PITTSBURGH -- Grady Sizemore looked around at the assemblage of All-Stars around him with a look that said, "How did I get here?" "You know you belong," Sizemore said Monday, surveying the scene at a media gathering before workouts for Tuesday's 77th annual All-Star Game at PNC Park began, "but you almost don't believe it." Sizemore, a first-time All-Star and the Indians' lone player representative at the game, better believe it. He's here among baseball's best for a reason, after all.
With a .291 average, 71 runs scored, 25 doubles, six triples, 15 homers and 43 RBIs at the break in his second full season, Sizemore has solidified himself as one of the game's brightest young stars. Of course, Sizemore has seen those numbers. He knows as well as anyone that his talent is emerging at a rate that belies his age of 23. But still ... an All-Star? Already? Even he has trouble believing it. "It's surreal," he said. "I didn't expect it to happen so fast, the way it did." The fact that Sizemore was surrounded by players he grew up watching in high school just further hammered home the surreal nature of his surroundings. If he wasn't so caught up in the day-to-day grind of his profession, Sizemore might take a moment to pat himself on the back for getting to this stage so quickly. But that just wouldn't be the humble, soft-spoken center fielder's nature. "I don't have time to reflect," he said. "It all came at me at once." Not long after making that statement, Sizemore got a taste of the hoopla that comes with being an All-Star, as two Japanese reporters came at him at once. In excited voices, they sputtered out questions in broken English and inquired about, among other things, how much he generally pays for a haircut (the answer was $30 to $40, for the record). Sizemore took in the humorous scene gracefully and couldn't help but bust out laughing when the reporters departed. "Those guys were animated!" Sizemore said with a smile. "They made me want to start yelling myself!" Such scenes aren't common during the regular season, making the All-Star experience all the more unique. It was an experience viewed in a much different context one table over, where Tribe manager Eric Wedge sat. Invited to the game as a special assistant coach for American League skipper Ozzie Guillen, Wedge looked as though he would have been much happier to be at home with his wife, Kate, and the couple's newborn daughter, Ava.
Still, even Wedge admitted that to be at the Midsummer Classic is a special feeling for anyone involved with the sport. "I'm just trying to give myself a little bit of a mental break," said Wedge, who has endured the disappointment of his Indians' 40-47 start to the season. "This is a good experience. I grew up watching the All-Star Game. To be a small part of it is nice." Where Wedge truly derived his pleasure, though, was from looking over at Sizemore. "The most exciting part of this is to watch Grady," Wedge said. "I have so much respect for the way he plays, his discipline and the way he carries himself. I'm just going to sit back in the corner and watch him play." That's the same basic approach Wedge has to take toward managing a player with Sizemore. When he pencils Sizemore into the lineup each day -- and that's been every day, as Sizemore has yet to miss a game this season -- Wedge knows the hustle and commitment he's going to get from his leadoff man. Wedge said he wishes that hustle could rub off on some of his other players. "It has [rubbed off] on some guys," Wedge said, "but not to the extent we'd like it to." The leadership aspect to Sizemore's career, Wedge guessed, will come with time. For now, he and the Indians are getting more than they could possibly hope for from the youngster. And Sizemore, through this All-Star appearance, is getting more than he could ever expect at this age. "It's almost overwhelming," he said. "It's just great to be a part of this."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.