All-Star Diamond Notes
As an homage to baseball writer Peter Gammons, here are some of my Diamond Notes from three days at Kauffman Stadium for the 83rd MLB All-Star Game, an 8-0 National League win.
•George Brett made good on his commitment to winning the Futures Game as the manager for the U.S. team with a 17-5 thumping of the World team. Royals prospect Wil Myers,
|George Brett talks with MLB Network's Peter Gammons before the Futures Game.|
who played all nine innings, needs to be called up to the majors … well … yesterday. He is shredding minor-league pitching (.327 average, 27 home runs, 72 RBI) and has all the tools. And judging from each time he dug in his cleats at the batter's box, the fans want him in KC rather than in Triple-A Omaha.
•All you needed to do was stand near the batting cages to see that Brett was taking his managerial charge seriously. He seemed to savor taking it upon himself to pull some players aside, giving advice on swing mechanics and working through nerves.
•Prince Fielder has 15 home runs at the All-Star break, which is only tied for 18th in the American League. But the Detroit Tigers slugger splattered baseballs into the fountains in right field like he was flipping pennies into the Neptune fountain in the Plaza, winning the State Farm Home Run Derby with 28 total homers. In his first All-Star appearance, Mark Trumbo of the Angels perhaps displayed the most prodigious home run power, practically denting the Royals Hall of Fame building in left field.
•Whether you think it was crass and unbecoming or a proud example of Kansas City's love for baseball and the Royals, Robinson Canó's snub of Billy Butler at the Home Run Derby ignited the Kauffman Stadium crowd like I've never heard it before. It was the rowdiest and best All-Star atmosphere. Psychology professors could start faculty-lounge discussions and write studies on Canó's 0-fer performance. Every mention of his name elicited lustily-delivered boos, and cheers grew louder as it became clear the Yankee star was going to goose-egg.
A sampling from Monday's player interviews over at Arrowhead
•Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who's 12-3 with a 2.92 ERA and one of baseball's best quotes, says guys he's come up through the minors with like Butler, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon can get the Royals back to a winning record. His Nats should give KC reasons for optimism as a team that endured years of losing which is now at the top of the National League East standings.
"Give them a chance. They're young guys, you know. They have plenty of time to grow and I think what they're going to do for Kansas City is going to be unbelievable," Gonzalez tells 435 South. "They don't go out there and get walked on. They make sure they put a little bite to you. When you give them an opportunity, a team like that, it's going to be dangerous, and it'll be fun to watch. If I were a Kansas City fan, there's a team you got to keep your eyes on for the rest of the year."
Gonzalez worked a 1-2-3 third inning for the National League squad.
|A view from right field as Prince Fielder takes his swings at the Home Run Derby.|
•Last year's National League Cy Young Award winner, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, has Kansas ties. Although this was his first appearance in a game in Kansas City, his mother is from Salina. And sorry, he didn't bring any burgers from Salina's Own Taste Sensation, the Cozy Inn.
"I heard about George Brett growing up; he was her favorite," says Kershaw, who worked around two hits in the fifth. "So that's kind of cool to see that this is his town baseball-wise."
•Meanwhile, just to Kershaw's left at Monday's media session, his Dodger teammate Matt Kemp chose Kansas City to be with fellow major leaguers for the first time since re-aggravating his hamstring injury. He only tallied one home run at the Home Run Derby.
But Kemp, last year's National League MVP runner-up and the Dodgers' home run leader despite two stints on the disabled list, tells 435 South that it was important for him to return here. And it's important for the injury-riddled Dodgers, which are 15-25 since a 32-15 start and sorely need his bat.
"I wouldn't come back if I didn't consider myself 100-percent," Kemp says. "I feel like my team needs me, and I want to be there for them. It's been frustrating watching and seeing how we've been playing, but if we get things going again, everybody's going to be playing the way they played at the beginning of the season."
•There can't be many All-Star Games with fans as fond of the occasion and as appreciative as this one in Kansas City. There were others who received cheers and adoration besides Butler, who was 0-for-2 with a grounder to third and a strikeout. Perhaps the nicest reception was for 40-year-old retiring Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones, a career .304 hitter.
|Fans gather behind the fountains to get another view of the All-Star Game.|
And there were certainly no hard feelings for former Royals Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals and All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera of the Giants, whose two-run homer gave the National League its 8-0 lead.
•So what if the score was lopsided? Not many fans dared to leave early. Not when it's taken 39 years for Kansas City to host another All-Star Game. And 40,000 people at times had the air of 100,000 for the derby and the game, whether folks were standing four-deep in the concourses for a few pitches or at the center field railing behind the fountains.
•Kansas City, a round of applause. These several days in the baseball limelight were an incontestable KC masterpiece. With the Royal crown mowed into center field and a great capacity crowd, Kauffman Stadium was visually splendid. And in a summer of torrid temperatures, who would've assumed a cooler northerly breeze would blow in for the All-Star Game? Chipper Jones had never played a game in Kansas City in his 19 years with the Braves. But after his league won for the third straight year, he said Kansas City put on a whale of a show.
I'd have to agree.
photos: Alex Hoffman