- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2000

ATLANTA With thinning, gray hair, it's hard for Mike Bordick to look much like a kid. But as the reality of making his first All-Star team continued to set it, the Baltimore Orioles' shortstop had little luck holding back a toothy, boyish grin.

Close to midnight Saturday, Bordick, 34, learned he had been picked to replace Seattle's Alex Rodriguez, the fans' choice to start at shortstop who withdrew because of injuries. Bordick was stoic during Sunday's game against Philadelphia, but surrounded by his fellow All-Stars in Atlanta yesterday it started to hit him.

"It's a tremendous honor, and it's very special," said Bordick, who will be an American League reserve when the 72nd All-Star Game commences tonight at Turner Field. "I never expected to get picked, so I wasn't disappointed when I wasn't originally named. But now that I'm here, this whole thing is pretty awesome."

As he answered reporters' questions yesterday, Bordick gave his best thoughtful look as the queries were posed. But as soon as he started talking, that grin began crawling across his face.

Bordick had been one of the media's favorite martyr stories this year, a player deserving to make the All-Star team who wouldn't get picked. He's hitting .303 with a career-high 14 home runs and 54 RBI but had little chance of being an All-Star because he plays the same position in the same league as Rodriguez, Boston's Nomar Garciaparra and the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter.

"It's not something I really thought about much because those three are three of the greatest players in the game. I never figured I had much of a chance," he said. "To make it at the expense of Alex, who is the best player in the game right now, is not what I wanted. I'd much rather be able to watch him on TV than for him to get hurt. He's a fun player to watch. I would have enjoyed sitting back and seeing him play."

Bordick has grown accustomed to being overlooked. Throughout his 10-year major league career, Bordick has been one of the more solid defensive players in the game. Last year he led AL shortstops in fielding percentage and total chances but was passed over for a Gold Glove, which went to Cleveland's slick-fielding Omar Vizquel.

"That was a little disappointing, I admit, but not too much," Bordick said. "It would have been nice to get it, but it didn't take anything away from how I played. But Omar Vizquel, he's amazing. He's so good with the glove. How can you complain when he gets picked?"

While Bordick likes watching Rodriguez, Jeter is a fan of Bordick. Though he didn't like to see his close friend Rodriguez get hurt, Jeter is glad Bordick got a chance to play in tonight's game.

"The silver lining [to Rodriguez being hurt] is that it does give a chance for a guy like Bordick to get recognized for being the player he is," Jeter said. "Defensively, he never seems to make a mistake. [He's] so consistent. I like watching how consistent he is."

Bordick admitted his All-Star moment is somewhat tempered because teammate Cal Ripken, who was voted a starter, is unable to play because of back inflammation.

"I never dreamed of playing in an All-Star Game with Cal. My dream is to be high-fiving him after winning the World Series," said Bordick, who will be the only Oriole in uniform tonight. "But it seems strange to be here and not have him here. I wish he was here he could introduce me to everybody."

Bordick's teammates were vocal in their support for him as an All-Star candidate. But even as he absorbed his first selection, Bordick still was stumping for his teammates.

"It's special and flattering that they were so supportive and wanted me to get picked," he said. "But to me, Charles Johnson and Albert Belle were more deserving. C.J. he's so consistent defensively and takes such a pounding and then goes out and puts up numbers like that. It's amazing. And Albert, he's so consistent. Year after year he's one of the best power hitters in baseball."

Bordick, a career .258 hitter, has increased his batting average and RBI total in each of his four seasons in Baltimore, something he attributes to Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley.

"We call the batting cage the hole, and he spends a lot of time working with us in the hole," Bordick said. "He's made me a better hitter. It's not really mechanical. Just a mental approach, getting you to know what to look for and what to expect and how to get yourself in good hitting situations."

Bordick had planned to spend the three-day All-Star break with his wife and four children, fishing at his cabin in the woods of his home state of Maine.

"I was really looking forward to that time, being with my kids," said Bordick, who was joined in Atlanta by wife Monica and daughter Chandler but not by his three sons, who were left with his parents in Maine. "With my schedule, this is the only time of year I get to be up there when it's not too cold. It would have been very relaxing, very nice… . But this is pretty nice too."

And with that, he broke into another grin.

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