Gifted players become more gifted as All-Stars Presents come with selection

July 11, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Major-league players know about luxury. They stay at the best hotels. They fly first-class, or not at all. They even get the best parking spaces at the ballpark.

That's nice.

And the All-Star Game is even nicer.

At this year's event, players will be showered with lots of gifts. They will attend several posh parties. Then, on Tuesday night, they will step onto the playing field and be met with an ovation that will crack every decibel record at Camden Yards.

It's not a bad way to spend a three-day break. And the more you know, the better it sounds.

Start with gifts. About the only thing the All-Stars do not get for coming to Baltimore is a paycheck. Continuing a tradition as old as the All-Star Game itself, they aren't paid. Not directly, at least. Instead, money from the game is used to support the players' pension fund.

Beyond that, the players clean up. They get an All-Star ring, a baseball autographed by their All-Star teammates, a team photograph, two free tickets to the All-Star Game, a pin and charm emblazoned with the All-Star logo, an All-Star program and media guide and a special -- and, as yet unannounced -- gift presented by the respective leagues. Last year, the American League gave its players a set of matching bookends and a picture frame lettered with the player's name.

As if that weren't enough, each year league officials figure out nTC additional nice things they can do for the players. Phyllis Merhige, AL vice president for media affairs, came up with an especially nice one last year.

"We learned that a lot of players came to the game on a mission: To buy [souvenir] T-shirts for the rest of the team," Merhige said. "They were going out and buying them, which wasn't the easiest thing, and then trying to get them back home."

Enter the AL. Merhige now provides the players with a handy T-shirt service. They simply fill out an order form, leave a shipping address and wait for the merchandise to arrive in their ++ clubhouses.

In return, the players are asked to give their time and, among other things, their autographs. Players are asked to sign 13 dozen baseballs, many of which are distributed to members of the teams and game umpires. Receiving a dozen balls each: the Orioles' front office, the office of the baseball commissioner, the AL and NL presidents.

Before the All-Stars can begin signing, they have to get here. Again, Merhige is the baseball official to know. For the past 14 years, she has manned the All-Star concierge desk, taking care of every little thing for AL players. Katy Feeney has a similar job with the NL team.

From the players' side, Merhige and Feeney oversee virtually every detail of the All-Star Game. They send out letters telling players they are on the team. They help with travel plans to the host city and, when the players arrive, tell them about their schedules for the week.

In their roles, the baseball officials are protective of the players and secretive about the details of their schedules leading up to Tuesday's game. The leagues are not disclosing publicly the hotel where the players will stay, hoping to shield them from herds of autograph seekers. Security is expected to be tight at several get-togethers for players.

"We want the players to sign autographs if that's what they want," Merhige said. "But they've given up a three-day break to come to the All-Star Game. We want them to have private time and to enjoy themselves with their families and friends."

Merhige and Feeney get a lot of special requests from players. Most -- such as a crib in the room or a last-minute call for baby-sitting -- they are able to handle easily.

Of course, there are always the stories of players who reach the All-Star Game filled with anticipation, but lacking parts of their uniforms.

Last year, Toronto pitcher Juan Guzman arrived in San Diego without his Blue Jays cap. League officials quickly went on a shopping trip to FanFest and picked up a replacement, Merhige recalled.

Several years ago, Benito Santiago, then of the San Diego Padres, came to the game without his baseball spikes. It did not appear to be a crisis -- Santiago was injured and would only be trotting out in uniform for pre-game ceremonies.

But the catcher decided he could not do this in someone else's shoes. His spikes arrived in the mail from San Diego the next day. "He wanted to be in full uniform when he went out to be introduced," Feeney said.

It's not always that easy. In 1985, Detroit's Lou Whitaker arrived at the All-Star Game in Minneapolis without his Tigers uniform. No one answered the phone in the clubhouse at Tiger Stadium. As game time approached, it was clear the real thing was not coming. He found some pants and socks that would do, but still was without a Tigers shirt.

What did Merhige do? The only thing she could.

"We ran out to a souvenir stand," she said, "and bought him another."

ALL-STAR LOOT

Players don't get aod I can't find this STYL. Try again! for paarticipating in the All-Star Game, but they are showered with gifts of all kinds. this year's haul includes:

* First-class airfare for the player and a guest to Baltimore.

* Up to three nights of hotel accommodations.

* $200 expense money.

* An All-Star ring.

* An All-Star Gift, pesented to the players by their respective leagues.

* Two tickets to the All-Star Game.

* A baseball autographed by the American or National league teams.

* A team phtograph.

* An All-Star pin and charm.

* Assorted major-league shirts and hats.

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