CLEVELAND -- Austin Meadows was getting loose in the batting cage when they gave him a heads up that he would be entering his first career All-Star Game in the top of the fourth inning. It was the moment that Meadows had been dreaming of since being named to the
CLEVELAND -- Austin Meadows was getting loose in the batting cage when they gave him a heads up that he would be entering his first career All-Star Game in the top of the fourth inning. It was the moment that Meadows had been dreaming of since being named to the American League roster on June 30, and now it was about to become a reality.
“I knew I was coming in the third or fourth inning for [Michael] Brantley, so when they said ‘Meadows, you’re in’ it was kind of like ‘man, this is really real,’” Meadows said. “To be able to go out there and see all the fans, being able to be out there -- especially when Shane [Bieber] struck out the side, with the standing ovation. It was like me and Mike Trout were looking at each other like ‘man, this is crazy.’”
Meadows played four innings in the outfield, spending time in both right and left, and was able to get his first at-bat in the Midsummer Classic in the fifth inning against Dodgers righty Walker Buehler. The Rays outfielder grounded out sharply to first base, finishing the night 0-for-1 at the plate before getting replaced by Xander Bogaerts in the seventh inning.
“It was awesome, man,” Meadows said of the experience. “Being around those guys, having our phones recording special moments, the [Carlos] Carrasco moment, CC [Sabathia] going out for [Aroldis] Chapman, all kinds of fun stuff. It was pretty surreal to be a part of. And I’ll always remember it.”
The opportunity to be in the same clubhouse as those players also gave Meadows additional motivation to perform well enough to continue appearing in these events. He hopes this was just the first of many.
“This is as good as it gets. Best talent in the world,” Meadows said. “You definitely want to be here as many times as you can. That’s why I tried to enjoy this because you never know how many more times you’ll be here. I [will] definitely make it a goal of mine each and every year, so it’s pretty special.”
Meadows was the only Rays player that got into the game, but Brandon Lowe and Charlie Morton were both able to enjoy the All-Star festivities. Morton was making his second All-Star appearance, while Lowe was making his first trip.
For Morton, who was joined by his wife and kids, being in his second All-Star Game made him appreciate the experience even more. Because he wasn’t participating after going 5 1/3 innings on Sunday, and because it was his second straight year at the event, the right-hander said he was more calm this time around.
“Last year I guess I was just getting a feel for things and then I realized that everyone is just kind of normal and everybody is cool,” Morton said. “So I feel like I can enjoy this one a little bit more and just talk to people I haven’t met and talk to people I haven’t seen in a while and it’s nice.”
As for Lowe, who’s right shin injury is doing much better, the time in Cleveland with his wife, mother and father served as a time of reflection for the Rays rookie, who came away in awe of the festivities.
“It’s been a dream come true to be able to have them here and have them experience this with me,” Lowe said. “It’s been incredible just to have them be here watching me realize my dream. I owe everything to them. I wouldn’t be here without them and to be able to have them here means everything.”
As the trio heads back to St. Petersburg on Wednesday, the focus shifts to helping the Rays reach the postseason for the first time since 2013. But before that, they’ll reminiscence for a bit on what has been an unforgettable couple of days in Cleveland.
“The red carpet I thought I was in a movie or a dream, or something,” Meadows said. “To be able to do that with my parents, it was kind of an emotional moment. Seeing fans chanting your name and thousands of fans knowing who you are, it’s pretty surreal.”
Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.