Castro, LaHair part of NL's supporting cast in win
Senior Circuit comes on strong early; Cubs see action late in Midsummer Classic
Shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman/outfielder Bryan LaHair were part of a National League All-Star team that set a record for the NL's largest margin of victory in the 83-game history of the Midsummer Classic. The NL beat the American League, 8-0, at Kauffman Stadium.
Castro, just 22, but making his second straight All-Star appearance, entered in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and flied out to right-center. Castro has hopes, realistic hopes of making the All-Star team on an annual basis.
"I feel really, really good, happy to be out there for the second time," Castro said. "It was a little bit different, because there were a lot of different players and a different field, but it's kind of awesome, you know? It was an unbelievable day that I'll never forget in my whole life.
"It's a lot of motivation for me, because it's my second time playing in the All-Star Game. A lot of guys come to the All-Star Game and don't play, but he [NL manager Tony La Russa] put me in there for two innings and I got an at-bat. This is my experience and I want more."
For LaHair, 29, the road to an All-Star Game has been considerably longer. He spent nine years in the Minors and this was the first time that he had made a big league club as an everyday player out of Spring Training. But like Castro, he was voted onto the NL All-Star team through the players' ballot, meaning that he had gained the respect of his peers.
"It's just a dream come true for me," LaHair said of the All-Star appearance. "I can't say that enough. It was a real sincere moment for me personally. The emotions flew for me, when they announced my name and I looked up and I see my brother and my wife up there watching. There was a lot of electricity in that crowd, and you could really feel it. It was really incredible."
LaHair entered the game on defense at first base in the seventh inning and got an at-bat in the ninth against hard-throwing Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney. On a 98-mph fastball, LaHair bounced to short.
"Yeah, I tried to ambush a fastball and it didn't work," LaHair said with a smile. "Unfortunately, he put the ball in the right spot. I was trying to barrel him up, and I didn't get quite enough barrel on it."
If making the All-Star Game was the stuff of dreams for LaHair, did the reality live up to the dreams?
"It was probably a little more than that," he said. "You can have dreams and thoughts about how it would be if you ever had that opportunity, but until you get here and you experience everything, firsthand, it really just doesn't compare.
"It's an unreal moment for me in my life. It's something I'll never forget. I'll have pictures of this in my mind forever. It'll be a nice story to tell the grandchildren when I'm older, and I'm just glad to be a part of it.
"Something like this can help increase your confidence, because you're in this locker room with the stars and a lot of great players. We feel equal in here and we feel like we're all in here for a reason. That kind of thing can really help somebody's career and confidence."
The NL clubhouse was a particularly happy spot after the one-sided triumph.
"We got a victory, and that was the most important thing," LaHair said. "Three in a row now. It's a winning streak. This is one of the best vacations I could ever ask for. I wouldn't rather be any place else in the world now."
Making the day even better for Castro was a chance to meet a shortstop idol of his, Derek Jeter, captain of the Yankees.
"After the team picture, I met him," Castro said, "and he told me: 'You're a very good player, keep working hard.' He was very nice. I never met him, I wanted to meet him and it happened today."
And Castro said he would also remember the farewell All-Star appearance of Chipper Jones, the Atlanta third baseman and future Hall of Famer who is retiring after this season.
"It's got to be special for Chipper," Castro said. "He told us before the game this was going to be his last [All-Star Game] and he didn't want to lose. Everybody worked hard, everybody did their best, and we won the game."