All-Star Game another twist in closer's journey

Left-hander says 'everything' regarding experience is exciting

George Sherrill

July 15, 2008|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun reporter

NEW YORK - Of all the 2008 All-Stars, Orioles closer George Sherrill might have taken the most circuitous route here, a non-drafted free agent who spent parts of five seasons in independet leagues before finally getting a chance to play affiliated baseball at age 26.

So perhaps it was fitting that his actual trip to the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game didn't go smoothly, either.

Sherrill's Sunday night flight from Boston to New York after the Orioles' first-half finale at Fenway Park was canceled because of inclement weather in New York City.

"It was supposed to be [bad] weather coming through and we get here and there was no weather," Sherrill said.

Instead of attempting to scramble for another flight, he shared a chauffeured town car with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer and a MASN producer. It took three-plus hours, and they didn't get into New York City until around 11:30 p.m.

He was tired, but not discouraged. The 31-year-old left-hander wasn't going to let a travel snag take the shine off his week.

"It's the All-Star Game, it's in New York and it's the last season here," Sherrill said. "There are going to be a lot of Hall of Famers here and so it is an honor to be named to this team and to rub elbows with these guys and with Hall of Famers."

The drive from Boston was a chance for Sherrill, in his first year as an Oriole, to spend quality time with the organization's greatest pitcher and to hear some of Palmer's infinite and entertaining baseball tales.

"He has a lot of stories and you just kind of let him go with them," Sherrill said. "It's amazing how many facts he has from way back when. He was telling me the starting rotation from A-ball and all their records, win-loss records, for the rotation. He's unbelievable."

Before the week is over, Sherrill said he hoped to chat with New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and the other four American League All-Star relievers and share pointers on handling the job. He also was looking forward to meeting Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer George Brett, whom he grew up watching.

Truthfully, there wasn't one aspect of the experience he wasn't excited about.

"Kind of everything," Sherrill said. "The Home Run Derby always looks fun. You've got all the guys out there with their camcorders and everything filming it. That should be fun."

He even enjoyed the 50-minute, free-for-all media session yesterday afternoon. There was rarely more than a handful of reporters around Sherrill at one time, but there was a constant stream.

Seattle-area reporters wanted his take on becoming an All-Star after being traded by the Mariners in February. National reporters wanted to know more about his rags-to-riches story and his 14-hour bus rides in the independent Frontier League. Fantasy baseball reporters wanted to know if he could duplicate his 28-save first half.

And a few offbeat reporters wanted to know about his flat-brimmed hat.

"What's the heaviest object you can balance on your brim and walk to the mound?" one reporter asked.

"Maybe a cup of coffee," Sherrill said.

"Would you be willing to try it?"

"No," Sherrill said, with a laugh.

"What about a regular-sized bowling trophy?"

"That might be a little heavy," Sherrill responded.

Another guy asked Sherrill if he could balance a full cup of Gatorade on his hat and then followed up with whether his brim was baseball's best fashion statement.

In case you're wondering, Sherrill doesn't think so.

"It was fun. There were a lot of good questions, a lot of weird questions. And a lot of hat questions."

The primary question on Sherrill's mind going into tonight's game is whether he'll get a chance to pitch. American League manager Terry Francona wouldn't commit to his pitching order, besides starter Cliff Lee, but the speculation is that Rivera will likely pitch the ninth.

Sherrill guessed that the majors' saves leader, the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez, might pitch the eighth with Boston's Jonathan Papelbon getting seventh-inning duty. That means Sherrill might get some action in the sixth, perhaps facing one or two left-handers.

And what if he doesn't get in at all? He said he genuinely wouldn't be upset. Not after his difficult journey - literally and figuratively - to get here.

"I think being able to pitch would probably top it all off," he said. "But if I don't, it's not the end of the world."

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