Classic's first-timers pinching themselves

Camera-toting `rookies' look around in wonder at famed teammates

All-Star notebook

Baseball

July 09, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE - Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski walked into the Grand Ballroom at the Pfister Hotel yesterday, looked around at the likes of A-Rod, Ichiro and Nomar, and suddenly felt very out of place.

The Minnesota teammates and All-Star first-timers felt like awestruck kids - or youngsters watching television, at least.

"You ever watch Sesame Street?" Guardado said. "I feel like I'm the thing that just ain't like the others. I feel like I'm the guy that just doesn't belong here."

They weren't the only ones who are wide-eyed. There are 29 "rookies" at this year's All-Star Game, including four starters: Hunter, Philadelphia's Scott Rolen, Boston's Shea Hillenbrand and the Yankees' Alfonso Soriano. That's the most since the 1988 game in Cincinnati.

American League manager Joe Torre, who last year managed first-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki, said one of his biggest thrills is picking first-timers because he remembers his first time in 1963 as if it were yesterday.

"It's pretty incredible, and for me it was a great experience for a kid who's 22, 23 years old at the time," Torre said. "And that's why, when I sort of have a chance, with everything being equal, I like to go with first-timers. We've got 14 first-timers on the squad this year."

Leaky roof

Miller Park's roof sprang a leak during last night's Home Run Derby.

As the New York Yankees' Jason Giambi batted in the finals against the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa, thunder boomed, lightning crackled and water began streaming into the loge section behind home plate.

"Of course, nobody ever wants to see a leak, but we are somewhat vulnerable depending on the direction of the wind and the rain volume," said Scott Jenkins, the vice president of stadium operations. "But the event went on and everybody had a great time, and a few people got a few drops.

"We had pretty good winds from the west, and the rain got between the joints of the paneling. It's unrealistic to have 10 acres of roof that moves and not have a drop of rain."

Honoring Williams

The All-Star Most Valuable Player award will be named after Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who died Friday at 83.

The first winner of the Ted Williams Award will be selected after tonight's game, Major League Baseball announced yesterday.

A tribute to Williams during the game is also set. Williams, the last player to hit better than .400 in a season, played in 18 All-Star games, batting .304 with four homers and 12 RBIs.

Weight off Torre

It would have been a tough decision, but Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez let American League manager Torre off the hook when he decided not to attend this year's All-Star Game.

That left teammate Derek Lowe, who is tied for the AL lead with 12 victories and leads the league with a 2.36 ERA, as the obvious choice to start the game for the AL.

Maybe Lowe should have been the obvious choice to begin with, but Torre seemed to indicate during yesterday's All-Star news conference that he would have gone with Martinez if both had showed up in Milwaukee.

Crowd at short

Torre might have a harder time dealing with his rotation of five shortstops as opposed to the nine pitchers.

"I'm not sure they will all play shortstop," Torre said yesterday.

"I'll get as many in as I can. With the National League rules, there will be a lot of double-switching going on to keep the pitchers from having to hit. So probably for that regard, we'll get most of the shortstops in."

Alex Rodriguez will start the game for the AL, with Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Omar Vizquel and Miguel Tejada backing up. Torre said Jeter might only pinch hit after spraining his left knee Thursday.

A pass on Mussina

Former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina was one of the American League's winningest pitchers in the first half, with 11 victories, but he was not one of the six Yankees to make the AL team.

"In Mussina's case, I think he had 11 wins at the time I picked the pitchers and he was probably chosen by a lot of other managers," Torre said. "But I didn't think, and probably because I watched him every start, that he had pitched up to his own potential. So I talked to Mike about that and he said it's your choice. I made the choice not to take him."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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