“Bieber!” he yelled.
The 24-year-old paused mid-sentence and looked over at another first-time All-Star who was about to address the media ahead of his big T-Mobile Home Run Derby performance Monday night.
“Hi!” Santana followed.
“Like that,” Bieber said, turning back to the media, allowing Santana’s actions to answer the question.
It’s been a whirlwind of 72 hours for the Indians starting pitcher, who found out he earned a spot on the American League roster for the 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Friday evening. He then had to bottle his emotions to be able to pitch eight innings against the Reds on Saturday.
“Trevor [Bauer] was actually the first person to come congratulate me,” Bieber said. “We were staying next door in Cincinnati in the hotel. He was knocking on my door right when the news came out. … He gave me a big hug and he was like, ‘Dude, congrats, I’m happy for you.’ That meant a lot, not just coming from him, but the rest of my teammates as well.”
Until he takes the mound tonight, which he was told to be ready to do, he’s trying to find the balance of relying on his tight-knit group of teammates to guide him through the first experience.
“Yeah, I’m trying not to be too annoying,” Bieber said. “But [I’m asking] a lot of questions.”
Bieber’s not alone in the first-timer department. Santana, who participated in the Derby before starting at first base for the AL tonight, is also participating in his first Midsummer Classic in front of a home crowd. And as excited as he is to be given the opportunities, his teammates seem even more thrilled.
“I was so happy for him,” Francisco Lindor said. “He worked so hard year after year. Signing somewhere else, getting traded here and making his first All-Star Game here in Cleveland, his home, it’s special. I’m happy for him, I’m happy for his family and I can’t wait to see him tonight.”
Like Bieber, Santana has four-time All-Star Lindor and three-time All-Star Brad Hand to lean on throughout the process. But if there’s anyone who Santana has learned to depend on, it’s his manager Terry Francona, who will be by his side as one of the coaches for the AL staff.
“We were sitting in the dugout the other day before the game,” Francona said. “And he goes, ‘I love it here’ and it kind of hit me. I said, ‘We love having you here.’ And then I told him, ‘I want a favor. I want to get a picture with you tomorrow at the ballpark.’
“He has grown so much and it’s not just with me, it’s with everybody. But we are pretty close and I trust him a lot and he’s earned that. He’s grown up right in front of our own eyes, and when that happens, it feels good.”
Mr. Smile is everywhere
From billboards to hotel windows and on the side of trolleys, Lindor’s face has been plastered all over Cleveland, welcoming players and fans into his city for the Midsummer Classic.
“I was telling my agent earlier, ‘Wow, this is insane, it’s a dream,’” Lindor said. “To go from a little kid in Puerto Rico to signing professional and having all these things, I’m not here by myself. My family being a big part, my coaches, my agent have been a big part of my career. It’s special, everywhere you go you see your face.”
Hand to pitch the eighth
On Monday, American League manager Alex Cora announced that Hand will take the eighth inning if the team has a lead, leaving the ninth to Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Hand said. “It’s just gonna be a fun experience no matter what. I hope Shane [Greene] gets in there as well, being his first All-Star Game. I’m just looking forward to it.”