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Bell shows off All-Star style, speed

@adamdberry
July 10, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Growing up, two parts of the Midsummer Classic festivities always captured Josh Bell’s attention. The first was the Home Run Derby, an annual display of power for hitters like Bell. The second? The red-carpet parade. Bell got to live the dream in full on Tuesday, riding through Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Growing up, two parts of the Midsummer Classic festivities always captured Josh Bell’s attention. The first was the Home Run Derby, an annual display of power for hitters like Bell. The second? The red-carpet parade.

Bell got to live the dream in full on Tuesday, riding through Cleveland as a first-time All-Star. Then the Pirates’ switch-hitting slugger, starting as the National League’s designated hitter, went 1-for-2 with an infield single in a 4-3 loss to the American League in the 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Progressive Field.

Even after falling out in the first round, Bell described the T-Mobile Home Run Derby as “something that I’ll never forget.” And the parade? Everything he thought it would be and more, he said.

“I feel like I could do that forever. This whole morning was a bit of a dream, waking up and getting to go through the red carpet and dressing up and seeing a lot of Pittsburgh fans sprinkled in,” Bell said. “It was a blast.”

Bell arrived in style, too. His girlfriend picked out his spiked shoes and custom hat, which he wore with a pair of playing cards -- two fives of diamonds, representing his No. 55. Bell handled his suit. He came away pleased with the results, especially with the response he received from fans wearing Pirates jerseys and “BELL-ieve” shirts along the parade route.

“I feel like it worked out,” he said, smiling. “I got a lot of high-fives and tips of the cap from the guys in the audience and the crowd. It was pretty cool.”

The pregame pomp surpassed Bell’s expectations. What about the game itself? A few hours before he was introduced with the rest of the starting lineup, Bell said his goal for the evening was to barrel up two pitches. No matter where they went, he just wanted to make solid contact.

It was a reasonable goal, considering he ranks among the Majors’ leaders in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. Instead, Bell wound up utilizing his speed to record the NL's first hit of the night.

Facing Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka with two outs and nobody on in the second inning, Bell slapped a 2-2 splitter to second baseman DJ LeMahieu and hustled out of the box. Bell was initially ruled out at first, but a replay review overturned the call and awarded Bell his first All-Star Game hit.

According to Statcast, Bell’s sprint speed was 28.2 feet per second, well above his season average of 26.7 and the Major League average of 27. In fact, Bell’s 4.26-second sprint down the line was his fifth-fastest of the season.

“Definitely not the knock that I wanted, but I’ll definitely take it. Showing off the speed just a tad bit,” Bell said. “I definitely feel like I was safe there, so glad we have replay here as well.”

Despite it being his first trip to the Midsummer Classic, Bell was able to appreciate the smaller moments. He hit in the batting cage with Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Paul DeJong and Cody Bellinger, observing the details of his fellow All-Stars’ pregame routines.

True to his hard-working nature, Bell got in some video work of his own even before arriving to the ballpark. Following his early exit from the Home Run Derby, Bell said, he stayed up Monday night to review his entire performance -- “trying to see what went wrong.” He thought he found something that will benefit him moving forward.

But wait a second, how many times did he watch those Derby swings?

“Maybe four or five times straight through,” Bell said, “but who’s counting?”

Second time around

Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez, a late addition to the NL roster, did not pitch in Tuesday’s game. Beforehand, Vazquez said NL manager Dave Roberts advised the left-hander to be ready to enter the game at any point. Even if there had been a bottom of the ninth inning, Vazquez wouldn’t have pitched. Padres closer Kirby Yates was warming up.

Pittsburgh’s closer was hoping to scale the mound for at least one inning, but he nonetheless appreciated the experience as a second-time All-Star. After making his All-Star Game debut last year at Nationals Park, Vazquez was a little more familiar with the routine and a little more relaxed. Plus, he got to enjoy the game -- and Bell’s performance in the Derby -- with a fellow Pirate.

“I think I had a little more fun this year. The parade was a little bit longer than it was last year in DC,” Vazquez said. “I had time to actually enjoy the parade and everything, the team picture and all that stuff. I went out with my phone, taking pictures with Josh and the other guys.”

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.