Stars to the stars: Players reveal fandom for peers
Imagine what it's like to be a star Major League player. Fans want an autograph or a photo. Reporters want a quote. Companies want an endorsement for their products. Sometimes it must seem like everybody is watching, looking up at you.
Now imagine this: Even the players with the biggest names and the biggest contracts probably have somebody they look up to, who they follow, who they will pause what they're doing to watch perform.
It's not unusual, for example, to see a signed jersey from an opposing team's player hanging in a locker, or a clubhouse attendant handing him an autographed baseball from across the field. When the game starts, they compete fiercely. But many baseball players are also baseball fans with a really cool job.
Growing up about 175 miles from Atlanta, Giants catcher Buster Posey was an unabashed Chipper Jones fan. And that didn't change after be broke into the big leagues and quickly established himself as one of the best in the game.
"I've watched [Chipper] my whole life," he told reporters at the All-Star Game in Kansas City last July. "I grew up watching the Braves every night on TBS. I'd get home from school and I'd look forward to watching him hit. I wouldn't have thought I'd have a chance to play against him and play with him on an All-Star team."
Sometimes a player doesn't have to look far to watch the player he admires most. For Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen it's one of his teammates, 24-year-old left fielder Starling Marte.
"I watch [Marte]," said McCutchen, an All-Star each of the last two seasons who finished third in the National League MVP Award voting last season. "He's going to be a great player. His potential is through the roof. He can bring a lot to the game and he showed early this year what he's capable of doing, and doing it on a regular basis.
"He's really fun, really exciting to watch. He's just an all-around player. He can do whatever you need him to do. He can bunt. He can hit for average. He can hit for power. He has speed. He has an arm in the outfield. Covers a lot of ground. He can do it all. Watching a guy like that develop his potential is definitely fun. It's good to play alongside of him, and hopefully I can do that for a lot of years."
For Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, it's a player who established himself at that position for the Yankees: Derek Jeter. It's why Tulo wears No. 2.
"He's a winner, you know what I mean?" Tulowitzki told the New York Times in 2007. "Growing up, I always saw the Yankees in the World Series. He was always the guy coming up with the clutch hit. He just seemed like a good leader out there, and a very good player at that."
For Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, it's a former Mets teammate, Jose Reyes.
"He is fun," Beltran explained. "He runs, always plays hard, plays good defense. I like to watch him play. I got the opportunity to play with him in New York. He proved every year, the way he trains, the way he cares about his game and the team. He is happy every day, good times, bad times. He will always give it his best.
"Those are the players you really like as ballplayer. There are a lot of ups and downs. Guys get up and some guys get too down. With him, you never know when he is having a good or bad season, he is always the same."
Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award in 2011 and finished second last season. He couldn't pick one.
"[Tampa Bay's David] Price, [Boston's Jon] Lester, [Washington's] Gio [Gonzalez]. Gio is more for scouting purposes, the other two as a fan," Kershaw said. "One guy I really enjoy watching this year is Matt Harvey from [the Mets]. The guy's really good."
So no matter how acclaimed a baseball star may be, the chances are good that there's another player that he particularly enjoys watching. That he's a fan of. That he might even want an autograph from.
And sometimes, it gets even better than that. When Posey formally accepted his NL MVP Award at the New York Baseball Writers' Association of America dinner in January, it was presented to him by ... Jones.