DETROIT -- Good things happen to good people who make the right gestures. And Miguel Tejada was paid back with all the positive karma in the world on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. On Monday, he stepped aside to allow fellow Dominican David Ortiz to take his spot in the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby, thus forfeiting the possibility of defending his 2004 title. And Tuesday night, he was the catalyst of the American League's 7-5 victory over the Nationals both on the field and at the plate. For his second-inning homer, a pearl of a double play in the top of the opening inning, and a pair of RBIs, Tejada was named the Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP presented by Chevrolet.
"I'm never going to forget these two days, because yesterday, even in the home run contest, I enjoyed every moment," said Tejada, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop. "David put on a great show. All of the guys put on a great show. I got a chance to play with my kids and this time I didn't have to hit it. Today I had a chance to have a great game and get the MVP." The format of the derby this year mirrored the international theme of these times. The World Baseball Classic will take place next March 3-20, and 16 teams with Major League players will represent their own countries for the first time. Eight players in the Home Run Derby each represented their own nations. There wasn't room for two Dominicans. So despite the fact that he had hit a then-record 27 homers in Houston's Minute Maid Park to ice last year's derby, Tejada stepped aside this year. "I think that David Ortiz, being the top home run hitter in the Dominican the last three years, that's why he was the perfect guy to represent our country," Tejada said. Ortiz was eliminated in the second round, while Venezuelan Bobby Abreu of the Philadelphia Phillies belted a record shattering 41 homers to take this year's derby. Tejada, a former AL MVP for the Oakland A's in 2003, still seems to be one of baseball's unsung heroes, although that scenario has begun to change during the two seasons since he signed as a free agent with the Orioles. "Tejada is one of the most underrated players in the era when I've been playing," said Alex Rodriguez, the All-Star third baseman from the New York Yankees who played alongside Tejada on Tuesday night. "Now that he's on the East Coast, he's getting a lot more eyes on him."
All eyes were sparkling in the top of the first.Abreu had opened with a single. The Mets' Carlos Beltran then laced a grounder that seemed destined for center field. But Tejada dove to his left and was on his stomach when he shoveled the ball to Orioles teammate Brian Roberts, who covered second and turned a nifty double play. When Tejada, batting fifth, drilled a homer into the left-field seats off Atlanta's John Smoltz to lead off the second inning, the American Leaguers were on their way to extending their unbeaten All-Star streak to nine consecutive games. "I think more than the home run, the play he made defensively in the first inning, to me, that relaxes (starter Mark) Buehrle," said Terry Francona, the Red Sox manager who was watched Tejada make those kind of plays for the last two seasons from the other dugout. "The whole game changes on that. That's a heck of a play." Tejada, 29, is this era's iron horse, having played in a league-leading 843 consecutive games coming into the break. Now he has an All-Star Game MVP to go along with his league MVP. "I'm just happy, I'm really happy that they gave me the honor," he said. "I just want to work harder and harder every day in everything that I do. When I get an award like that, my family is more proud of me. So this makes me more proud and work harder because my family is really happy."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.