Cook revels in frenzy of All-Star events

Cook revels in frenzy of All-Star events

NEW YORK -- Aaron Cook perched his sunglasses atop his forehead and smiled in wonder.

Cook, the Rockies' 11-win right-handed pitcher, took in the scene at media day on Monday, the eve of his first All-Star Game -- the final one at Yankee Stadium. Reporters and television crews from around the world filled the room, gathering around tables set up for each player.

To Cook's right, Rockies teammate Matt Holliday, who will start the 79th Midsummer Classic in right field for the National League, was answering questions about himself, the disappointing start of his ballclub and, of course, trade rumors. But he'd been through it all the previous two years, so there was no awe.

Cook gawked without shame.

"This is a circus, definitely," he said.

Well, might as well be in the center ring. And Cook knows it's much better than being outside the main tent -- which is where he came to All-Star festivities in 2006 in Pittsburgh.

He was not with the All-Stars, where Holliday was experiencing the ritual for the first time. Cook was at FanFest along with Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and former Major League player and manager Jim Fregosi promoting awareness of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that leads to dangerous blood clots.

The few fans that recognized him knew him less for pitching than the fact he almost died doing it. Cook had blood clots in both lungs flare during an Aug. 7, 2004, game with the Reds, and a quick decision to move him to a Denver hospital saved him.

"Honestly, at that time, that's what I was known for, because that's what I'd gone through," Cook said. "But I was hoping to make an All-Star team, meaning I'd pitch better and give myself a chance to be there."

Cook (11-6, 3.57 ERA in 20 starts) tied Shawn Chacon's 2003 team record for wins for a starter before the break. He also became the third Rockies starter, after Mike Hampton in 2001 and Chacon in '03, chosen for the All-Star Game. Before this season, he had never won more than nine games in a year.

The All-Star trip, Cook admitted, is a nice break from a season that's been a breakthrough for him but a breakdown of the Rockies around him. After a deflating three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets, the Rockies enter the break 39-57 -- 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Diamondbacks in the NL West but needing to win 42 of their final 66 games to reach .500 on the year.

"Now that we're done with the first half, we're into the All-Star break, festivities have started, I'm able to kind of relax a little bit, start to think about the game and not really what happened with us in the first half," said Cook, who received some consideration to start before Rockies and NL manager Clint Hurdle went with the Brewers' Ben Sheets.

Holliday, who will bat sixth in the NL lineup, also felt his team needed a break. Before showing up at Shea Stadium, the Rockies had won seven of 10 contests.

"We did play terrible, but they [the Mets] played good," Holliday said. "We ran into a hot team.

"We have to start playing better. I don't think as a team our confidence was where it was. But I'm sure we started at a bad place last year when we started to get going. I don't think it's impossible."

Holliday dismissed the rampant trade talk as "speculation right now." He is signed through 2009, but the lack of a longer deal has fueled trade speculation. Holliday's agent, Scott Boras, attended the festivities and said there were no active talks with the Rockies.

But for now, Holliday said he was going to enjoy putting on his purple pinstripes and revel in playing right field, where Babe Ruth once wore Yankee pinstripes.

"The All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in the last year, I think, is probably something everybody in this room is extremely excited about," Holliday said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.