster and plated five to power the World to a 7-0 victory and help instantly establish the Futures Game as one of the sport's big events. By the time the matchup changed format to an American League vs. National League tilt in 2019, the game had taken its place as the can't-miss event of the summer for prospect hounds and fans eagerly awaiting their team's next superstar.
Throughout its young history, the Futures Game has offered thrilling previews of the careers to come from the likes of Miguel Cabrera (2001, 2002), Clayton Kershaw (2007), Mike Trout (2010), Gerrit Cole (2012), Xander Bogaerts (2012, 2013), Noah Syndergaard (2013, 2014), Javier Baez (2014), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (2017), Ronald Acuña Jr. (2017), Fernando Tatís Jr. (2018), and many others.
There are no guarantees in prospect projections, but since 1999 this has been a constant: some of the players who take the field in the Futures Game today are the players who will be at the center of the baseball world tomorrow.