Vogt honored to be selected for his first All-Star Game
By Mark Newman
NEW YORK -- Stephen Vogt, 30, has never been to an All-Star Game or All-Star Week event in person. He grew up in the shadows of the giant sequoias in Visalia, Calif., and he grew up admiring giants on TV during Midsummer Classics past.
"A couple of my favorite All-Star memories have to start with the Home Run Derby, especially with Mark McGwire back in 1999 when he put on that display," said Vogt during a daytime visit to the MLB.com studios Wednesday. "Also one of my favorites is the Randy Johnson-Larry Walker moment [in 1997], when Walker turned the helmet around and hit right-handed. Those are probably my two favorites.
"[I have] been to World Series games, that kind of stuff, but I've never been to an All-Star Game."
Now, a dream is about to come true. After the A's play their series finale Sunday at Cleveland, the Oakland catcher and batterymate Sonny Gray will head downstate to Southwest Ohio, where they will take part in All-Star Week in Cincinnati, including the 86th All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Vogt was added as an American League reserve thanks to his peers via the Player Ballot.
"Just the whole experience itself, but the Home Run Derby is going to be kind of a special moment," Vogt said. "You get to sit out on the field and watch these guys launch balls 500 feet, and get to share that with the other players and kids. I'm excited to just see how that transpires, and how much fun it's going to be."
Vogt ranks first among AL catchers in average (.293), RBIs (54), on-base percentage (.381) and slugging percentage (.502), and his 13 home runs are tied for most with AL catchers Salvador Perez and Brian McCann.
Was it hard for Vogt not to think about the balloting that went on for more than two months?
"You try as hard as you can to block it out, but at the end of the day, you start thinking about it -- all the voting and the way fans came out and supported all of us," Vogt said. "I mean, it was such a great turnout from the fans to get that many votes for everybody. The fact that I had five million votes just blew me away."
Vogt said the selection by peers "took [his] breath away." He has played in 81 of Oakland's 86 games, including 60 behind the plate, 15 at first base and three as designated hitter. The regularity in the lineup has been a refreshing change for Vogt, and he has seized the opportunity.
"This game is so hard when you play every day, and when you don't play every day, it is a lot tougher," he said. "I've been fortunate enough to play every day this year, and knowing that you're going to be in the lineup, it helps you when you're going to the park every day... that's another reason why I'm having the year I am."
Gray is scheduled to pitch on Sunday, which means Tuesday would probably be a time to throw between starts anyway, so it is conceivable that a Gray-Vogt battery could happen.
"That would obviously be the perfect scenario," Vogt said. "Hopefully, he does get a chance to pitch. Obviously our regular-season games come first. If he does get an opportunity to pitch, obviously it would be a huge honor, and it would be a lot of fun to catch him. We'll just see what happens.
"[Gray] is the first person I caught when I got traded to the A's organization in Triple-A. We've been good friends and worked together a lot -- playoffs in 2013. Last year, I didn't get to catch much, but just being around him, and catching him a lot this year, it means a lot to be going with him. Because I think the way he pitches, and the recognition he gets, I think I kind of get tied in with that a little bit sometimes. He's so special of a pitcher and a person, and I'm truly honored to be going with him as a teammate and a friend."
Oakland is 14-8 over the past 22 games, and 25-17 (.595) since bottoming out at a season-high 16 games under .500 (14-30) at the conclusion of play on May 22. The A's entered Tuesday tied with Toronto for the best record in the AL since May 23. Can they play their way back into the 2015 AL West race, after a 2014 in which they started hot and then collapsed?
"I think so," Vogt said. "If you take away our first month, we're right there. Obviously, you can't do that, so we're kind of fighting. We dug ourselves a pretty deep hole. But we've been playing really good baseball lately. We've been playing a lot better in all aspects of the game.
"The thing about this A's team, it's the same every year: We're resilient and we fight. We're never gonna to give up. That's something that's been established with Billy Beane and Bob Melvin, down to us. We're not gonna quit. We're always going to try to win this thing. We definitely have the team to do it, and you never know what's going to happen at the Trade Deadline. I wouldn't be surprised if we make a push to get back in this thing."
The 86th All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile will be televised nationally by FOX Sports (7 p.m. ET air time, 8:15 first pitch), in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.