WASHINGTON -- The three Dodgers representing their team in Washington, D.C., this week have seven All-Star appearances among them -- but only one belongs to pitcher Thomas Stripling.
Assuming the first one is always the best one, it's likely Stripling will leave this experience with the same fond memories his teammates have of their past appearances at the Midsummer Classic.
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"Just meeting everybody," Stripling said when asked what he was most looking forward to during the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard (Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. PT on FOX). "It's guys that I've played against a couple of years now, and now they're going out of their way to shake my hand and say congratulations."
Stripling, a first-time All-Star who made the team as a replacement for the Cardinals' Miles Mikolas, was referring to intradivision foes such as Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado and D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, with whom he'll share a clubhouse this week for a couple of days of friendly banter and camaraderie, before resuming the normal position as professional enemies when the regular season resumes this weekend.
The right-hander spoke glowingly of his temporary teammates during Monday's All-Star media availability, an annual exercise where the All-Stars -- first the National League, then the American League -- are all ushered into one semi-small area, sit at individual podiums and answer as many questions as possible from hundreds of reporters, over the course of 45 minutes.
In other words, Arenado and Goldschmidt were sitting nearby while Stripling heaped praise on his fellow All-Stars.
"They're guys I've faced in the division the last three years and don't know anything about, besides their on-the-field demeanor," Stripling said. "Now, getting to meet them off the field, it's really neat. It's what I looked forward to the most."
Stripling joins a trio of NL champion Dodgers enjoying seasons exceptional enough to earn a spot on this year's NL All-Star roster, managed by their skipper, Dave Roberts.
The other two, closer Kenley Jansen and outfielder Matt Kemp, are no less thrilled than Stripling to have made the squad, but they have some experience with this. Jansen, a major reason the Dodgers have advanced as deeply into the postseason as they have in recent years, was also an All-Star in 2016 and '17.
"You don't take these moments or minutes for granted," Jansen said. "It's a special time and I'm going to enjoy it."
Kemp's history with the Midsummer Classic dates back a little further, to 2011 and 2012, which is part of what makes him one of the best stories of All-Star season.
Kemp was traded last year from the Braves to the Dodgers, with neither team believing he would make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. He was not only voted in by the fans as one of the NL's starting outfielders, he also has made a case to finish high in NL MVP Award voting. Through Sunday's game, which ended the 96-game "first half," Kemp ranked seventh in the NL with a .310 batting average, 10th with a .522 slugging percentage and 12th with an .874 OPS.
What Kemp really wants, more than All-Star accolades and award votes, is to help the Dodgers win another NL pennant -- something he wasn't able to do last year, as a Brave. And this time, he wants to win the whole thing.
"Who would get traded to the team that went to the World Series and not want to be a part of that?" Kemp said. "I want to try to help them go further than they did last year. For me to have the possibility to be back in L.A., where I came up in the big leagues, if I can be a part of that and make some things happen, it's a good opportunity. I expressed that to [the Dodgers]."
Kemp has played on three Dodgers teams in the postseason -- 2008, '09 and '14 -- and is anxious to continue helping the resurging Dodgers remain contenders in the NL West, after an abysmal start.
"I want to help the team win that last game of the [postseason]," he said. "That doesn't really happen a lot -- to be able to come back where you started. I'm going to try to make some things happen. It's a cool story."