No matter age, players bonded by first All-Star Game
No matter age, players bonded by first All-Star Game
By John Schlegel
There's a feeling that can be shared equally by a phenom bursting onto the scene and a respected journeyman finding his greatest success in his late 30s, and it's a feeling that can be experienced only once.
Being selected for the All-Star Game for the first time is something that young Manny Machado of the Orioles and elder statesman Jason Grilli of the Pirates will always have in common, two among a record number of 39 players who earned their first invitations to the Midsummer Classic, to be held Tuesday at Citi Field in New York.
The 39 first-timers, who include several injury replacements in the last week, eclipse the previous record of 35, set in 2011. The original 2013 rosters included 30 first-timers, but that number grew to record heights and well past 2012's total of 26.
Others making their first trip to the All-Star Game include a hitter who is crushing more home runs than anyone else in the Orioles' Chris Davis, a pitcher who is on a record-setting run to start the season in the Tigers' Max Scherzer and a host of other players representing some of the great stories that have played out thus far in 2013.
But it's hard to top the feeling for a player like Grilli, a reliever who has been around since 2000 and has experienced plenty of ups and downs in a career that has seen him wear six different uniforms. This is a definite up in a season that already has been special in Pittsburgh.
"I'm not here for the personal accolade, but it does reflect what you have put in to help the club win," said Grilli, who has a National League-leading 28 saves for the NL Central-leading Pirates. "The reaction I got from my teammates -- the support and the hugs -- probably had me choked up the most. I'm fighting back a lump in my throat right now.
"It's a highlight, personally. But I'd trade it for what we're trying to get to -- and if we do, [Pirates manager Clint] Hurdle will get to manage [the NL All-Stars] next year, and we can have even more of us there."
Grilli is one of a handful of players who have been around for some time, finally getting an All-Star nod added to their resume. No one has waited longer than Grilli, but Marco Scutaro comes close -- playing in his 12th season at age 37, the Giants are his sixth team, and his World Series run and a solid start to 2013 were instrumental in the honor.
Others like Tigers sensation Scherzer, Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez, the Indians' Justin Masterson and the Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion haven't been around as long, but they've been around long enough to embrace the honor with a special appreciation that might not be found early in one's career.
"At the beginning I was always thinking about the All-Star Game, playing in the playoffs, playing in the World Series," said Encarnacion, 30. "Now, here it is, my first All-Star Game, and the next goal is to make it to the playoffs."
Much of the rest of the crop of first-time All-Stars are early in their careers, from Machado, who celebrated his 21st birthday on July 6, and rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, to others making some impressive opening statements in their careers.
Among the pitchers who will make their first All-Star roster appearance, for instance, is Mets sensation Matt Harvey, who was tabbed as the National League's starter and led all starters in the players' vote with 287 to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw's 231. He was joined by the Giants' Madison Bumgarner, the D-backs' Patrick Corbin, the Pirates' Jeff Locke, the Cubs' Travis Wood and the Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann on the original NL roster, and the Giants' Sergio Romo, the Pirates' Mark Melancon and the Cardinals' Edward Mujica were added to the mix.
Pitchers making their first appearance for the American League include the Blue Jays' Brett Cecil, the White Sox Jesse Crain (on the disabled list), the Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma, Masterson, the Twins' Glen Perkins and Scherzer, the right-hander off to a 13-1 start. The Rays' Matt Moore, the A's Grant Balfour, the Royals' Greg Holland, the Orioles' Chris Tillman and Final Vote winner Steve Delabar of the Blue Jays were added after the initial rosters were formed. The American League also has a pair of newbie catchers, with the Astros' Jason Castro and the Royals' Salvador Perez making their debuts.
The NL infield is loaded with first-timers, with Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Brewers shortstop Jean Segura and Scutaro. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman won the Final Vote for his first All-Star nod, but he won't play because of injury.
In the AL, third baseman Machado and first baseman Davis represent the Orioles, joined by second baseman Jason Kipnis of the Indians, coming off a June performance that was nothing short of historic.
"Kip literally just played himself into the game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You couldn't keep him off the team."
Outfielders earning their first nod include Gomez and the Phillies' Domonic Brown in the NL, and the Royals' Alex Gordon in the AL.
There are personal stories abound, and for many it includes elation and a little bit of shock. Young and old, pitcher and position player, they all have one thing in common now.
For a second-year player like Corbin, the honor of joining the elite in the game in the same clubhouse at Citi Field is more than could be imagined.
"I never thought in a million years that I would be an All-Star or even play professional baseball, so just hearing about it is neat," Corbin said.
For a 30-year-old such as Perkins who finally is finding his way in the Majors, it's a bit surreal.
"I think it still hasn't sunk in," Perkins said. "It's a goal that everyone has once they play in the Major Leagues."
How teams are faring certainly has a bearing on the introduction of new All-Star talent. Grilli, for instance, joins with Alvarez and Locke to give the Pirates three first-timers headed to the game along with Andrew McCutchen, making his third appearance.
The Orioles, meanwhile, have three starters for the fourth time in an illustrious club history, and Davis leads the way, having claimed this year's top vote total with 8,272,243 votes. He and Machado are the only All-Star rookies among the Orioles' four representatives, joining J.J. Hardy (second) and Adam Jones (third).
And the Cardinals, one win away from the World Series a year ago and off to a strong start in 2013, have a pair of newbies among their five All-Stars, with Craig and Carpenter both getting recognition as they establish themselves as key parts to one of the National League's powerhouses.
"I never could have imagined that I would be in this position. I obviously worked hard to be in the big leagues," said Craig, who burst onto the national scene in the Cardinals' 2011 run to glory. "To win a World Series and to make my first All-Star team is pretty darn special."
"I know how many great players there are in this league and how hard it is to do this," Carpenter said. "You look at guys who had great careers, who never had an opportunity to play in this game. I didn't expect anything, honestly. I would have been fully, completely understanding if I didn't [make the roster]. There are a lot of good players. It's just a real thrill."
With the rosters set, there's still voting to be done. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday night. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
NATIONAL LEAGUE (21)
Madison Bumgarner, Giants
Patrick Corbin, D-backs
Jose Fernandez, Marlins
Jason Grilli, Pirates
Matt Harvey, Mets
Jeff Locke, Pirates
Edward Mujica, Cardinals
Mark Melancon, Pirates
Sergio Romo, Giants
Travis Wood, Cubs
Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Everth Cabrera, Padres
Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
Allen Craig, Cardinals
Freddie Freeman, Braves
Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs
Marco Scutaro, Giants
Jean Segura, Brewers
Domonic Brown, Phillies
Carlos Gomez, Brewers
AMERICAN LEAGUE (18)
Grant Balfour, A's
Brett Cecil, Blue Jays
Jesse Crain, White Sox (DL)
Steve Delabar, Blue Jays
Greg Holland, Royals
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
Justin Masterson, Indians
Matt Moore, Rays
Glen Perkins, Twins
Max Scherzer, Tigers
Chris Tillman, Orioles
Jason Castro, Astros
Salvador Perez, Royals
Chris Davis, Orioles
Jason Kipnis, Indians
Manny Machado, Orioles
Alex Gordon, Royals
Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. Reporters Jordan Bastian, Rhett Bollinger, Gregor Chisolm, Steve Gilbert, Jenifer Langosch and Tom Singer contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.