07/13/2007 9:57 PM ET
Bonds talks, Hudson takes notes
For fans, All-Star Game memories are made with special plays, like Ichiro Suzuki's inside-the-park homer.
Orlando Hudson carries his son around during Monday's Home Run Derby. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
For players, the best All-Star Game memories are often made before the game is even played.
Playing in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night was a thrill for Orlando Hudson. But the Arizona second baseman said the game doesn't compare to the time he got to spend sitting around the National League clubhouse listening to slugger Barry Bonds.
"Oh, man, you don't talk when you've got a man like that talking," Hudson told dbacks.com. "You've gotta listen. Take in as much knowledge as you possibly can, you know? He can tell you how to play the game, how to go about your business, how to handle off-the-field things. Think about it. What hasn't that man done? What situation hasn't he been through?
"If you don't shut up and listen when that man's talking, you're out of your mind."
Hudson also said he will remember being around Hall of Famer Willie Mays and watching his children play with Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Hudson is somewhat amazed Griffey took the time to play with his children.
"Are you kidding me? That kind of thing will go far, far, far beyond anything I ever do on the field, and I'm hoping to play 15 more years," said Hudson. "The Kid -- that's what I call Ken Griffey Jr. -- he's The Kid to me, not Kenny -- taking time to play with my children, Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds talking to my kids? Unbelievable, man. Unbelievable."
For Derek Jeter, that memory is the time he got to spend with Mays, who was honored before the game. Jeter, along with Griffey, spent time interviewing Mays during the All-Star break.
"That was special," Jeter told yankees.com. "I had the opportunity ... [to] do an interview with him for about 30 minutes, ask him some questions, spend some time with him. It was real special to be involved. That's what I'll take from this All-Star Game."
Crisp defense becoming a hallmark for Coco: When Boston Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp makes a spectacular catch, don't be fooled into thinking it was a lucky grab. Chances are, Crisp has practiced making that catch, often during batting practice.
"You can see that Coco works at it (his defense), as hard as just about anybody I've seen," Boston reliever Kyle Snyder told the Boston Globe. "He takes a lot of pride in his defense."
Crisp has become so good on defense, his teammates are surprised when he can't come up with a catch in the outfield, no matter how amazing the catch would be.
"I know we watch him every day," said DeMarlo Hale, who coaches Boston's outfielders. "But I've seen the other guys, and I don't know if there's anyone in the league playing a better center field than Coco Crisp.
"You see him run down some balls, you're saying, 'He's not going to get them. Yes he is. Yes he is. Wow.' That's what you end up saying. You try not to be a fan, but sometimes you watch a game and think about some of the plays we've made defensively, not just in the outfield, and you say, 'Wow, those were some good plays.'"
Crisp actually struggled at times with his defense last season. Hale, however, said the reason for that was the fact Crisp was getting re-adjusted to center field again after playing left field for the Cleveland Indians. With a year under his belt in center, Crisp is now running down balls hit all over the field.
"That breeds confidence," Hale said. "I just know he's a competitive person, and a good player. He wants to help this team win."
Byrd's surge a bright spot for Rangers: Coming into the season, Marlon Byrd of the Texas Rangers was a career .274 hitter. This year, he is hitting .378, making him a bright spot on a team that is struggling on the field.
"I want to do everything I can to be a complete player, but I think the hitting obviously stands out," Byrd told the Dallas Morning News. "It's a game of hitting. You have to hit."
Byrd was not on the Opening Day roster, but he is now a regular in right field for the Rangers. Byrd credits his success to hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who helped fix a hole in Byrd's swing. But manager Ron Washington says Byrd deserves credit himself for listening and learning.
"Marlon Byrd is an example of getting a chance and taking advantage of it," Washington said. "He's had other opportunities, and maybe he realized this might be his last one ... and his focus and work ethic and the way he has gone about his business has just been awesome. It's been fun to watch."
Byrd started his career with a bang, hitting .303 for the Phillies as a rookie in 2003. But his batting average started to dip the following seasons, leading to an eventual trade to Washington in 2005. Byrd signed a one-year deal with Texas this past offseason and nearly made the team out of Spring Training.
"We didn't send him out of here because of his bat when we sent him to the Minor Leagues. We sent him down because we didn't like the way he was playing defense," Washington said. "Now, the defense he has been playing has been great."
Theriot, other youngsters energize Cubs: Chicago Cubs infielder Ryan Theriot, one of several youthful members of the team, is a firm believer in young players and the key elements they can bring to a team.
"Energy is huge," Theriot told MLB.com. "It's very underrated. Energy, passion, the will to win, that's extremely underrated. You can't put a price tag on it. You can't go to arbitration and say, 'This kid brings a lot of energy.'
"But at the end of the day, you start looking at wins and losses, and it makes a big difference."
More than just a couple of young players -- including Theriot -- have impacted the Cubs, who are in second place in the NL Central.
"You look at the guys who have come up, and they've all contributed and done their job," Theriot said. "It happens because you have one or two guys come up who have played well. Now, all of a sudden, (manager) Lou (Piniella) has confidence. When he asks for somebody, they'll do the same thing."
With a strong spring, Theriot made the team out of camp and was considered a backup player. Since then, he's seen a significant amount of playing time.
"The other day, I was playing shortstop, Michael (Fontenot) was playing second, Felix (Pie) was in center and Koyie [Hill] was catching, and I was thinking, 'This isn't how it was written up at the beginning of the year,'" he said. "To be honest, I'm not really surprised. That's how you win ballgames. You have some young guys and a good mix of veteran guys, and you have a few superstars. That normally turns into victories."
Victories, after all, are what it's all about.
"Young kids don't bother me one bit," said Piniella. "I think a good mix of veterans and youth is the way to go."
Hafner earns another extension: When you have a player as talented as the Indians have in Travis Hafner, you don't want him to get away. So on Thursday, for the second time since he joined the team in December 2002, the club announced they have signed Hafner to a four-year extension with a club option for 2013.
"Not only is Travis Hafner among the elite hitters in Major League Baseball today, but he will now have the opportunity to establish himself as one of the great players in the proud history of the Cleveland Indians organization," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said in a statement on MLB.com. "This contract is both a credit to Travis's offensive performance and a testament to who he is as a teammate, his relentless work ethic and his strong desire to help bring a championship to Cleveland. We are pleased to have Travis and his wife, Amy, in the Northeast Ohio community for many years to come."
Hafner, 30, hit 42 home runs last year and drove in 110. He also drew 100 walks and had 74 extra base hits -- all of this despite missing the season's final 29 games with a broken right hand.
Speier ready for return: The AL West-leading Angels will get a boost in the start of the second half as Justin Speier will return to the bullpen after being sidelined since May 1 with an intestinal disorder. Speier tried an earlier comeback in June, but he needed more recovery time.
"The first time I came back, I felt like I rushed it a bit," Speier told the Los Angeles Times. "But this time, I threw three times in Arizona and five times at [Single-A] Rancho Cucamonga. I feel like I have a solid foundation. It's been a long road, but thank God I'm back with the team now."
Speier, who had a 1.69 ERA in 15 games before the illness, is still on medication but believes he will not have to pace himself in any way upon his return.
"It was very frustrating being on the DL for so long," Speier said. "Every time I saw [Scot] Shields pitch two or three innings, he was picking up my slack. But [Dustin] Moseley, [Chris] Bootcheck and [Darren] Oliver stepped up and did a good job. I'll just try to fill my role and help the team as much as I can."
-- Red Line Editorial