Mets pair enjoys Classic despite NL loss
Up-and-down game for Wright, Wagner, but a great experience
NEW YORK -- Billy Wagner isn't quite sure why he was invited to the White House, but he does know one thing -- when the President of the United States asks you to come over for dinner and cocktails, you go.
"It's not every time a guy like me gets invited to the White House," Wagner said.
The dinner is scheduled for Wednesday. Wagner will attend the function with his agent instead of his wife, Sarah, who will stay behind to accompany their oldest son, Will, to his baseball game.
Wagner was a bit unclear about the details, except that he'll be dining with President George W. Bush and the First Lady, Laura Bush, whom he met on several occasions when he was a member of the Houston Astros' pitching staff.
A White House representative called Mets publicity director Jay Horwitz a few days ago to get the ball rolling. Wagner recalled a panicked Horwitz giving him the message.
"He says, 'The White House called! You need to call the White House!'" Wagner said, laughing.
The visit with the President is just one of many of run-ins Wagner has had with dignitaries this week. He and teammate David Wright were part of an All-Star pregame ceremony on Tuesday involving more than 40 Hall of Famers, including former closer Goose Gossage, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this month.
"Just seeing everybody out there, the Hall of Famers ... just to be a part of it was a blast," Wagner said.
Wagner was long out of the game as it crept into the 13th inning, and at that point, his one-third of an inning in the eighth was a small blip. Still, Wagner's brief time on the mound turned into a temporary turning point for the American League, which tied the game at 3 when Evan Longoria knocked in Grady Sizemore with a two-out ground-rule double.
"I have no problem whatsoever with how I pitched," Wagner said after he departed. "It didn't work out my way, but we're still playing."
Wright also played a role in the game, although on a slightly lesser scale. The third baseman ended the eighth inning by striking out looking while pinch-hitting for Albert Pujols, and after staying in the game as the designated hitter, he singled to lead off the 13th.
The game lasted four hours and 50 minutes, spanning 15 innings.
"I'm sure there are guys who are a little tired, beat up, who weren't expected to play that long, pitch that long," Wright said. "But it is what it is. We had to go out there and try to get the job done. We didn't do it, but you have to tip your cap to the American League guys."
Earlier in the evening, National League first baseman Lance Berkman commented that he noticed a higher level of intensity in this game than All-Star Games in the past. Wright didn't necessarily agree with that observation, contending the competitive nature of the All-Star Game was raised ever since it started determining home-field advantage five years ago.
|"I'm sure there are guys who are a little tired, beat up, who weren't expected to play that long, pitch that long. But it is what it is. We had to go out there and try to get the job done. We didn't do it, but you have to tip your cap to the American League guys."|
|-- David Wright|
"You still want to go out there and have fun, smile, laugh, joke around, but there obviously was an intensity and a good preparation on our part," Wright said. "We know the numbers and we know that we have to step up and play better to beat these guys. They're throwing a good team out there, and the later the game goes, it seemed like the better the arms got on their side."
Wagner categorized this All-Star week as one of his favorites. First, he was grateful to be living in the host city. But also, the experience has slowed down for him over the years, and he knows how to better pace himself and enjoy the scene a little more than he used to.
"I've got an idea to get here a little early, soak it in a little bit," he said. "I've been able to relax a lot more than other All-Star Games, because for one, I didn't have to fly cross country and [deal with] these travel plans. It's been really easy and I've enjoyed it."
He also enjoyed the give-and-take with the other NL relievers with whom he normally is not able to swap stories in the same 'pen. He welcomed the time with former Astros teammate and good friend Brad Lidge, now the Phillies' closer, as well as other hard-throwing back-enders such as Kerry Wood and Brian Wilson.
"You get an idea of how they feel about how this goes, and how the whole relieving aspect goes," Wagner said. "It's fun because now that Chipper [Jones] told me I am the oldest guy here, it's fun to look back and see the guys and what they're going through, and how it's changed for me and slowed down. It's fun."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.