Bieber the 3rd to win All-Star MVP in home park

A late addition to roster, Indians right-hander K's side in 5th inning

July 10th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Five days ago, wasn’t even an All-Star.

It was Friday night when the 24-year-old learned that he would replace Mike Minor on the American League roster. On Tuesday, he was holding the Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP Award presented by Chevrolet in the infield at Progressive Field.

“I didn't really know what to think,” Bieber said after the AL's 4-3 victory. “Kind of lost all feeling in my body. But it's an incredible feeling now, now that it's kind of sinking in. Just to be able to do it in front of the home crowd and my first All-Star Game is definitely not something I expected, especially being added to the game five days ago.”

Bieber relieved Lucas Giolito in the fifth inning, preparing to face Willson Contreras, Ketel Marte and Ronald Acuna Jr. He struck Contreras out on a 2-2 fastball and then fanned Marte with an 83.9-mph curve. With two outs and two strikes on Acuna, all but two people in the Cleveland crowd were chanting, “Shane Bieber.”

“It’s hard to chant when you’re crying,” Bieber’s father, Chris, said. “Literally, my wife and I are just looking at each other going, ‘What?’ … I’m generally not an emotional person, but it’s hard not to. It was absolutely surreal.”

With the 36,747 fans behind him, Bieber rang up Acuna on an 85.5-mph slider on the outside corner.

“[I] kind of stepped off the back of the mound after one of the pitches and wasn't totally able to look up and see everything just because there was so much going on,” Bieber said. “But I heard everything and really soaked it all in.

“You know, I can't really thank the fans enough for creating that moment for me and making it really special.”

“It was electric out there,” AL manager Alex Cora said. “The fans got in it and it was fun. And I'm glad that he got the MVP. He plays at this level. He's really good.”

Bieber walked back to the mound as the crowd erupted, including his manager, Terry Francona, who threw his hands above his head in the dugout, celebrating the success of his young starter. When Bieber reached the dugout, met him at the top step.

“It was incredible,” Bieber said. “[Lindor] said, ‘Congrats, proud of you.’ … Getting that reception from the dugout, and those guys and those names was extremely special.”

“MVP, brother, that’s it,” Lindor said. “He was outstanding today. He showed up. He’s been doing it all season long. That’s why he’s an All-Star, and he did it today again. That’s why he’s the MVP.”

From walk-on at UC Santa Barbara to All-Star. Like Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1997, Bieber was able to take home the hardware in front of the home crowd. He’s just the third player to do so in his home ballpark -- Boston's Pedro Martinez also accomplished the feat in 1999 at Fenway Park.

“Yeah, that's incredible to just hear you say that,” Bieber said. “I don't think it's hit me. And I don't know when it will, but it's going to hit me hard. I'm definitely looking forward to it. That's a pretty special thing to hear and to try to soak in.”

Was Bieber expecting it to happen? No. But one of his teammates was.

“Yeah, that’s pretty amazing,” said. “We kind of joked about it before: ‘I don't know if a relief pitcher has ever won the MVP. So you gotta go out there and punch the side and see what happens.’ And he punches the side and he wins MVP, so that's pretty good.”

Bieber’s performance put a smile on each of his teammates’ faces. Lindor and combined to go 0-for-5 on the night and Hand allowed two runs on two hits with two walks in the eighth inning, but nothing could’ve made them happier than watching Bieber walk away with the highest honors Tuesday night.

“Baseball is crazy,” Santana said. “Everybody was thinking about a lot of other players besides Bieber, but I’m happy for him. Happy for him being the MVP and I’m proud.”

As Bieber addressed the media at the end of the night, he said he could feel his phone vibrating constantly, expecting most of the messages to be from fellow Indians pitcher and good friend . The two compete start after start to one up each other after each outing in an attempt to win the “King of the Hill” crown that’s given to the best pitcher for each series. But Bieber may have taken the cake with his All-Star performance.

“He's an awesome teammate, and I know all my teammates were shooting me texts and congratulating me,” Bieber said. “And it means a lot. I think this one means a little bit more than the King of the Hill, just because I can maybe hold it over Trevor's head a little bit longer. But I'm excited to see the reaction.”