Rays ace saw his favorite pitcher at ASG

July 26th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Adam Berry's Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

KANSAS CITY -- The leadoff double by Ronald Acuña Jr., the RBI single by Mookie Betts and the home run by Paul Goldschmidt didn’t matter. Nor did the inning-ending strikeout against Willson Contreras. If you want to understand what the All-Star Game experience is all about, go back and watch  just before his first pitch and right after his 23rd and final offering.

The left-hander made himself into an ace, a deserving All-Star starter, with resolute focus and a relentless drive to improve. But there he was on the mound, unable to hide his smile as he looked around Dodger Stadium.

“It's the All-Star Game. It's pretty cool,” McClanahan said on Friday. “Just trying to take it all in. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you've just got to enjoy it when you can.”

In that regard, McClanahan’s first trip to the Midsummer Classic was an undisputed success.

He got to enjoy the All-Star experience with his girlfriend and family, saying, “They tried to do everything with me.” He rocked the red carpet wearing the suit former Ray Chris Archer bought him last season. He didn’t just have Clayton Kershaw sign the Dodgers jersey he took to Los Angeles; he got to spend time with his favorite pitcher as they made the media rounds the day before the game.

McClanahan brought home a signed American League team jersey, baseballs and custom adidas cleats. He chatted up Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, among others. He met Hall of Famer/temporary in-game reporter David Ortiz. He was blown away by the “special talent” of Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez, who was McClanahan's pick to win the Home Run Derby.

He was honored when he got the call informing him he’d be the AL’s starting pitcher. And, yes, he kept quiet when Dusty Baker mistakenly said he’d never seen McClanahan pitch, even though the lefty faced Baker’s Astros in the 2020 postseason.

“Who am I to correct Dusty Baker?” he said. “He’s Dusty Baker.”

McClanahan relieved Rays manager Kevin Cash by not following through on one promise -- that he’d “try to throw 120” mph, according to Cash -- even if he didn’t quite deliver on his goal of a three-pitch inning. McClanahan didn’t pitch like he did throughout the first half, but noted it was still “probably the best experience on a baseball field I’ve had.”

The smile said it all.

“Obviously, I wanted to do well, but it was a great experience,” McClanahan said. “It was one of those things where the experience triumphs the results.”