George Sherrill, who bounced around the independent leagues for nearly four years, was one of the most unlikely All-Stars on the roster this week in New York. However, his success will provide hope to the thousands of highly-skilled players performing in relative obscurity around the country.
07/16/2008 4:25 PM ET
Sherrill proves persistence pays off
The Orioles' closer's story provides hope for younger players
The Orioles' 31-year-old closer made his first trip to the All-Star Game Tuesday night and worked a solid 2 1/3 innings in the American League's 15-inning, 4-3 victory.
"It's good to be able to maybe give somebody playing independent ball something to look at to keep sticking it out," Sherrill told the Washington Post. "If they're thinking, 'Well, this is my last year' or something, it can happen. It's good to be the person who's gone through it, maybe give somebody else some hope."
Ludwick doesn't stray far from Pujols: Ryan Ludwick played several innings in Tuesday night's All-Star Game, even showing off some leather with a diving catch in the bottom of the 15th inning.
But before actually taking the field, with so much going on -- and it being his first trip to the All-Star Game -- Ludwick followed the lead of a veteran All-Star teammate Albert Pujols.
"He said, "Just try to enjoy every minute of it," Ludwick told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "but don't get too involved in trying to please everyone. Take care of yourself because it's the first time and it could be the only time.'" Ludwick continued, "He gave me some tips [about] the clubhouse. There are certain things you want to do, like get a [batting practice] top and give it to one of the clubbies so that all the players can sign it. I flew up here with him, I'm flying back with him; I'm pretty much holding his hand through the whole deal. He's a good guy to follow. He's been here more than a few times."
McCann makes All-Star history for Braves: Brian McCann became the first player in Braves franchise history to make the All-Star team his first three years in the league. McCann has many fans in the locker room and one among his team's rivals.
"He does it all," All-Star teammate David Wright told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "You see a guy who's that disciplined at the plate, who has the ability to hit for power to all fields, drives in runs, gets on base, never takes a swing that's off-balance ... it's impressive, especially from a catcher.
"He's right on pitches. Lefties or righties, it doesn't matter -- and he doesn't get cheated."
Sheets has memorable debut at Yankee Stadium: In Ben Sheets' last start of the first half of the season against Colorado, he struck out 11 Rockies hitters. That performance was good enough for Rockies and NL All-Star manager Clint Hurdle to name Sheets (10-3, 2.85 ERA) the starter in Tuesday's night game.
"I said, 'You're kidding,'" Sheets told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before the game. "They said they don't kid about stuff like that. It's incredible. It doesn't get any better than this. For one or two innings, I'll let it go.
"I've never been to Yankee Stadium. I'm just going to try to take it all in and enjoy myself. It's a huge honor. It was something I really didn't think about. But right before I left, a lot of my teammates really wanted me to get this opportunity. The more they asked me, the more I realized how big an opportunity this could be, how thrilling this could be."
Braun, Hart soak up the All-Star experience: In addition to teammate Ben Sheets, Brewers outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart were also on the NL All-Star squad Tuesday night. Braun, who was voted a starter by the fans, started in left field and Hart came off the bench. Both players were looking forward to the contest before the game.
"I don't think any All-Star Game could be any bigger than this one," Braun told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's certainly special to be on this stage."
The fans used the "Final Vote" online balloting to help Hart find a spot on the team.
"I'm just trying to take it all in," Hart said. "I have my kids to keep me grounded a little bit. I'm just going to go out and enjoy it and try to be as mellow as I can. It's been pretty hectic the last few days. I don't think it has really sunk in yet. I haven't really stopped to think about it. I never expected this, but the fans pulled through for me."
Haren finds path from bullpen to mound: Last season, Dan Haren was the starting pitcher for the AL in the All-Star Game, representing the Oakland Athletics. This year, Haren didn't get the starting nod, but he was again an All-Star -- this time as a member of his new team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Haren, who pitched scoreless baseball in relief, figured he wouldn't be named the starter for the second straight year.
"I kind of expected not to start," Haren told The Arizona Republic. "It's really not that big of a deal. Of course, I would have liked to, but I'm not hurt about it by any means. It's still going to be exciting. I hope I get to pitch in it and run in from the bullpen. That would be pretty cool."
Jeter acknowledged by hitting in No. 2 spot: When the AL lineup was announced for Tuesday night's All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, batting second was a familiar face -- Derek Jeter.
"For me, Derek Jeter deserves to hit at the top of the order in a lineup like this, especially in this place," Francona told the New York Daily News. "Sometimes, getting people in their proper place out of who they are, what they've done for the game, that means something."
