DETROIT -- Jeff Kent admits he's a throwback ballplayer, and if it was up to the Dodgers' representative in Tuesday night's All-Star Game, he'd be shagging flies with Shoeless Joe, barnstorming the county and wearing the baggy baseball breeches of the '30s. Or even the "long-ago" 1980s. It seemed a simpler time then -- pure baseball -- says the 37-year-old second baseman, who made his fifth Midsummer Classic appearance here at Comerica Park.
He admits he got tingles being in the starting lineup -- that has not changed for Kent, who struck out in his lone at-bat in the contest. But everything else surrounding the sport has been irretrievably altered. "I've been around the game, almost 15 years in the big leagues now, and I've seen it change a lot," said Kent, sharing Los Angeles All-Star honors with injured teammate Cesar Izturis. "I'm an old-school person in life, not only baseball, and I'm not much for change. I accept it, but it takes a few years. "If you ask me, if it's getting too big, maybe so," said the veteran. "Interleague Play, the unbalanced schedule, the World [Baseball Classic] coming and the All-Star Game getting bigger and bigger, the Wild Card -- lots of changes in the past 15 years." The question is, are those sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic changes bettering the game? It's a $4 billion industry, said Kent of the burgeoning baseball business. "And with money rolling in, why not make changes, if they're good?" Still, Kent fondly recalls the '70s and '80s as the last of the no-hype days -- before the Internet, before all-sports channels and round-the-clock sports talk shows and intense pressure by the media to cover every facet of players' lives. "Guys like Dave Winfield, Candy Maldonado, Joe Carter -- they were old-school guys who set my temperament," said Kent. "I don't know that age, but what you see and hear, it was a calmer game then -- you just played the game." And Reggie Jackson, in his fabled season of 1977, his first with the New York Yankees, made a phenomenal $405,000. Not that Kent is decrying his paycheck of more than $7 million this season. "It's a catch-22," he said of balancing the super-hype and MTV-type baseball coverage, which lures the younger fans and helps the game thrive, with the sport's sheer athleticism and fun. "I tolerate it," Kent said of the hyperbole. "You answer questions honestly and bite your tongue -- I've gotten into trouble doing it. But that's the nature of the game and you deal with it." For the 25-year-old Izturis, this first-time All-Star selection isn't a bust despite not playing due to his injured hamstring. The good news is his rehabbing is nearing its end, as he's been running on the field at 80-90 percent at Comerica Park. "I'm disappointed I didn't get a chance to play, but I've enjoyed being with this group of players," said Izturis, a Major Leaguer since 2001. "It's good to be here. And I feel better now, and with a full workout on Thursday I could be ready by Friday or Saturday." Izturis is enthralled by his mere presence here among the game's greats, but is anxious to get back healthy. "I just want to get back to the field and stay strong," he said.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.