Nunez's All-Star experience 'dream come true'

Named to 1st Midsummer Classic, shortstop heeds advice of Molitor, Jeter

Nunez's All-Star experience 'dream come true'

SAN DIEGO -- Eduardo Nunez didn't have to go far for advice about how to approach his first All-Star Game. He started in his clubhouse, then he picked up his phone.

Nunez was one of the most unexpected success stories to march through the Manchester Grand Hyatt halls during Monday's All-Star media availability. The seven-year veteran was a utility player to begin the season, started off hot and capitalized on the opportunities provided by injuries to Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Escobar.

As a result of his remarkable consistency amid an otherwise-disappointing first half for the Twins, Nunez is an All-Star, Minnesota's only representative at Petco Park for tonight's All-Star Game presented by MasterCard (coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT on FOX).

Before leaving for San Diego on Sunday, Nunez reached out to at least two trustworthy mentors: Paul Molitor, his manager, and Derek Jeter, his former teammate and the icon he once appeared in line to replace.

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Molitor has been a valuable resource for Nunez the past two years, and Nunez has rewarded his trust this season by being Minnesota's most consistent performer. Molitor also made seven All-Star teams during his 21-year playing career, so Nunez knew who to ask before leaving for San Diego.

"I always ask him how to handle it, how he keeps himself outside of the situation, don't think too much about those things," Nunez said. "He's really good about it."

So was Jeter, and Nunez got to see it firsthand with the Yankees from 2010-13. So Nunez texted his former teammate late last week, looking for advice. What did Jeter say in response?

"'Enjoy,'" Nunez said. "'And text me after my wedding.'" (Jeter married longtime girlfriend Hannah Davis on Saturday.)

Much of Nunez's success this year, he said, is simply a product of more playing time. As a part-timer, he struggled to find a rhythm at the plate and in the field.

Over his first six seasons in the Majors, Nunez hit .267/.308/.388 while averaging 69 games and 207 plate appearances per year. With this season a little more than halfway over, he's three plate appearances from a new career high and batting .321/.347/.489 with a career-high 12 home runs and 40 RBIs.

Nunez's two-run homer

"It's tough when you have one game every week," Nunez said. "How are you going to keep your timing?"

Nunez heard the encouragement from a high-profile group of baseball friends -- Albert Pujols, Edwin Encarnacion, Marcell Ozuna, Jean Segura and Robinson Cano among them.

"They always told me, 'You need a chance to play and you can prove what you can do,'" Nunez said.

He also put in work with Cano in the offseason, tweaking his swing to incorporate more loft and power. That work landed Nunez in the same room as Cano on Monday afternoon, both of them All-Stars.

"It's my dream come true," Nunez said, a smile glued to his face. "I'm going to enjoy it."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.