KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inside the National League’s clubhouse Tuesday afternoon the atmosphere was a relaxed but busy one. Players were being shuffled to and from media appearances, jerseys were being wheeled around the room for the players to sign and take home as keepsakes.
To no one’s surprise, Gio Gonzalez’s iPod was the one blaring through the speakers so at least his Nationals teammates felt right at home.
A few players exchanged signed items (Matt Cain came over to ask Bryce Harper if he had a Nationals hat he could sign in exchange for Cain’s signed Giants’ cap, and then told Harper he was about to go sell it) and others gathered around and played cards in a more normal clubhouse activity.
– A few minutes earlier, Harper and Angels phenom Mike Trout, two of the youngest All-Stars in history, held a joint press conference.
Here’s some of what they had to say about their All-Star experience:
Harper on what he’s gleaned from these few days: “I think coming into these clubhouse you just try to sit back and just watch what everybody’s doing and see what they’re saying. Fit in a little bit. Talk. We’re around the best players in baseball. It’s a great time to be here. It’s a lot of fun. Just try to learn from it and take something from everybody. Coming into this, you just try to have as much fun as you can. Just try to smile and try to win.”
Trout: “Sit back. Take it all in. I got a lot of advice before I came here that it’s going to go quick. The Derby went last night? It’s already over. Just sit back and take it in. It’s your first All-Star Game. You can’t go back again to have another first one. Just to have time to spend with family and meet everybody in the clubhouse and just seeing how they react, it’s incredible.”
The two, who became friendly playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, were also asked about their friendship:
“We don’t like each other,” Trout joked.
“It’s like Bird and Magic,” Harper chimed in. “He’s Magic and I’m Bird.
Asked if there was any chance for a burgeoning rivalry, Harper laid that theory to rest right away.
“I hope I play with him one day,” he said. “I can tell you that. I think him playing center, me playing right, that’d be a pretty good one-two punch.”
– Washington Nationals principal owner Ted Lerner, his wife Annette and their daughter Marla Tannenbaum were on the field during batting practice just taking in the scene. Lerner, who is rarely spotted on the field pre-game, was reveling in the Nationals’ three All-Star players as well as the season his team has put together.
They posed for pictures with Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez and Harper, offered hugs and handshakes to all three and expressed how thrilled they were to be there several times. For Lerner, who bought the team in 2006, his patience being rewarded with what could be the finest season in Nationals’ history was an obvious point of pride. He was impressed with how well the team has overcome significant injuries and looked forward to what could be an exciting second half of the season.
The Lerner family said they’ve truly enjoyed their experience in Kansas City this week and expressed hope that they could help bring the All-Star Game to Washington in the not-so-distant future. As we wrote earlier today, it could be as soon as 2015.
– Here’s an interesting stat dug up by my colleague Mark Zuckerman: 24 of the last 31 teams who’ve had home field advantage in the World Series have won it — and the last nine Game 7’s have been won by the home team. So in case you were wondering how much this game counts, it seems to count an awful lot.
– We’re underway here in KC and Gio Gonzalez is already warming in the visitors’ bullpen. Gonzalez will pitch the second inning tonight and Stephen Strasburg is slated to pitch the third.
When Bryce Harper will be used, though, will remain a mystery. Enjoy the game, everyone.