Stop calling me old!: Billy Wagner got a little tired of being referred to as the NL team's "elder statesman."
"Ah, quit saying that," Wagner told Newsday. "You know what? I've heard that so much, even my son said, 'You're the oldest one on this pitching staff.' They just see old and bald."
Ex-teammates Pedroia, Kinsler develop rivalry: Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler both play second base, and at the All-Star game Pedroia started and Kinsler replaced him midway through the game.
Pedroia and Kinsler were also teammates at Arizona State. But Pedroia said the comparisons between the two players ends there.
"It's a little different. I try to set the table," Pedroia told the Boston Globe. "He pretty much is the table. He drives in runs, steals bases, he does a lot of things. He's got speed and power. I think I'm scrappy, play great defense [and] do the little things that help us win."
"He's having a great season," Kinsler said. "I think there's a little competitive spirit going on. He obviously wants to do better than me. I want to do better than him."
Lidge has a big backer in Berkman: Brad Lidge is back. Lidge, a member of the NL All-Star team, has 20 saves with a 1.13 ERA. Former teammate Lance Berkman says he's glad to see Lidge pitching like he did back in 2004 and 2005.
"He was unhittable," Berkman told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I could throw my glove on the ground because he was going to strike out three guys. Somebody who accepts personal responsibility like he does, and has the ability he does, always has the chance of coming through and being dominant again. Of all the people here, I'm the happiest for him. He's a great story of how the game can turn on you and how, if you're mentally tough, you can come back from it."
Mauer provides small target, comes up big: Joe Mauer, who started for the AL in Tuesday night's All-Star Game (and had a hit and a walk), clearly has the respect of the fans and his peers. And, naturally, he has the respect of his teammates.
"His technical defensive skills are astounding, especially for a really big guy," Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, speaking of Mauer's 6-foot-5 frame. "He blocks balls, frames balls [and] has a cannon for an arm. Pretty much, [he's] everything you could want out of a catcher. He's a big target back there, but he makes himself small for you, and then when he needs to be big, he's big."
Zambrano gets a rush: Carlos Zambrano, who pitched two scoreless innings for the NL Tuesday night, conceded that as he got closer to entering the game, he felt anxious.
"When I was jogging in from the bullpen, I was a little bit shaking," Zambrano told MLB.com. "But after I threw a pitch or two, I was OK. I wasn't really nervous, just feeling the situation."
Uggla targeted to break Johnson's record: Team USA coach Davey Johnson holds the all-time record for home runs by a second baseman with 42 back in 1973. While Johnson has held the record for nearly 35 years, he thinks Dan Uggla is a good candidate to surpass his mark.
"I've been following his career," Johnson told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel after leading the U.S. team in Sunday's All-Star Futures Game. "I think we tried to get Dan on a couple teams in the past."
Guzman returns after seven-year hiatus: It was seven years between Cristian Guzman's first and second All-Star Game appearances.
Guzman, who was slowed by injuries and also had laser eye surgery to help restore his eyesight, persevered to earn his second trip.
"But you can always wonder what if," manager Manny Acta speculated to the Washington Post about how Guzman's career might have turned out if he had the eye surgery earlier. "Because if you can't see, you can't play. Even when he's not the most patient guy, the difference now is that he puts the barrel of the bat on the ball very consistently compared to before. He hits so many balls hard. I mean, look at the amount of doubles he has, and we're not talking about little flares over the third baseman. This guy is driving the ball."
Duschscherer to talk baseball with high school kids: Justin Duschscherer's best friend growing up, Freddie Tobias, now coaches high school baseball in Texas. Duschscherer, who is now a two-time All-Star, will talk to the high school kids about his pitching success.
"The kids love it. They get the biggest kick out of it, because he doesn't throw more than 5-6 mph harder than some of them," Tobias told the San Francisco Chronicle. "They see that you don't have to throw 98 mph to be successful, and it really makes an impression."
Morneau lauds Hamilton's home run prowess: Josh Hamilton didn't win the Home Run Derby on Monday night. Justin Morneau of Minnesota took that honor, 5-3, in the final round. But Hamilton still stole the show with the 28 home runs he hit in the first round. At one point during the first round, Hamilton hit 13 straight home runs and had three of his home runs travel more than 500 feet, including a 518-foot shot.
"He's the story of this year," Morneau, the derby winner, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "For him to come in and put on a show like that, we were in awe of what he was doing."
-- Red Line Editorial