story by Steve McCarthy
July 14, 2009
ORLEANS – With St. Louis’ Busch Stadium hosting Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, baseball fans made it clear throughout balloting that they wanted Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols to make his eighth Midsummer Classic appearance.
The only question was which big name would be left off the National League roster.
The Chicago Cubs’ Derrek Lee was the unfortunate star, being edged out by Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder and San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez. Instead of watching the introduction of teammate Ted Lilly on TV, the 33-year-old Lee took in a few innings of a Cape Cod Baseball League game between the Cotuit Kettleers and the Orleans Firebirds at Orleans’ Eldredge Park during a family vacation to the Cape.
Lee’s seat on the grass just beyond the visitor’s dugout was chosen because he is a close friend of former Cape League and MLB All-Star Greg Vaughn and family, and wanted to see the powerful swing of Vaughn’s son Cory, who plays for the Cotuit team in the college summer league.
According to Lee and the younger Vaughn, the two are off-season training partners, both living in Sacramento, California. Vaughn considers Lee, “Like a big brother.”
“He told me he was coming,” Vaughn said. “But when I saw him here it really hit me that he was actually here watching me play, when he could be doing anything else on this All-Star break. It meant a lot.”
While the younger Vaughn looks to Lee for advice, the Cubs star recalled being welcomed to the Big Leagues by the elder, as the two were teammates on the 1997 San Diego Padres when Lee was a 21 year-old rookie.
“I’ve known (Greg) since I was little,” Lee said. “I worked out with him from the time I graduated high school, then I got a chance to play with him in San Diego. He’s a good friend, and he helped me a lot with my game. I try to help out Cory as much as I can.”
Lee was impressed by Cory’s swings in the two at-bats he witnessed. In the second inning, Vaughn blasted a two run home run, and in his next at bat hit a sizzling line drive that was snagged by the Orleans third baseman.
“That was a great swing,” Lee said of the homer. “I actually think he hit the second one harder- he just didn’t get that one in the air.”
Lee anticipates a successful MLB Career for the San Diego State slugger. Most apparent was the 6’3” 225 lb. frame that Lee has seen grow since Vaughn was as a youngster.
“He’s like my size now-he’s 19,” Lee said with a laugh. “He’s a talented guy, and he puts his swing together. I expect to see some big things from him.”
Lee signed with the Padres out of high school after they made him a first round pick (14th overall) in the 1993 amateur draft, so he adjusted to hitting with a wood bat in the minor leagues rather than in a college summer league.
“There is an adjustment,” Lee admitted. “But if you can hit, you can hit.”
The two-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove fielder, and 2005 Silver Slugger Award winner offered some advice for Cape Leaguers hoping to prove themselves this summer in front of MLB scouts.
“Just come out here and have fun,” Lee said. “Work on your game, but enjoy it at the same time. If you’re here, there’s a reason you’re here.”
In 2005, Lee was an All-Star Game starter for the National League, and finished third in NL MVP voting while hitting a career high 46 home runs.