07/12/2004 4:55 PM ET
Hard-working Tejada all about fans
O's shortstop making second All-Star appearance
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The announced crowd for Sunday's 11-7 Orioles' loss to the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards was 31,042. And it was almost as if Miguel Tejada saw every one of their disappointed faces.
|Miguel Tejada has played in 679 consecutive games, passing Pete Rose this weekend for the 15th longest consecutive-games streak in Major League history. (Nick Wass/AP)
The Orioles finished the first half 37-48 and in last place in the American League East, not exactly what Tejada expected when he signed a six-year, $72 million contract in December and declared the Orioles were no longer a losing team.
Tejada played well enough in his first 85 games in Baltimore to earn his second All-Star berth, which will occur Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. He has met the high expectations, hitting .315 with a team-high 15 homers and 75 RBIs. Those are better numbers than in the first half of his 2002 MVP season.
Tejada, however, chose not to focus on his personal accomplishments during the All-Star media session at the Four Seasons Hotel. The selfless shortstop expressed disappointment about his team's inability to compete in the AL East. After a 20-16 start, the Orioles were 17-32, including two losses in three games this weekend to the struggling Royals.
"I am going to play every game in the second half for the fans," he said. "I can see they are down about us losing. We should be playing better. I can see the many, many games we lose in a row and I can see the 40 to 45 thousand fans out there supporting us. Those are good fans."
While Tejada was talking to the media, his son, Miquel, picked up a tape recorder and held it up to his father's mouth. Without flinching, Miguel said "hola" into the recorder and smiled at his young son.
"That's what makes it special to be here," he said. "My family is here. I really didn't expect to make the All-Star team, that's what makes it surprising for me because they are so many great players and I didn't expect this."
Tejada has endeared himself to the Baltimore faithful with his workmanlike style. He has played in 679 consecutive games, passing Pete Rose this weekend for the 15th longest consecutive-games streak in Major League history. Of course, that doesn't much draw the attention of Orioles fans, who are accustomed to much longer streaks. See: Ripken, Cal.
Tejada has vowed to help the Orioles improve over the long run. The club has been besieged by injuries and subpar seasons from key players. While Tejada and players such as Javy Lopez and Jerry Hairston have been productive, the organization is more in a rebuilding mode than it anticipated.
That doesn't deter the 28-year-old Tejada, who was a part of a similar resurgence in Oakland.
"I am real happy in Baltimore," he said. "We're not playing the way we're supposed to be playing in the first half. (Winning) is many, many years coming, and I think this team is going to do what it takes to make you see that.
"It's been hard. Everybody wants to be out of the situation (in the standings) we are. We want to be in first place, we want to play in the playoffs. We are trying to give our best. We're going to play hard in the second half. We have 80-something (77) left and we are going to play better in the second half."
It's that type of positive attitude that has made Tejada popular among his teammates. He was part of four playoff teams in Oakland, and despite the A's perennial success -- they won 103 games the year after losing Jason Giambi in first place this season -- he is missed in the Bay Area.
Tejada and fellow All-Star Tim Hudson came up together in the minor leagues and were part of the team's resurgence.
"We lost a great player on and off the field," Hudson said. "You get spoiled with a guy like Miggy. He's a great shortstop. That goes without saying. He's a great guy. He's funny and he's passionate about the game and he loves to win and loves his teammates. He's one of the best teammates that I have had."
Tejada cannot predict how many games the Orioles will win or whether the club will turn things around quickly. The one thing he can guarantee is that he will be a positive part of the team's future.
"We are playing to win for many years," he said. "I knew it was going to take time. You have to work hard to get to that point. And we are going to do that. We are."
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.