07/12/2004 8:35 PM ET
Notes: All-Stars enjoy camaraderie
Rivals become friends as teams bond in Houston
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- If there is one thing every Major League player would agree with, it's that being elected to the All-Star team never gets old.
Not for Moises Alou, a five-time All-Star. Not for Jeff Kent, who garnered his fourth election. Not for Scott Rolen, playing in his third Midsummer Classic.
The best part? Lounging in the clubhouse with the biggest names in baseball.
"You're hanging out with the best players in the game, in the same locker room," Alou said. "Seeing people you haven't seen in a while, hanging out with the guys you played against, ex-teammates. That's the best part."
"Here at the All-Star Game, you've got guys out here you can shake hands with and see from another team," Kent said. "You tell stories, reminisce if you played with them or played against them."
There was plenty of bonding not only among All-Star teammates, but also between the American League and National League teams.
After all, this is the only time of year where players can gather in a non-pressure atmosphere and still play a competitive game of baseball.
This is true even for those who are members of the bigger rivalries in the game.
Take the Cubs and Cardinals, for example. There's no love between these two teams on the field, but among individual players, it's a different story.
"The rivalry is more among the fans than it is among the players," St. Louis third baseman Rolen said. "The players keep it on the field."
Reunions: With the way teams change from year to year, it's not unusual for an All-Star manager to reunite with a player who helped him get to the World Series last season but is no longer on the team this year.
Such was the case for National League manager Jack McKeon and American League catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. Both were part of the world Champion Florida Marlins last year.
|The All-Star Game offers players a chance for a friendly atmosphere among rivals. (Eric Gay/AP)
Rodriguez left the Marlins via free agency during the offseason and joined the Detroit Tigers.
"It's always tough to lose a future Hall of Famer, but he's not with us anymore and we wish him the best of luck and [I'm] glad to see that he's doing so well over there in the American League," McKeon said. "But it's going to be odd having to face him tomorrow night. Randy Johnson and I will have to get together. I think I know how to pitch to him."
Teammate and fan: Jason Schmidt sees Barry Bonds play on a daily basis, but the right-hander never stops marveling over what Bonds can do at the plate.
"I didn't know he could hit the ball so square as many times as he does," Schmidt said. "When he hits a home run there's no popup about it. There are no windblown home runs. They're all on the nails -- 450 feet every time. I've never seen anything like that.
"You see guys be out in front a little bit and flick it out and it barely gets over the fence. He doesn't do that. Everything he hits is hard. It's incredible."
Once an Astro: Curt Schilling spent only one year with the Houston Astros, early in his career, but the right-hander is pleased with how much the city of Houston, largely known as a football town, has embraced Major League Baseball.
The only proof he needed was seeing the excitement surrounding the All-Star festivities.
"I'm as happy for this city as anything," he said. "I played for Houston back in '91 and it wasn't really a baseball town and to see what they've done over the last decade, and to have Roger (Clemens) come in and do what he's done, not just for Houston, but for baseball, it's a great storyline, and it's going to add a lot to the game."
Call him coach: Big league managers, most of whom have to toil through the minor league coaching ranks for a couple of decades before earning a coveted job in the Majors, absolutely detest being called coach.
But in Jimy Williams' case, "coach" was a suitable nickname for him on Monday as he took the field during batting practice as one of McKeon's All-Star coaches.
This isn't Williams' first All-Star appearance. He was also the third base coach for Bobby Cox's National League All-Stars in Baltimore in 1993 and remembers watching John Kruk's famous plate appearance when he faced Randy Johnson batting right-handed.
"You couldn't do anything else but laugh," Williams said. "That was Kruk, though."
Williams also recalled the All-Star Game in San Diego in 1992 when the National League, though down by six runs, was making at threat to come back in the ninth.
"The whole objective is to try to get everyone in the game, but you want to try to win the game, too," Williams said.
But when they had the bases loaded in the ninth and the pitcher's spot due to bat, they had already used all of their position players.
So, left-handed pitcher Norm Charlton had to bat for himself.
"He struck out," Williams said. "But, he had a good swing."
To do list: All-Star trainers Dave Labossierre and Rex Jones had a little homework to do before Monday.
Labossierre, the Astros' head athletic trainer, and Jones, the Astros' assistant athletic trainer, called all of the trainers of the All-Star players to get a checklist of what pregame preparations they need to do with the players on Tuesday.
"Rex and I split it up and called the trainers last week," Labossiere said. "We asked what they need pregame, so when they come in, we basically know what we have to do with them."
Kind of like when a mom writes a note with a list of what her kid's allergic to before they go away to sleep away camp?
"Exactly," Labossiere said. "We're the school nurse."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.