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Zepeda going to Hall

July 26, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Most people are lucky to get 15 minutes of fame in their life.

Jesse Zepeda will be fortunate enough to experience a full day of it Monday.

The Hagerstown Suns third baseman is going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He isn't being inducted just yet - like Don Sutton and Larry Doby. Instead, he was selected to play for the Toronto Blue Jays in the Hall of Fame Game against the Baltimore Orioles at Doubleday Field.

"When (Suns manager Marty Pevey) told me I was going, I thought he was joking," Zepeda said before Saturday's game against Capital City. "I think I'm still in shock. I had the opportunity to go to the Hall of Fame once.

"It was amazing with all the history and to be part of that and part of the game, it just reminds you how privileged you are to be able to play this game."

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Zepeda was scheduled to leave for Syracuse, N.Y., this morning to spend the day with Toronto's Triple-A affiliate. He will bus to Cooperstown with some other Blue Jays' minor leaguers to help fill out Toronto's roster for the exhibition.

"I don't know what I'll be doing or how much I'll play," Zepeda said. "(Suns centerfielder Vernon Wells) told me that Marty wanted to see me. I got nervous because I haven't been hitting well and I didn't know what was coming.

"My first reaction was that Marty was joking. It was weird. I had to go back into his office later to tell him thanks because I was in shock."

The game, which culminates Induction Weekend, usually features each team's front line starters for the first three innings. Then the utility players and minor leaguers are given the chance to play and close out the game.

But even if Zepeda doesn't get into the game, he expects the experience will be as magical as the Hall of Fame itself.

"I still don't know why I was chosen," he said. "I'm grateful. I guess it proves that if you work hard and do what everyone tells you to, it will pay off. This is a chance of a lifetime."

Zepeda, 24, was selected by Detroit in the 23rd round of the 1996 draft. He signed with Mission Viejo in the Western League in May 1997 before his contract was purchased by Toronto after one game. He entered Saturday's game hitting .232 with two home runs and 23 RBIs.

"I don't know why they chose me," Zepeda said. "They didn't tell me. It will be great to get a chance to face some players with some major league experience."

Zepeda received the news during the weekend his parents were in from California to visit. Now, his family will be driving to New York to see their son play.

Just as important for Zepeda will be the chance to see how the other half lives.

But most of all, Zepeda is thankful for his few moments of fame.

"I'm just planning on going up there and enjoy the game and the experience," Zepeda said. "I'll get the chance to talk to and watch the major league guys first hand. It will be a chance to sit and watch what they do to get ready for a game and pick their brains for information. It wasn't that long ago since some of those guys were playing on this level."

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