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07/12/05 10:29 PM ET
Duchscherer caught up in experience
Reliever impacted by All-Star berth, despite not pitching
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Justin Duchscherer knew his role heading into Tuesday night's All-Star Game, and he knew it meant that he had a good chance of watching it from the dugout. He was the designated emergency pitcher in case the game went into extra innings -- not exactly a glamour role in the gathering of baseball's elite players, but Duchscherer didn't mind. "That's fine, I'm just happy to be a part of this," Duchscherer said. As it turned out, he did watch the whole game without getting a chance to pitch. But there was little question that Duchscherer enjoyed his trip to the All-Star Game. How could he not? "I don't think it's even hit me yet," said Duchscherer, who joined manager Ken Macha in representing the A's at the Midsummer Classic. "I think when I leave here and I look back on it, I'll realize what a special thing this has been. Everything's been such a blur since I've been here." What stood out? "Mainly just the media attention," Duchscherer said. "I know there's always a lot of attention from the media for guys like Miguel Tejada and Alex Rodriguez. But when you get them all together, it's pretty unbelievable." There were some awkward moments, however, during the media session on Monday, when he had a table set up among the rest of the American League All-Stars and various reporters came by to ask him questions. "The hardest thing to answer is: 'Do you deserve to be an All-Star?'" said Duchscherer. "How am I supposed to answer that? It's not my decision. But I feel like I had a successful first half, and my numbers stack up with anyone's. "I mean, it's a big honor. I'm just glad it worked out the way it did." Duchscherer has posted a 4-1 record, a 1.49 ERA and has struck out 46 while walking just nine. That's All-Star stuff. One of the joys of Duchscherer making the All-Star team is that he's been able to share the experience with friend Shea Hillenbrand of the Blue Jays, his teammate in Class A ball in 1998 and again in Double-A in 2000 while in the Red Sox organization. Both players were drafted by the Sox in 1996. "My wife called his wife to tell her that I'd made the All-Star team, and she said, 'Hey, Shea did, too,' " said Duchscherer. Said Hillenbrand: "We were talking about that during the Home Run Derby. We were probably the only ones in the All-Star Game this year that were drafted in the same year by the same team. This is everything you dream about." When he returns to the A's later this week, Duchscherer will have experienced a new individual pinnacle in his career, but he doesn't necessarily expect to go back a changed player, per se. "Every day, no matter what the situation, I'm always kind of nervous, and I don't expect that to change," Duchscherer said. "I'm still going to the ballpark the same as I was my first outing with Texas (in 2001)."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.