Jo Adell diary: Back to the Futures
The Angels prospect writes about his experience during MLB’s All-Star week
Jo Adell is chronicling his journey in baseball for The Undefeated. The Los Angeles Angels’ top prospect, who was injured during his first major league training camp, discusses life in the minors, what it’s like to be an African American baseball player in 2019, and much more.
In this installment Adell, the only minor league player featured in a new adidas baseball promotion, shares what it was like playing in the showcase of top minor league prospects during the All-Star festivities in Cleveland.
I played in a major league stadium for the first time back in 2015. As a high school sophomore, I was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game in Chicago. When I stepped out of the dugout onto the grass at Wrigley Field and looked out at the ivy walls that I had seen so many times on television, I got goose bumps.
That feeling never gets old, and I can truly say that after playing in the Futures Game just days before the 2019 All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Even though I’ve played in several major league stadiums since that game at Wrigley (including the 2018 Futures Game at Nationals Park in Washington), it was equally as thrilling stepping onto Progressive Field for a chance to play in a big-time atmosphere in front of a ton of fans.
From the moment I stepped onto the field for batting practice, I was completely relaxed. It was kind of weird at Progressive because there were some balls I felt I absolutely crushed that seemed to hit a wall and die. And there were others that just kept on sailing and wound up being moonshots.
I was in a groove in batting practice, and quite a few of the balls I hit wound up as souvenirs. Some people told me afterwards that I put on a show. Not even close for the people who were at batting practice before the 2018 Futures Show in Washington and watched Peter Alonso make balls disappear. I swear he hit one so hard and so far that I don’t know if it’s come down as of yet.
The fact that Alonso can go from the Futures Game one year and then be among the MLB home run leaders with the New York Mets this season is inspiring for all of us.
One of the highlights for me was getting a chance to spend some time with Ken Griffey Jr., who I first met back in 2016 in San Diego when he showed up at the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park. I walked up to him in Cleveland, flexed a little bit and asked him, “You think I’ve gotten bigger?” (I was 175 back then; I’m 225 now.) His eyes got wide and he told me, “Man, you were a little Slim Jim back then!”
We went on to talk about some of the things he worked to improve over the course of his career. It was awesome cutting it up in the dugout with one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and a guy that I have long admired. And it felt great to have him remember me and notice the change in my body over the last three years.
Now to the game: I got a hit and walked twice, so it felt good to get on base my first three times at bat. But the highlight of the game, for me, was the catch I made in the eighth inning of a tie game that kept our team alive.
I didn’t know I was going to dive until the last minute, but I wanted to do whatever it took to keep us in the game. I was able to save the runner on second from advancing, and it helped get us out of the inning.
What’s challenging in a game featuring the top prospects is facing pitching that you’re not accustomed to. We face some great arms in the Southern League, guys who can throw a lot of heat. But in the Futures Game, you can be prepared for the velocity but you’re not prepared for the movement on the ball.
That’s what happened in my last at-bat when I faced Luis Patino, one of the top prospects for the Padres, in the bottom of the eighth inning.
He throws a fastball unlike any other I’ve seen in the minor leagues — his pitch rises up in the zone and cuts away from right-handed hitters. He caught me off guard with a few of those pitches in my last at-bat, and when I got down two strikes I was looking for one of these cutters to drive to right field.
That plan worked out poorly. He threw a high fastball and I struck out. It was the last out of a game that ended in a 2-2 tie, which was the weirdest feeling. The game was scheduled for seven innings, and we were allowed to play just one extra inning.
But it was incredible to be out there playing in front of all of those fans — including my mother, father and sister — and hearing their appreciation as the game ended.
I went to an after-party later that night and met Frank Thomas for the first time. I’m 6-4, 225 — and Frank the Tank made me feel small. He told me he was excited to see what comes out of my career, and it felt good that he took notice of the game.
Unfortunately, being invited to the Futures Game doesn’t mean we get a chance to hang around for the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game that make up the big event. They got me out on the first thing smoking the next morning. But I appreciate the experience of being in the All-Star Game atmosphere, and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to play in the big game one day.
Just days after getting back to Mobile, Alabama, we were taking a seven-hour and 45-minute bus ride to Tennessee for a six-game series — yes, a six-game series — in Knoxville. We won four of the six games there, and three hours into the ride back to Mobile the air conditioning on the bus went out.
The journey continues.