07/14/08 11:27 PM ET
NL pride on Berkman's mind
Astro tired of hearing about AL's All-Star Game dominance
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Home-field advantage for the World Series isn't the driving force behind a player's motivation to win the game. In truth, few players really care that the Midsummer Classic carries World Series implications. This is a pride thing, and Berkman, the NL's starting first baseman, is a proud player. And he wants to win.
"[Home-field advantage is] not really going to affect a lot of us," Berkman said. "But I would say that I think the National League, if they're not, ought to be tired of getting it handed to us by the American League. If for no other reason than National League pride, we need to go out there and win a game."
Berkman disagrees with the notion that the AL simply has better players and, in turn, produces a better product. Simply, he prefers the NL style of doing things.
"We may not have the best teams, as reflected by our Interleague record, but I think the style of baseball we play is far superior to the [designated hitter] in the American League," he said. "I'd like to see the National League win."
But winning the game is only a small part of the All-Star week festivities. Most players cite hanging out with the other All-Stars as the highlight of the half-week. For six months of the regular season, players try to pound the other team into submission, figuratively speaking, but for three days of All-Star fun, opposing players are teammates and comrades who are working together to reach one common goal.
"That's the one thing I enjoy most about the All-Star Game -- just getting the fellowship with these guys," Berkman said. "You're trying to beat them on a daily basis, but now, you're on the same team. For me, it's a treat to be able to joke around with them, talk to them, get to meet some guys I've never met before. That's what I really enjoy."
Of course, it's even more fun when your All-Star teammates also happen to be former Astros teammates. Berkman was looking forward to catching up with two Houston closers from the past, Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge, both of whom contributed to the Astros' six-pitcher no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 2003.
"I was just talking to Lidge -- I'm so happy for him and the fact that he's back in this game and just the success he's had this year," Berkman said. "He's one of my all-time favorites. It's just good to see that. And Wags is always a treat. I really enjoyed him as a teammate. It'll be fun to hang out with him for a few days."
|"We may not have the best teams, as reflected by our Interleague record, but I think the style of baseball we play is far superior to the [designated hitter] in the American League. I'd like to see the National League win."|
|-- Lance Berkman|
Five-time All-Star Miguel Tejada also enjoys the camaraderie aspect of All-Star week. But hanging out with the players, for him, carries a new twist. Tejada is in the NL clubhouse for the first time in his career, after spending four prior All-Star Games with his friends on the AL side.
Tejada, voted in as a backup shortstop on the players' ballot, has no answer as to why the AL has dominated the Midsummer Classic for so long.
"Now I'm going to see why, because I'm on the other side," he said. "Before, I saw a lot of good players from the American League, guys that take this game seriously. But I can see in a lot of [NL] players, I can see in their eyes, they're serious about it. They all want to win, and we're going to try to win it this year."
What does Tejada most look forward to at the Midsummer Classic? The State Farm Home Run Derby, and, believe it or not, the hour-long news conference that entails hundreds of reporters descending upon the All-Stars in a well organized but somewhat free-for-all fashion.
"I like it," Tejada said. "Sometimes the reporters like to know how we're feeling and we can tell them. I like this part."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.