07/05/09 7:34 PM ET
Wakefield an All-Star rookie at age 42
Veteran knuckleballer named to the team by AL skipper Maddon
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Manager Terry Francona was so ecstatic that Wakefield had made the All-Star team for the first time that he decided to break the news to his veteran knuckleballer by having a little fun.
Pitching coach John Farrell, who spotted Wakefield in the weight room, told the pitcher that the manager needed to see him. Something about a meeting.
"Then I got down to his office and the [door] was closed," Wakefield said.
Boston's other five All-Stars -- Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis and Jonathan Papelbon -- were behind the closed door.
"When the door opened up, [Francona] called me into his office, and I saw the other guys walking out with their All-Star packages," Wakefield said. "He sat me down and tried to play it off like it wasn't good news. He couldn't hold his laughter in any longer, and he finally told me that I had made the team, too."
The joke over, Wakefield took in the moment and relished the fact that he is heading to the 80th All-Star Game on July 14 in St. Louis at Busch Stadium.
"I'm very happy today," he said. "It's been a long time."
By making the team at 42 years old, Wakefield became the oldest player to make the All-Star team for the first time since Satchel Paige. After years of dominance in the Negro Leagues, Paige went to his first Major League All-Star Game in 1952 at the age of 46.
Jamie Moyer (40 in 2003) and Connie Marrero (40 in 1951) are the only other players to become All-Stars for the first time at age 40 or older.
"I feel very honored and humbled at the same time," said Wakefield. "Excited and nervous. I have a lot of emotions going through me right now."
Wakefield's teammates seemed almost as touched as he was.
"[He's] probably the guy you're most happy for," Bay said. "For what he's done for us, he's been one of our MVPs from the beginning of this year. The guy has played that long and has never had a chance. I think every guy on this team would have given up their spot to see Wake go, because he deserves it."
In a classy gesture by the Red Sox, the club announced the six All-Star representatives on the scoreboard before the top of the third inning. The last introduction went to Wakefield, who received a rousing ovation. Wakefield, who was shown on the center-field scoreboard sitting in the dugout, acknowledged the cheers by waving his hand.
"It was phenomenal," he said. "It just shows how much the fans really care, not only about me but our players here. For them to give me that kind of ovation makes me feel very welcome here, and I've felt that way for a long time."
Though Wakefield's All-Star berth is, in some ways, a lifetime achievement award, it is also a reward for the season he has produced.
Wakefield has a 10-3 record, and his 10 quality starts are just one shy of Beckett's for the staff lead.
"I really spent a lot of time this winter making sure I was going to stay healthy," said Wakefield. "I think that's a tribute to not only Farrell and talking about it over the offseason, but our training staff and trainers and people like that who have really dedicated themselves to keeping me stretched out, keeping me working out between starts quite a bit and doing my programs that I'm supposed to be doing. I think it's kept me healthy, and it's really helped me pitch well."
Francona was just happy that he was the one that got to relay the news.
"When they introduce his name, he's going to be one of the proudest guys," Francona said. "And he should be. He's very worthy. That's one of the [most fun] things I've ever gotten to do."
Though the young players usually rely on the veterans for the proper protocol when it comes to the All-Star Game, the roles will be reversed this time. Of Boston's six All-Stars, Wakefield is the only first-timer.
"I've been thinking about a lot of stuff," said Wakefield. "I've been asking guys that have been there what to expect, how to dress and how to act -- things like that. It's been a fun day asking a lot of questions, that's for sure."
Wakefield didn't get voted in by the players, but Rays and AL All-Star manager Joe Maddon used one of his selections for the knuckleballer.
"When you go and play professional baseball, you always want to make an All-Star team," said Wakefield. "I've had opportunities, but have just never gotten the chance. Obviously, when I see Maddon, I'll thank him deeply for the opportunity to represent not only the Red Sox but the American League at the All-Star Game. I'm very excited about it."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.