ST. LOUIS -- For the briefest of moments, the "happy to be here" mentality that had dominated the early hours of Heath Bell's trip to St. Louis vanished. Bell had just served up the winning run at Busch Stadium, making him the third Padres pitcher to lose an All-Star Game in the last four years.
"I threw my glove, kicked a door like I normally do," Bell said. "But then I realized, hey, I've been pitching really good lately. I kind of needed a wakeup call. And this was a very good wakeup call because this doesn't count on my record. I didn't ruin it for the Padres, my ultimate team." And so whatever anguish Bell felt as he walked off the mound vanished, replaced by the early memories of his first All-Star Game. One of the National League's best relievers had spent his morning at FanFest, his afternoon hugging the President and his evening pitching in a tie game. In the end, there was disappointment. But he refused to let it linger. "It was fun and it was exciting," Bell said. "I'm still kind of humbled that I'm as good as the rest of these guys." Entrusted to maintain a tie in the eighth inning, Bell -- proceeding without a scouting report in what he likened to "driving blind" -- allowed a one-out triple to Curtis Granderson, before intentionally walking Victor Martinez and serving up the go-ahead sacrifice fly to Adam Jones. The NL lost, 4-3, making Bell the third Padres pitcher to lose an All-Star Game since 2006. Trevor Hoffman lost the game that year; Chris Young the next. His teammate, who was given the unenviable task of replacing hometown favorite Albert Pujols at first base, tried to pick him up by drawing a walk in the bottom of the inning. But Gonzalez was stranded on third base when Joe Nathan struck out Ryan Howard on a pitch in the dirt. And so a day after an exhausting adventure through the Midwestern states, Bell and Gonzalez left St. Louis on something of a sour note. Arriving here was a challenge for the Padres duo, whose flight was delayed after they decided to take a miniature vacation and connect through Las Vegas and Indianapolis on their way to St. Louis. Rather than wait for the flight and risk missing Monday's session with the media, the two rented a van and sped west on Interstate 70, arriving about an hour before their press conferences were due to begin. There, they spoke about the first halves of their seasons -- Gonzalez of his 24 homers and 52 RBIs, Bell of his 1.69 ERA and 23 saves in 24 chances. Playing in his second straight All-Star Game and the second of his career, Gonzalez became something of a guide for Bell, who is new to all this. Hours before the game, Bell was buzzing around the National League clubhouse, enlisting an attendant to acquire autographs from all of his All-Star teammates. During the game's opening ceremonies, he brought his camera out to the field, just as he had at the State Farm Home Run Derby. And he made sure to ask manager Charlie Manuel if he would be needed early in the game, so that he would know when he had to ditch the camera. He wanted to chronicle every possible moment of his first All-Star experience. "It's a huge accomplishment," Bell said before the game. "But then again, I know after this is said and done, people are going to want to try and get me because now I'm an All-Star. But dude, I'm having a blast. I'm going out there with my camera again, and I'm going to take pictures." Gonzalez, whether due to less caffeine or more experience, was more subdued as he lounged across the NL clubhouse. He had already spent himself during the previous evening's Home Run Derby, mustering two long balls on what he called "adrenaline mode," thanks to virtually no sleep. Still, the gravity of the day and of the All-Star election was not lost on Gonzalez, one of the National League's premier power hitters. "It's a great honor," he said. "I'm very grateful for everybody, all the players that got me in here. It's exciting to be here, and I'm just trying to have as much fun as I can."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.