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Ha makes impact in Futures Game with homer

KANSAS CITY -- An opponent's scouting report on Cubs prospect Jae-Hoon Ha, Chicago's representative in Sunday's All-Star Futures Game:

"Solid all-around tools. Good speed. Plus center fielder -- actually, a "great" defender," Brewers farmhand Scooter Gennett said.

"But he can hit, too," Gennett said. "He's a right-handed hitter and he puts the bat on the ball and drives it."

Ha proved the point in the second inning of baseball's annual All-Star showcase of Minor Leaguers, driving a pitch from Pirates super-prospect Gerrit Cole for a two-run home run. It was the first of Ha's two hits in his World team's 17-5 loss to U.S. prospects.

The 21-year-old Ha has only 23 home runs in 3 1/2 Minor League seasons. He would like some more.

"I like hitting home runs," he said with a smile. "I love it. Every baseball player loves it, and it's the same with me."

Ha will return to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies on Monday, and said he has a feeling his second half will be "up."

He's batted .259 so far, with three home runs, 27 RBIs and seven steals.

"It's not my best play," Ha said.

But it's in the field where Ha has made his mark. Asked for his own personal scouting report, he started with one word: "Defense."

Milwaukee's Gennett agreed.

"He's robbed me a few times," Gennett said.

Ha's most egregious act of thievery came last May 9, when the two were opponents in the advanced Class A Florida State League. Gennett, Milwaukee's 5-foot-9, sweet-swinging second-base prospect, carried a 16-game hitting streak into his Brevard County Manatees' game at Ha's Daytona Cubs. The teams were meeting for the third straight game, and Gennett had five hits in the two previous matchups.

His bid for more was dashed by Ha.

"The first at-bat, I hit a ball pretty well to center field, over his head," Gennett said. "He went back, jumped and dove and caught it. Right after that I said, 'You know, if I don't get a hit, that's why.' It was almost like I knew it was going to end after something like that happened."

It did end; Gennett went 0-for-4 that day, though he did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly.

"I don't remember that," Ha said Sunday, "but somebody told me about it."

The two met again as adversaries at steamy Kauffman Stadium on Sunday, each the lone representative for his organization in baseball's annual showcase of top Minor League talent.

"I'm excited," Ha said. "I just want to play hard. If some other [Cubs] guys came with me, it might be more fun."

Instead he was Chicago's only Futures Game rep, following in the footsteps of past participants including current Cubs top prospect Brett Jackson.

Ha impressed the Cubs with his skills in Spring Training.

"I saw a guy who has a chance to be a great outfielder," outfield coach Dave McKay said in June, when Ha was selected for the Futures Game. "He has great speed, a great feel on the bases. Sometimes you have guys who have speed and a lot of talent, but they don't have that feel. The instincts aren't there and the harder they try, the more mistakes they make. [Ha] has got good instincts.

"After spending a short time with him, I thought, 'Here's a guy you're going to see a lot of down the road.'"

That would make for a fun Cubs clubhouse. Some of the players who got to know Ha in Spring Training said he's a terrific singer.

He confirmed that with a laugh. His favorite songs are an oldie and a newbie -- the Eagles' "Desperado," and Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar."

"I have them on my iPod," he said. "I'm happy they like it."

Chicago Cubs