Bell won't take All-Star appearance for granted

Bell won't take All-Star appearance for granted

Bell won't take All-Star appearance for granted
PHOENIX -- This is Heath Bell's third consecutive All-Star Game, but by no means has it become an obligation for the Padres' closer.

Bell, who has been described by his wife, former general manager and even teammates, as a "big kid" is treating his trip to Phoenix this week as a treat.

On Sunday, Bell loaded the family minivan with his wife of 10 years, Nicole, and their four children for the nearly six-hour drive to Phoenix and what figures to be his final All-Star appearance with the Padres.

Not before making one stop, though.

"I got [All-Star] jerseys made for all the kids, but they delivered them to PETCO Park ... so we picked them up on the drive out," Bell said. "It was fun. We played games, we listened to music and we watched movies.

"When the kids fell asleep, my wife and I listened to Justin Bieber. And we knew the words. Apparently, I'm a big Bieber fan."

To be sure, Bell is making sure he enjoys this All-Star trip, which is why the family is making a road trip of it. Bell's parents, Jim and Edwina, flew to Phoenix from their home in Texas to see their son pitch in the Midsummer Classic.

"I've never thought I would make one All-Star team, let alone three," he said.

Bell, who has more saves (115) than anyone in the Major Leagues since the start of the 2009 season, is a prime candidate to be moved in a deal before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Bell has 26 saves in 27 chances this season, is making $7.5 million and will be a free agent after the season. He said that San Diego will always be home for his family, which includes a recent teenager, daughter Jasmyne (13 years old), Jordyn (9) and two boys, Reece (7) and Rhett (21 months).

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But for where he'll be in three weeks? Bell can't say. A handful of teams are looking for either a closer or a late-inning reliever. Bell said he's willing to be a setup man but his preference, of course, is to close.

As for changing teams, Bell understands that the game is a business.

"It's part of the game," he said. "For the organization, I understand that sometimes you have to make changes."

The idea of leaving San Diego -- professionally, at least -- doesn't sit well with Bell, as he's grown from essentially being a no-name reliever, when he was obtained before the 2007 season from the Mets, to one of the top closers in the game.

Bell had a good mentor his first two seasons in San Diego -- all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. Bell learned a lot watching Hoffman go about his business as well as how he handled himself, in good times and bad.

"You've got to realize every day is a brand new day. You're only as good as the last time you played," Bell said. "I never saw Trevor get upset. He never dwelled on [blown saves] or let it linger."

Bell knows he will never be viewed by Padres fans the way they looked at Hoffman, who spent parts of 16 seasons in San Diego. But he knows he has a place in San Diego.

"I'm never going to forget the fans," Bell said. "I'll always take time to sign things, talk to kids, talk to parents and help in the community. That's why I'm playing. I wanted the fans to love me. The organization, that's another story.

"I've always felt that if I was doing things right, the fans would love me."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.