At All-Star party, Tejada in mood to kid around

July 11, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

PITTSBURGH -- Once awake and alert yesterday afternoon, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada had his hands full during the All-Star media session at the Westin Hotel here.

It had nothing to do with pointed questions from reporters, who largely ignored Tejada's tumultuous last year, in which quality offensive numbers meshed with change-of-scenery demands, trade rumors, occasional tardiness and accusations of tainted vitamins.

No, Tejada's hands were more literally full, as he attempted to engage the media while his 4-year-old son Miguel Jr. - aka Little Miggy - poked and prodded and wiggled and squirmed by his father's side.

It was a scene any parent could relate to - with rambunctious Little Miggy petting microphone covers and dislodging wall curtains and seizing his dad's silver crucifix necklace with his little hands while Tejada, neck craned, continued to talk under bright camera lights.

It was a funny scene that almost didn't unfold. When the rest of the American League squad entered the conference room for media day, Tejada was absent.

His cell phone was turned off and he didn't answer his hotel room door, alarming his handlers and an Orioles official. Twenty minutes into the one-hour session, though, Tejada finally arrived, later acknowledging that he had fallen asleep in his room and hadn't heard the calls of rescue.

No damage was done, and once he settled in under his All-Star placard, Tejada smiled and began politely answering every question posed to him, often switching from English to Spanish as a large Latin contingent grew. Most questions were soft-edged, ranging from his excitement to be at the All-Star Game for a third consecutive year to his inclusion in last night's annual Home Run Derby, an event he won in 2004. Tejada failed to advance from the first round last night.

There also was talk about 2006, and what's ahead for the Orioles.

"I feel good, I felt like I had a great first half," said Tejada, who led the struggling Orioles in batting average (.315), homers (17) and RBIs (62).

"I think we are all prepared for the second half and we are waiting for the good moments," Tejada said. "A lot of teams haven't had good moments yet, and I think in the second half the Orioles team is going to have a lot of exciting play. And I think that is something everybody is waiting for."

When he signed a six-year, $72 million deal with the club three years ago, he envisioned an up-and-coming team that would compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox annually. Instead, the Orioles are again stuck in fourth place. But Tejada said he still believes the team can be a factor in the American League East.

"Every day. Every day," Tejada said. "I came here to win. I didn't come here to make some money. I didn't come here just to be in the game one day in, one day out. No, I came here to improve the Orioles and have a chance to win."

Because the Orioles are seemingly headed for their ninth straight sub-.500 season, and since Tejada said in December that he was tired of losing, he is continually the subject of trade rumors despite the Orioles' insistence they aren't dealing him.

It took 15 minutes for the trade question to be asked yesterday. When it was, Tejada again professed his desire to stay in Baltimore. "I don't think I'll go to somebody else, I know I am going to be [playing] in the second half with the Orioles," he said. "I am an Oriole right now, and I don't want to go, I don't think I am going to go anywhere. If something happens, it happens, but I want to stay."

Tejada also has been accused of not being as high energy as he was in the past, but he said that is a misconception.

"That doesn't bother me, because it is not [true]," Tejada said. "At one point when you lose, everything is down. But I'm not down. I'm never down. But when you lose you have to be careful what you are doing, because I don't want people to think we're joking around."

That's about as edgy as yesterday's inquiries got. Tejada seemed to enjoy the loose interplay without being peppered about more serious subjects like baseball's link to performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, he said he loves everything about All-Star week - even the media.

But he probably didn't enjoy himself as much as Little Miggy, who at one point wandered away from his dad's conference and climbed onto the lap of Boston slugger David Ortiz for a photo opportunity.

"He gets used to this," Tejada said of his preschooler. "Now, every time I come to the All-Star Game he wants to sit with the major leaguers."

When asked if Little Miggy's presence could help him during the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, Tejada kissed his son on the head and said, "He's been bringing me luck my whole career."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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