CLEVELAND -- The MLB All-Star Game is baseball’s school for cool kids, but there are status levels even among that elite group. The four Rockies who were invited -- third baseman Nolan Arenado, right fielder Charlie Blackmon, shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder David Dahl -- cover all levels of stardom.
While meeting with the media on Monday, Arenado discussed the best part of the weekend, which was to come later when the players took swings at Progressive Field.
"Probably in BP, just hanging out in the outfield, talking about hitting, ground balls, whatever," Arenado said.
The shop talk among the game’s best is in many ways the highlight of the trip for players.
“It's a great experience,” Blackmon said. “I wish everybody could be there for it. But I think what makes it so special is it is just a select group of guys.”
Players revel in the shop talk. Arenado (five trips) and Blackmon (four) have reached the status where players are seeking their counsel. That could be even more pronounced this year, with an attention-grabbing influx of younger players.
Story went for the first time last year, but at 26, he’s more middle-aged than young among this group. It’s the first trip for Dahl, in his first year as a full-time starter.
The key is for everyone, regardless of experience, to forever be a student.
“It’s a mixture of both; I feel I’m still asking a lot of questions,” said Arenado, a fan-elected starter for the third straight year. “There are a lot of young guys coming this year. They may ask me, maybe not. But I still ask questions. I still want to learn. It’s back and forth.”
Story was mentored by former Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki when he was still a Rockies prospect. Tulowitzki was traded in 2015. Story grabbed the starting job at the beginning of the 2016 season, and quickly evolved beyond his mentee role.
Said Story: “It’s awesome that guys are able to come up to guys like Nolan or Chuck or myself, and ask what do they think about this or what kind of approach are you thinking?"
Story has his own questions of the stars. Last year, through the excitement and confusion of the whirlwind schedule, he caught up with the Reds’ Joey Votto and found him gracious. What if someone approaches Story the same way?
“It would be a little bit of validation,” he said. “It's just cool to have that respect of your peers.
“It hasn't really happened yet.”
Dahl cut his learning curve last year by sitting beside Blackmon on team flights and hitting with Arenado during batting practice. This week, he’ll have a chance to be teammates -- rather than opponents -- with the Brewers’ Christian Yelich and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, who have unlocked home run power after entering the Majors as solid fundamental hitters.
“With Yelich, I watch his swing -- I mess around with people all the time and say that I'm trying to copy him and do it,” Dahl said. “It's pretty hard to do, what he's doing.
“Everyone's really good. I want to watch how they do their routines, what they talk about, what they think about. Who knows? Maybe they say something that can click with me and I can get even better.”
No one minds when someone who is already good wants even more information.
“I guess it was last year, two years ago maybe, and I won't say who it was, but someone -- a really good hitter -- came up and asked me a hitting question,” Blackmon said. “I was just kind of surprised that that person wanted to know what I was thinking in a certain situation. That guy had lots of success on his own.
“But that's what sets those guys apart in that locker room, is that while they're all really talented, they all are super competitive and still want to get better.”