New kids on the block hit All-Star stage
Pedroia, Youkilis and Drew soaking in first Midsummer Classic
NEW YORK -- Though the Red Sox have become entrenched in the national spotlight the past few years, there was still a newness to Monday, when three of the club's seven All-Stars began experiencing the spectacle of the Midsummer Classic for the first time.
Even Dustin Pedroia, the diminutive second baseman who is known by his teammates as the ultimate chirper, couldn't help but be humbled by it all.
"He'll be a little church mouse," said Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "He's already kind of scoping out the scene. My first All-Star Game, I was a church mouse. You have a lot of guys in here who have a lot of time. It's just like I said, you're around a bunch of superstars, a lot of them have already paid their dues. A lot of them, not that you have to bend backwards for these guys, but you show them your respect."
Not to mention awe.
"It's fun," said Pedroia. "I hoped to be an All-Star one day. I didn't think it would happen this quick. I'm definitely excited. It's going to be a great time for me. I've never been through it, so every new guy, I'll go up and try to talk to him and learn from all these other guys, because they've done it for so long and been good for so long."
Making the experience more special for Pedroia is that he can share it with Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis and right fielder J.D. Drew, who are also All-Stars for the first time.
"We've definitely text messaged each other more the last 15 minutes than we have all year, because we don't know what the heck is going on," said Pedroia. "It's great though, I'm so happy for those two guys and every other All-Star on our team. We've had a great year and all those guys deserve it."
Speaking of Pedroia, he had no problem batting ninth so that Yankee Stadium fan favorite Derek Jeter could hit second. Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who is guiding the American League squad, consistently busts Pedroia's chops. So why should the All-Star Game be any different?
"He said he couldn't hit me 10th, so he had to hit me ninth," said Pedroia.
Youkilis will hit seventh. Along with Pedroia, he will be part of an AL infield that is all Red Sox and Yankees players. Jeter is at short, with Alex Rodriguez making the start at third.
"I think it's going to be really cool," said Youkilis. "I think it's going to be very fun to play with two of the best players across the diamond that are probably going to go down as Hall of Famers some day. It's going to be fun to play in the same infield and take some throws from those guys and be on the same field. [I] might not ever have that opportunity again, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts."
After not being on the All-Star ballot in his first two years, Youkilis has taken a big leap. And sharing it with Pedroia, a good friend and winter workout partner, clearly meant something.
"It's going to be great, because playing with Dustin, we have a lot of fun, we communicate well over there," said Youkilis. "We really just love playing the game. We feed off each other. We both have a lot of intensity. For us both to be sitting here and being All-Stars, we probably both wouldn't have believed it. It's going to be quite an experience for both of us."
Also soaking it all in was the talented Drew, who seemed on the verge of being an All-Star in a few seasons past, only to have injuries or a numbers game get in the way. With designated hitter David Ortiz stuck on the disabled list since June 1, Drew picked his game up about three notches, serving as no small reason the Red sox arrived at the All-Star break in first place in the AL East.
"It's pretty neat," said Drew. "You get to this point and you look out there, it's hard to believe you're a part of it, but it definitely is a special feeling for sure."
And like Youkilis and Pedroia, Drew confirmed that there was something unique about sharing the first-time experience with teammates.
"It's nice. Any time you have guys you can get in a corner with and say, 'Hey, what in the world is going on?' We've got to hide over here until we figure it out, follow the right guys," said Drew. "Yeah, it's a pretty special feeling to have so many teammates here, and to be playing for your own coaching staff is really neat."
For Ortiz, representing the Red Sox at the All-Star break for the fifth straight year is a little bittersweet this time around in that he can't play because of his left wrist injury. However, the big designated hitter is looking forward to Thursday, when he will begin his Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket.
"I'm doing good, my hand is doing good," said Ortiz. "I'm going to start my rehabilitation on Thursday, so if everything goes well, I'll be back with the team next week."
For Red Sox captain and catcher Jason Varitek, his third All-Star appearance was a bit of a surprise in that he's in the midst of his worst offensive season. The switch-hitter is batting .218 with seven homers and 28 RBIs.
To have the other players vote him in as a reserve is something Varitek didn't take for granted.
"It's just a phenomenal experience and just an honor," said Varitek.
It will be somewhat strange for Varitek, his All-Star teammates and coaching staff to move in to the home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.
"Of course it will," said Varitek. "We've played a lot of games in that venue against that team. I just hope they have a locker for me and I'm not sitting in the hallway."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.