07/12/2004 6:05 PM ET
Lilly realizing dream after adversity
Jays' All-Star relishing chance with game's greats
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- His career record (29-30) is enough to demonstrate the battle it's been for Ted Lilly to become an American League All-Star.
|Ted Lilly is making his first All-Star appearance and is the lone Blue Jay selected. (Daria Debuono/MLB.com)
But it doesn't tell you everything.
It doesn't tell you about being traded from the Expos to the Yankees for Hideki Irabu and battling a lack of experience and the pressure of New York at the same time.
Or, about how once he was finally increasing his comfort level in the Bronx, he was sent to the A's in the three-team Jeff Weaver deal midway through the 2002 season.
And it doesn't reveal how it seemed Lilly had found his home in Oakland, where, last year, he came up with some big performances down the stretch and was nearly unhittable against the Red Sox in the Division Series. But then came the offseason, and Lilly was shipped off to Toronto for Bobby Kielty.
How about some stability?
Now that he's an All-Star -- the lone representative from the Blue Jays -- all that moving around in the past is no longer so bothersome.
"The first thing you think is 'I want to find a way to get back here and enjoy a couple more of these,'" said Lilly. "I'd imagine your first one is more memorable than any other, but hopefully there's going to be more."
Why not? Lilly is only 28 years old, just entering his prime. While he's pitching well for the Blue Jays (seventh in the AL in strikeouts, third among lefties), Lilly is likely to get even better.
"Last year was a big year. It was a good experience pitching down the stretch with the playoffs on the line and getting an opportunity to pitch in the playoffs again," he said. "I think all of those are good experiences. That's something I'll be able to take with me, and being here in the All-Star Game is another one, that as a player, you never forget."
He also never forgets things that helped him get to this point. Like the way Yankees manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre worked with him in New York.
"I have a great amount of respect for Mel and Joe," said Lilly. "Mel helped me out a lot, he helped me get through a lot of things. Working with Mel, I definitely felt like I was turning the corner to becoming a solid pitcher in this league. What was great about Mel was he didn't spend a lot of time, I guess, getting too far away from what we were trying to do. He was very specific and clear on what we wanted to do. And he did a great job."
There were times Lilly wondered if he could stay in the Major Leagues, let alone be an All-Star.
"I don't know who hasn't at some point gone through a little adversity," said Lilly. "Some go through more than others."
Past adversity was somewhat on his mind on Monday, but certainly not at the forefront.
"Definitely you think about [adversity], but really you realize that there's still a lot left, a lot of season left," said Lilly. "I want to enjoy this while I'm here."
He looks forward to meeting the game's greats, and calling some of them teammates for the next two days.
"I think a lot of things will be hitting me for the next couple of days," said Lilly. "I'll be soaking all of it in and enjoying it as much as possible."
And Lilly will continue to set the bar high for himself.
"I think that I had extremely high expectations and every year," said Lilly. "Every season you go into it you'd like to be here at the All-Star Game."
This time, it became a reality.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.