You can't have a Futures Game without paying tribute to the past. Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that it will have two highly accomplished former players -- Hall of Famer George Brett and former Yankees star Bernie Williams -- serving as managers for the U.S. and the World teams, respectively.
Brett, the only player inducted as a Royal into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, will act as both manager of the U.S. team and an official ambassador to Kansas City, the game's host city. Brett played 21 years with the Royals and helped lead them to the 1985 World Series title.
"I am very excited to be managing the World Team in the Futures Game," Williams said Wednesday. "This game has grown in stature so much through the years, and it is remarkable how many of the young men who have played and starred in this game have become stars in the game today. That will be the case with hopefully many of the players I will have the honor of managing in Kansas City."
Williams, who will manage the World team at the Futures Game, was a member of four World Series-winning teams in his 16-year career with the Yankees. Williams, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a four-time Gold Glove Award winner and has more RBIs (80) than any player in postseason history.
The Royals haven't hosted an All-Star Game since 1973, which is the same year Brett made his big league debut. The third baseman won three batting titles and ranks 16th on the all-time hit list (3,154), and he's spent 19 seasons as Kansas City's vice president of baseball operations.
Brett, a 13-time All-Star, also managed the Futures Game in 2005, and said last month that he's looking forward to being a part of the All-Star Game again.
"I'm excited to share the city and stadium I love with today's All-Stars and baseball fans around the world," Brett said. "It's an honor to once again be a part of the Midsummer Classic and baseball's special celebration."
Williams, one of the great switch-hitters of recent vintage, batted .297 with 287 home runs over his 16-year career, and he won the American League batting title with a .339 mark in 1998. Williams, a fleet-footed defender, also hit at least 20 home runs in six straight seasons from 1996-2001.
Williams, notably, has never managed at any level, but he said Wednesday that he can recall playing for two of the best in Joe Torre and Buck Showalter. Torre, in fact, even let Williams manage one game down the stretch as part of a tradition in which he allowed players to sit in his seat.
"I got to help make out the lineup and go to the mound and make the pitching changes, and make some decisions like to hit and run or lay down a bunt," said Williams, recalling his manager-for-a-day experience. "It was a lot of fun, but I also saw how hard it was to manage, where you have to be following every pitch, but also thinking ahead a couple of innings and worrying about every player on the other bench. So, I have a great appreciation of what it takes to manage every single day."
Both Brett and Williams will have plenty of help from experienced coaches. Brett will be assisted by Minor League managers Duane Espy, Tony Franklin, Mike Jirschele and Jim Pankovits. The pitching coach for the U.S. team will be Tom Filer, who works in that capacity for Triple-A Indianapolis.
The Royals will also be represented by former catcher John Wathan, who now serves as special assistant for player development and scouting in Kansas City's organization. Chris DeLucia, the team's medical operations coordinator, will also be part of Brett's coaching staff.
Williams, meanwhile, will have Minor League manager Arnie Beyeler, Steve Buechele, Darren Bush and Turner Ward on his staff. Rouglas Odor, hitting coach for Double-A Akron, will serve on Williams' staff, as will pitching coach Ruben Niebla, who works for Triple-A Columbus.
Williams has said that he may think about managing at some point in the future, but for now he's busy pursuing his musical passions as both a touring and recording guitarist. But for the Futures Game -- a one-day celebration of the game's next generation -- it was too tempting to pass up.
"Being from Puerto Rico, I have a special appreciation how the game of baseball has grown to truly be a global game. I know I will have the honor of managing players from many different countries," Williams said.
"What really made me want to do this was after being invited, I was told that the players who will be playing in this game grew up following players like me in my era. While it makes me feel old, it also brought a smile to my face. This is a great showcase of the stars of tomorrow, and I am just thrilled to be a part of it and look forward to spending a couple of days with these kids."