LAWRENCEVILLE - It's not the vacation Derek Botelho planned, but St. Louis is closer to his home in Iowa than Georgia.
The Gwinnett Braves' pitching coach had just booked a flight home for his three-day All-Star break vacation when word came that he had more work to do.
"I had just finished booking a plane ticket to go home and I was talking to (hitting coach) Jaime (Dismuke) and (manager) Dave (Brundage) about, 'Hey I just got my flight planned all booked and everything,'" Botelho said. "That afternoon about 5-5:30 p.m. we got done with BP and that is when it came out on the media. Brundage said, 'Bo, where did you say you were going for the All-Star break?' and I said, 'I am going home to Iowa.' and he said, 'No, you aren't you are going to St. Louis for the Futures Game.'"
Botelho will be the pitching coach for the U.S. Team in the now annual game of prospects from across baseball's minor league system. There are players from Class A to Class AAA on the roster. Class AA Mississippi's Jayson Heyward and G-Braves' Barbaro Canizares are also set to play in today's game. Canizares is a late addition to the World team, but has been the pitching coach from the start.
"It is really (messing) up my three days off the for the All-Star break," Botelho joked. "How Major League Baseball did it, I really don't know. I am honored and I am grateful and I am pretty excited about getting the opportunity to do it.
"I don't think it hurt any by having (Tommy) Hanson and (Charlie) Morton and (Kris) Medlen and (James) Parr and Jo-Jo Reyes and Boone Logan and Manny Acosta and those other guys on my staff though either."
Everyone one of those pitchers made the jump, at least for a time this season, to the major league.
Botelho had to leave the G-Braves on Saturday to get to St. Louis to prepare for tonight's game. Not that the long-time pitching coach planned to dole out much advice.
"I don't say a word, I just don't try to (mess) them up," Botelho said. "I don't say another thing. I am not going to do a thing. I don't want to (mess) them up. I am just going to let them go out there and tell them when they are coming out of the shoot, the guy that is starting the ball game and who is pitching is the ninth inning."
Botelho softens his Midwestern honesty with a self deprecating, coarse sense of humor making him a likable yet effective coach. As quickly as he criticize a pitcher he doles out praise. Botelho spent major league seasons pitching for the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs and won more than 100 minor league games in his 12-year career. He knows both sides of the big-league barrier facing pitchers. He knows what earns the call-up and what keeps someone pitching in the minors.
"When those guys get the call to the big leagues you feel like you had some hand in getting them there," Botelho said. "Whether it be minor or not, I know in my heart and in my head that these guys had the ability and the arm to get to the big leagues. So you had some small hand in developing or getting them developed ... to getting them to the big leagues."
But even after 19 years as a coach in the Braves' and Cincinnati Reds' organizations, Botelho keeps trying to grow as a coach.
"I learned something about pitching everyday," he said. "I have learned a lot and I am still learning."
And this weekend is as much about learning as it is about the honor of being chosen. Botelho is in the same position as the players he coaches. All of them are trying to get to the big leagues and this game, this honor, is a step in that direction.
"I don't want to be greedy or anything like that, but my ambition is to be a pitching coach in the big leagues," he said. "I pitched in the big leagues and what I am doing now is to try to get me to the big leagues as a pitching coach. If this helps because of the exposure and everything then that is great. I feel honored to be there."
His family switched their plans as quickly at Botelho and will join him in St. Louis for today's game and this week's festivities. He'll make it home eventually, but the indirect route is worth the time.
"I have been getting some calls from other managers that I know (in Class AAA) and some of the other coaches in the big leagues and they all are calling in their congratulations," Botelho said.
"They are saying, 'It's great you got chosen. They could have gone out and picked 60-80 other guys and they picked you.' It's good."