07/11/07 1:30 AM ET
Trio of Phils enjoy All-Star experience
Rowand flies out to end game, but relishes opportunity
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Rowand watched from the National League dugout as his temporary teammates began to mount a dramatic ninth-inning comeback against the American League. He then found himself standing in the batter's box, staring down Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, with the bases loaded, two outs and the AL ahead, 5-4.
"I've been playing in Chicago and in Philly and getting at-bats in situations like that quite a bit," said Rowand, who was one of three Philadelphia All-Stars who appeared in the game. "I'm pretty used to being up there toward the end of the game and having things be on the line."
Rowand had faced Rodriguez before, and the outfielder was anticipating one of the right-hander's biting sliders. Instead, the reliever fired an 0-1 fastball that Rowand lifted into right field. Toronto's Alex Rios caught the fly ball for the game's final out, securing a win for the AL, which hasn't lost a Midsummer Classic in 11 years.
"I got real good wood on it. I just barely missed it," Rowand said with a shrug. "It would've been nice to hit a line drive down the line or hit the ball out the other way, but things happen. I had a great time being here."
Second baseman Chase Utley and left-hander Cole Hamels echoed Rowand's final sentiment. For the second straight season, Utley started at second for the NL's elite squad, and Hamels contributed one scoreless inning in relief during his first All-Star appearance.
Utley and Hamels were leaning on the dugout railing during the ninth inning, when the NL scored two late runs on a home run by Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano. Three straight walks combined from Seattle closer J.J. Putz and Rodriguez gave Rowand the second chance at the plate -- an opportunity his Philadelphia teammates were glad to see happen.
"We had the bases loaded with Aaron up, and he's come through for us a lot this year," said Utley, who is batting .325 with 15 home runs and 68 RBIs this year. "He squared the ball up, but just got a little under it. It turned out to be a great game."
Utley showed off his strong defense in the first inning, when he helped complete the game's first two outs on a double play. The two-time All-Star received two at-bats in the contest, but finished with a flyout and a groundout in the effort.
For Utley, it was the off-field interaction with his NL teammates that provided the highlight of his second straight trip to the All-Star Game.
"It was a great two days. It was good to meet some of the guys I haven't met before," Utley said. "I've played against [Giants slugger Barry Bonds] a little bit, but you don't get the chance to hang out in the same clubhouse as him. That was obviously an honor. And I'm happy for Aaron and Cole -- their first All-Star Games."
In the fourth inning, Hamels entered the game as the fourth pitcher for the NL. The Philadelphia left-hander -- 10-4 with a 3.72 ERA and 124 strikeouts in the first half -- turned in one shutout inning, but gave up two hits. The first batter Hamels faced, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, singled to left field and then stole second base.
After Hamels induced consecutive groundouts off the bats of Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero and Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez, Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez sent an offering from the southpaw into right field. Ken Griffey Jr. retrieved the ball in right and threw a bullet to the plate, where Alex Rodriguez was thrown out to end the inning.
"Having him as a hero growing up and seeing all those miraculous catches that he's made and throws to home," Hamels said, referring to Griffey, "now to actually be there and he saved a run for me in the All-Star Game is pretty memorable.
"I was lucky enough that I got away with Guerrero, because he can do some serious damage," Hamels said. "I was glad that he ended up grounding out, instead of hitting one of those screaming line drives like he did in the Home Run Derby."
Monday night's Derby provided one of the most memorable experiences for Rowand. While Guerrero and seven other sluggers battled in the batter's box, Rowand sat on the field with his 2-year-old son, McKay.
"Just sitting there and watching him, even as young as he is, he lives and breathes baseball," Rowand said. "He's got a bat and ball in his hands at all times. I was afraid he was going to be down on the field, wanting to get up and run around and play, but once they started hitting, he didn't move. He just sat there and watched."
McKay and a group of Rowand's family and friends were back in the stands for Tuesday's game. Rowand wasn't able to complete the NL's late rally, but he said he still had a blast during his first stint as an All-Star.
"Just being here is a gift in itself," Rowand said. "It's a great experience -- not only for myself, but for my family. It's something I'm really looking forward to sharing with my kids as they get older. We've made a lot of memories here just in two days."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.