07/10/06 6:08 PM EST
Cabrera, Uggla take different paths
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
His Marlins teammate, Dan Uggla, may be three years older, but Uggla was the wide-eyed newcomer on Monday while Cabrera was the picture of calm and cool.
The two players are representing Florida at this year's All-Star Game, named as reserves for the National League team. Cabrera and Uggla traveled together from New York on Sunday night, receiving police escorts from Shea Stadium to the airport, then again from the Pittsburgh airport to the hotel.
"This has been a lot different from my regular lifestyle -- a lot different," Uggla said. "I don't even think it's sunk in yet. I still don't know if I'm supposed to be here or not."
For Uggla, the road to Pittsburgh was probably the most unlikely of any player in this year's game.
"Never would I have dreamed that I would be sitting in this chair talking to you guys at the All-Star Game in my first year in the big leagues," he told a group of reporters. "I'm just taking everything as it comes."
Less than eight months ago, Uggla was a prospect in the Diamondbacks system, but the Marlins plucked him from Arizona in the Rule 5 Draft during the Winter Meetings in December. Florida told him that he had a shot at competing for the starting second base job, which he won by the end of Spring Training.
"They told me the opportunity was there, all I had to do was take it," he said. "As a Rule 5 guy, that was kind of odd. I didn't have the best Spring Training, but I showed them some of the things I was capable of and the way I played."
When Uggla won the job, he set some goals for himself: hit .300, score 100 runs and drive in 100 more. The All-Star Game never entered his mind, even though he had been an All-Star at every level he played in the Minors.
Nobody realistically expected Uggla to challenge for a spot on this year's All-Star team -- Uggla included -- but with a stellar first half that saw him hit .307 with 13 home runs and 51 RBIs, he was elected as the NL's backup second baseman via the players' ballot.
"He's got to be excited to be here," said Chase Utley, who will start for the NL at second base. "From a Rule 5 pick to the All-Star Game in the same year? That's pretty incredible."
"He deserves it," Cabrera said. "He's done a great job this year."
It shouldn't have been nearly as surprising to see Cabrera's name on the NL roster for the third straight year, as the first half saw him hit .334 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs. But when he learned he had been selected by the players' ballot, he was shocked.
"I was surprised I made it -- I didn't think I was going to," he said. "This is like my first time. I'm just as excited. You see a lot of great players, all the big names."
"Cabrera has murdered us the past couple of years," Utley said. "He's one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball. The fact that he's only 23 is scary."
Seventeen players on the NL team are making either their first or second appearances in the All-Star Game, making Cabrera one of the team's "veteran" players.
"I don't see it like that. There are still guys who have been here a lot longer than me," he said. "It's more comfortable for me now, because I've gotten to know some of these guys. My first year, I sat in my chair and didn't say much. I was scared to talk anybody in the locker room."
Cabrera had some friendly advice for Uggla: Don't be shy, have a good time and enjoy every second of his time in Pittsburgh.
As he sat in the interview room, Uggla looked around and saw the incredible amount of talent surrounding him. A long way from the Rule 5 Draft, for sure.
"I grew up watching half these guys," Uggla said. "It's always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues, so now that I'm here and playing alongside the best, it's going to be awesome."
As exciting as this week will be for Uggla, he still has his sights set on bigger and better things for both himself and his team.
"I'm sure things can get better," he said with a smile. "If we put ourselves in position to make a run at the Wild Card and we can somehow make the playoffs, that would be the icing on the cake."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.