"I'm amazed -- this is a beautiful thing," the Philadelphia outfielder said. "Look, we're getting treated like stars."
That was the idea behind the first-ever All-Star Game Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet. Players in the 76th All-Star Game began arriving at the FOX Theater across the street from the ballpark at 2:30 p.m., and at 3 the first vehicles began arriving to pick them up and transport them and their families to Comerica in grand fashion.
Fans gathered and cheered along what became a parade route on Witherell and Elizabeth Streets outside Comerica to witness this procession of 64 Major League Baseball players, as well as their families and American and National League managers. They rode in open-air vehicles provided by Chevrolet, the Official Vehicle of Major League Baseball, with the name of each representative on the front of that car or truck. The street out front was completely carpeted in red just for this spectacle.
"The event's terrific. These guys are stars, and that's why we're doing it," Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president for business, said while coordinating each departure from the talent-packed staging area at the FOX. "These guys are the greatest athletes in the world and they're getting recognized as such.
"The All-Star Game Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet is yet another way Major League Baseball is bringing fans closer to the game. We hope this event will become an annual tradition, as it will give fans the opportunity to see their favorite Major League Baseball stars in a new and unique way as part of the overall All-Star Week experience."
FOX Sports Net will produce and air "The All-Star Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet" nationwide from 7-8 p.m. ET as a lead-in to the national network broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
Actor Jon Lovitz, star of such movies as "A League of Their Own," drove the car that carried Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield.
"It's fun," Lovitz said after dropping off his passenger for the night to come. "I asked if I could drive, and they said, 'Who do you want to drive?' I got to drive Sheff. I knew him before when he was playing for the Dodgers."
It was a decidedly different scene than anyone has ever seen before an MLB All-Star Game. Inside the FOX Theater, players and their families mingled, and they listened for announcements like this over the loudspeaker inside:
"Paging Mariano Rivera. Please proceed toward the exit, and do not forget to pick up your XM Satellite Radio on your way to the door."
That company was one of the corporate partners for this event, along with The Gillette Company, The Home Depot, MasterCard International, Pepsi, Taco Bell and, of course, Chevrolet.
"It's nice," said Boston's David Ortiz, who was resplendent in a pinstripe suit as he prepared to start as the designated hitter for the American League. "It's looking pretty good so far, but I'm not really sure what it's going to be like." That was echoed by teammate Johnny Damon, who was waiting with wife Michelle and said, "I don't really know what to expect yet. Let's see how it goes."
Mark Teixeira, who is representing the Texas Rangers as the starting AL first baseman, stepped inside a canary-yellow Chevy SSR and said, "It's definitely a different concept. It's cool to have everybody driving in on nice cars on the way to the park. This is definitely something new. I'm excited to see how it feels."
Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis said the best part of the whole experience was the way his family was babied before the event. This was not only a chance for players to greet fans on the way to the game, but a way to involve the players' families.
"It's great that they take care of my family," he said. "It's hard for us to entertain and play at the same time when we are here."
The final vehicle in this parade was an Avalanche that carried something especially meaningful, and it wasn't a person.
It was the World Series trophy. It has a definite part in this event, after all. For the third consecutive year, the outcome of the All-Star Game will determine which league will have home-field advantage in the Fall Classic. In keeping with the All-Star Game theme of "This Time it Counts," that official trophy crafted by Tiffany & Company brought up the rear as if to emphasize what is coming ahead. It was sort of like Santa Claus riding in the last float of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Baseball's Midsummer Classic is the highest-rated All-Star Game among the four major professional sports and is annually among the highest-rated sports telecasts of the summer. Last year, 32.8 million Americans tuned in to the 75th All-Star Game on FOX, the most since 2000, according to Nielsen Media Research.
This time, fans will be watching something completely different. Maybe even a little amazing, according to the game's newest home run hero. Abreu is batting first in this All-Star Game, and he got to the park in style. "Just amazing," he said.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.