The All-Star Game is baseball’s ultimate learning lab. The best of the best teammates exchange stories and secrets for a split second. Gone are the days when Bob Gibson roared in revelry, indifferent to his friendship with his nemesis-turned-teammates.
“You can always learn from anyone, especially when you’re surrounded by longtime baseball masterminds,” said first-time All-Star pitcher Pablo Lopez with the Minnesota Twins. “I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can.”
Lopez is not alone. Tuesday’s All-Star Game at home of the Seattle Mariners was once the setting for Roy Halladay to learn the cutter grip from Mariano Rivera. On that day in 2008, Halladay ran his finger over the ball and held it for the rest of his life. It is in his display case at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
The Yankees’ sacred closer, Rivera, believed that grip on the pitch was unique to an individual’s physiology and didn’t seek advice from others. He was more of a shaman, a man of wisdom whose mere presence inspired his teammates.
“I caught him in his last All-Star game, 2013 New York,” said Kansas City Royals veteran catcher Salvador Perez. “It meant a lot to me to get him. I started working harder to be like him.”
Perez currently has eight All-Star selections, the most of any active roster in the American League. (11-time Los Angeles Angels All-Star outfielder Mike Trout is recovering from wrist surgery.) This time around, Perez is the first All-Star outfielder on a divisional rival team, outfielder Luis Robert Jr. I have a locker next to it. He plays for the Chicago White Sox and said it would be fun to get to know him better.
This event is a rare opportunity for players to enjoy competitive games in a relaxed environment. From 2003 to 2016, the winning league gave the World Series varsity home field advantage, but now the All-Star Game is just an exhibition. For some players, probably most, just having fun is enough.
“Honestly, I try to eliminate the baseball part as much as possible,” said Toronto Blue Jays infielder Whit Merrifield, a three-time All-Star. “It’s been great to see Shohei a few times and get to know Trout a bit. Sharing the locker room with the elite players and getting to know them on a personal level feels really good. .”
Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ two-way dynamo, is a star of stars and a revered figure among the elite.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Shane McClanahan, who started the American League at Dodger Stadium last July, said, “What is great about these greats, what is their thought process, what is the effort to get there? I really wanted to know if it was,” he said. “I had a lot of conversations with Shohei, and I thought it was great. I have a lot of respect for him and his style of play.
Texas Rangers infielder Marcus Semien, who starts second base in the American League, said he wished he’d asked more questions as he made his first All-Star appearance in 2021. He has learned that some players are just different, but not all. Skills can be converted between stars.
“Just watching a player like Aaron Judge hit the ball hard in the cage on TV or in a match, it sounds crazy up close,” Semien said. “That’s something I would never be able to do. But I try to work with what I have.”
Former Yankees giant slugger and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield caught the eye of Yankees top contender Spencer Jones in Saturday’s Futures game. Class-A Hudson Valley outfielder Jones, 6-foot-7, said Winfield was happy to share tips.
“He’s like, ‘I like talking to tall guys, because the little guys have a little bit more influence,'” Jones says. He said he had to make three big changes throughout his career to find the right hitter, who later became a powerhouse. He didn’t notice the power right away.He believes things will come in time.”
Former Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds, who coached in the Futures Game, made his first All-Star appearance in 1987 and quizzed Cal Ripken Jr. on his famous endurance. Ripken set a record streak of 2,632 appearances in five years.
“The first year I played a full season, I thought I was mono. I was so tired,” Reynolds said. “And he said to me, ‘I need to change the ounce of the bat.’ I remember it clearly.”
Mariners alumni are everywhere during All-Star Week. Ken Griffey Jr. watched most of Saturday’s Futures game from the top bunk of the National League dugout, chatted with Chicago Cubs prospect Pete Crow Armstrong, and was the No. 1 pick on Sunday. announced.
“He’s one of a kind–I mean, like everyone else, it’s Ken Griffey Jr.If you ask me about swings and things like that, you’re doing the wrong thing,” said Crowe Armstrong, who was traded to Chicago for long-term outfielder Javier Baez. “We had a long, fun conversation about casual things. It was a lot of fun.”
The last time the All-Star Game was held in Seattle in 2001, Griffey was during a stint with the Mariners when the venue had eight AL rosters. The Atlanta Braves currently have eight national team players in the National League, while the Rangers have six in the American League, including five starting pitchers.
Judge was selected as the starting outfielder but is on the disabled list due to a torn ligament in his right big toe. The Yankees’ lone All-Star, Gerrit Cole, will start in the American League against Zach Gallen of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The 2001 All-Star Game also featured a pitching duel between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks between Roger Clemens and Arizona’s Randy Johnson. It was also the first All-Star Game of his career for 22-year-old Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners’ current star player. Rodriguez was selected to the All-Star Team as a backup outfielder. That’s good news for the Mariners’ young sons Gunnar and Declan Gray. Twins pitcher Sonny Gray.
“He’s their favorite player right now. That’s great and a good role model for them,” Gray said. “He’ll do his thing and they’ll be on the field so maybe they’ll be able to say ‘what’s wrong’ to him.”
Gray’s Minnesota teammate Lopez has more to say about another Mariner, George Kirby, who leads the major leagues in strikeouts-to-walk ratio. Lopez, 27, was in the big leagues, while Kirby was still pitching at Elon University in North Carolina. But in such an environment, knowledge can come from anywhere.
“He throws a ton of strikes, challenges everyone at everything and looks very comfortable on the mound,” Lopez said. “I’m going to tell him I’m a huge fan of his, congratulate him, and talk to him about pitching. If I get a chance to talk to him about baseball, I’m going to make the most of it.”