Tettleton merited all-star treatment

July 13, 1994|By Rob Parker | Rob Parker,Detroit Free Press

PITTSBURGH -- Forget his batting average. Don't look at his home run total. Ignore his RBIs. And so what if he's only caught 30 or so games behind the plate during the first half of the season.

None of it matters.

Mickey Tettleton is an All-Star and belonged here.

Tettleton, the Detroit Tigers' catcher, clearly earned his chance to rub elbows with the other shining stars of baseball. Maybe not this season, but definitely with his fine play in the two previous seasons.

Despite that play, however, Tettleton spent the past two All-Star breaks at home, watching the mid-summer classic on TV.

Still, Tettleton didn't whine. Not after Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly bypassed him in 1992. And not even after Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston didn't pick him last year.

Instead, and not surprisingly, Tettleton took his disappointment with class. Tettleton, who made his first All-Star team with the Orioles in 1989, knew his second appearance would come.

"I just feel like it's a great honor to be here right now," Tettleton said before the 65th All-Star Game at Three Rivers Stadium last night. "What happened in the past, happened in the past.

"I have the greatest respect for Tom Kelly, who was manager one year when I didn't make it, and for Cito."

And this wasn't some sympathy case, either. It was a make-up.

Give Gaston credit. He knew he was wrong for leaving Tettleton off the team a year ago. Gaston knew Tettleton deserved to be on the team as much as anyone. But with limited roster space and the rule that says all teams must be represented, Gaston couldn't find room on his roster for Tettleton.

"There are always going to be some guys left off," said Tettleton, who had 23 homers at the break last year, compared to 14 this season. "It's not easy for the managers to pick their ballclubs.

"But it's a problem that should probably be addressed -- as far as expanding the rosters."

It's not just about the money for going or the bonus in their contract if they make the team or the national TV exposure.

And it's not just about hitting a monster homer or striking out three big guns in a row. That's the fun for the fans. For the players, it's all about being around their peers in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Plus, it's also great to meet players from the other league.

"It's great to have the opportunity to sit in here with some of these guys that you go out and play against," Tettleton said. "And to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to them is wonderful because you have the greatest of respect and admiration for them.

"Now you're playing on the same team with them for a day. I know I'll enjoy it."

Too bad he can't say the same thing about the first half of the season. In a lot of ways, Tettleton's season resembles that of the Tigers. He was down. Then he was up. And then back down again.

"I've dealt with it the same way I try to deal with it every day," said Tettleton, who came from the Orioles in exchange for pitcher Jeff Robinson in 1991. "I go out and try to do the best I can and then go home."

For Tettleton, home right now is Detroit. It didn't look like it would be in the off-season. Tettleton's name came up in trade rumors every other day.

But the Tigers, and rightly so, didn't part with him.

"I hope whatever happens at the end of the year they can work out where I'm still with the Tigers," said Tettleton, who's on the last year of a three-year $8.5 million contract. "We've talked, but I wouldn't say it was anything real formal.

"At this stage right now, there isn't going to be much in the way of talks or trades for that matter."

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