Part of the reason Eduardo Nunez never got a chance to be an everyday infielder in New York was that he was stuck behind the likes of second baseman Robinson Cano in the Yankees' depth chart.
Three years later, in a funny twist of fate, Nunez -- now an everyday starter in Minnesota -- appeared as a late-inning substitute for Cano. But this time, it was in the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, a 4-2 victory for the American League on Tuesday night, and Nunez was thrilled to be able to share a clubhouse with Cano again and his fellow Dominicans in such a meaningful setting.
"This was a special game for young Dominican players like me, being here with David Ortiz." Nunez said. "Cano is like my father. I made my first [All-Star appearance], and I hope to make a lot more in career and keep making my dreams come true."
Nunez, the Twins' lone representative in San Diego, was welcomed with open arms by his countrymen and former teammates alike, including Cano, Dellin Betances, Carlos Beltran and Edwin Encarnacion, with whom he maintains friendships.
Nunez, who is known more for his breakout season at the plate than for his defense, didn't have a chance to wield his hot bat against the NL's best arms despite hitting .321/.347/.489 with 12 home runs in a surprising first half. But he isn't complaining after the first All-Star appearance of his seven-year career.
"You work hard, starting as a young child, to get to a game like this," said Nunez, whose wife, sons, mother, aunts and uncles were in the stands. "This was very special."
The Twins' shortstop sat the first eight innings and replaced his former teammate at second base in the ninth inning.
Nunez was the first Twins infielder to appear in the Midsummer Classic since Justin Morneau in 2009.
He was involved in all three outs in the ninth, catching a forceout of Paul Goldschmidt at second before serving as the middle man in the game-ending double play off the bat of Nolan Arenado.
"It's good to see a guy coming up that has been a utility player his whole career and gets a chance to play every day," Cano said. "In his mind, he probably never thought he was going to be an All-Star, because he was a utility guy. But that just shows you've got to give players a chance sometimes."
Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.