Kevin Costner knew what he wanted to say to Lou Brock. He wanted to thank him. He wanted to tell him how much he'd enjoyed watching him play, tell him how he would never forget the way Brock could dominate a game with his speed and grace.
Yet when he came face to face with one of his boyhood heroes this afternoon at Fenway Park, he could not find the right words. So he looked at Brock and smiled, saying nothing. As he stammered to think of something to say, he realized nothing was necessary. Brock had been through these situations so many times that he simply smiled and nodded, his way of acknowledging the compliment.
"We had this complete dialogue where we didn't say anything," Costner said, amazed.
Costner's chance meeting with Brock was one of the small, special moments this afternoon as major league baseball began a three-day celebration that will conclude with the playing of the 1999 All-Star Game Tuesday night. There was a celebrity hitting contest that allowed actor Matt Damon to take batting practice with boyhood heroes Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. There was Rice once more banging balls off the Green Monster.
Finally, there was the Futures Game, a seven-inning contest featuring the top minor league players. One team was composed of U.S. players, the other of minor leaguers from other countries. Four of the nine starters for the World team were from the Dominican Republic, including the game's MVP -- Yankees shortstop Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano, 21, showed why he's one of the most coveted prospects in the game by hammering two home runs and driving in five runs to lead the World team to a 7-0 shutout of the U.S. team at sold-out Fenway Park.
"You can't imagine what it means to me in terms of my career," Soriano said. "I think right now my mother back in the Dominican must be the happiest woman in the world."
Scouts were also dazzled by reliever Francisco Cordero, a 21-year-old Detroit prospect who was clocked at 95 mph during a brief and overpowering seventh-inning appearance. Cordero threw the hardest pitch of the afternoon, but the second-hardest came from Baltimore Orioles prospect Matt Riley. Called on to get the final out of the top of the seventh inning, Riley's one and only pitch was clocked at 94 mph.
"It was just good to be here and be part of it," said Riley, who plays for the Class AA Bowie Baysox. "It's great to be considered good enough to be in this company."
Seemingly on the fast track to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Riley must decide whether to participate in the Pan American Games this month. Regardless of his decision, he probably will be in the big leagues -- perhaps for good -- in September.
The Orioles also have high hopes for Class AAA Rochester first baseman Calvin Pickering, who struck out in his only at-bat. Soriano and Cordero briefly grabbed a piece of the spotlight today, with the major leaguers arriving on Monday.
Regardless, the real star of this All-Star Game is Fenway Park, the revered ballpark that opened the same week the Titanic sank 87 years ago. In a city where baseball matters more than perhaps any other in the country, Fenway has had its every quirky nook and cranny recorded by assorted poets, novelists, historians and songwriters. New Englanders know it for the Green Monster in left, Pesky's pole in right, the way the ball bounces crazily off the center field wall. They know it as the place Babe Ruth pitched, the place Ted Williams refused to acknowledge the cheers and the place Bucky Dent hit the home run that took the 1978 AL East title away from the Red Sox.
At a time when the Red Sox are urging city leaders to assist them in constructing an updated version of Fenway Park across the street, this week is seen by many as the beginning of many goodbye parties for the old ballpark.
"It was unbelievable walking up the steps to the field," Damon said. "I mean, that's something you dream about. I wish I could explain what it feels like. I'm going up there taking my hacks for every kid who will never get a chance to do it and never will be a professional baseball player.
"I was really nervous. I was nervous that I was going to be nervous. When I got up there, I was just so excited. I kept saying to myself, `I'm swinging at Fenway Park, this is unbelievable.' Every kid around here, every single kid around here, grows up wishing they could swing the bat once."
Damon laughed as he remembered the day he and some friends came to Fenway to be extras when Costner filmed a scene for "Field of Dreams." "We came down to Fenway that day for $50," he said, "and to see if we could sneak on the field and maybe pluck up some grass and take it with us. The ballpark has definitely got a special meaning for the kind of people who are around here."
Costner called it a day "for people who genuinely love the game." Dozens of baseball's executives and talent evaluators who showed up for the Futures Game share his love. This was a day to see Fred Lynn's sweet swing one more time and a day to watch the players projected to be the stars of the next decade -- from 6-10 pitcher Ryan Anderson of the Seattle Mariners to outfielder Pat Burrell of the Philadelphia Phillies to pitcher Mark Mulder of the Oakland A's.
"When I heard this game was going to be played, I had to be here," Cleveland Indians General Manager John Hart said. "This is a great opportunity to put faces and bodies and style of play with all the scouting reports that we see all the time. I'm not saying we can get all these players, but you want to be familiar with them. I can't run out to Memphis and all these places to see young guys. This is a great way to stay in touch with them."
CAPTION: At celebrity hitting contest, Fred Lynn, Doug Flutie, Kevin Costner and Andre Dawson, from left, track the action.