Jeff Wilpon arranged to have two private jets take the Mets? traveling party to Pittsburgh. It was my first time flying in a private jet, so that was exciting in itself, but to be traveling to the All-Star Game with my teammates and with the Mets in first place made it a truly memorable experience. The flight was one of the first opportunities I had to take a deep breath and let it set in. While I was sitting on the plane, talking with my teammates and their families, I just began to realize how fortunate and lucky we were. It was almost overwhelming.
Everything happens very fast at an All-Star Game, so I?m glad my brothers — Stephen, Matthew and Daniel — were with me as well as my parents (Rhon and Elisa) and my old AAU coach. My brothers took a lot of video at the Home Run Derby and again during the All-Star Game, so this offseason I?m sure we?ll get together and relive the experience. It was really nice to be able to share the experience with all of them.
I even surprised myself a little by sticking around until the final round of the Home Run Derby. Paul Lo Duca had come up to me on Sunday and asked if I had anyone to throw to me and I told him no, that I was just going to use someone in Pittsburgh. Then he told me he was a pretty good batting practice pitcher and I kind of laughed at him.
I was skeptical, but then we went up to the cage and Paul threw some good BP. We practiced some more on Monday before the Derby and it turned out pretty good. He hit my bat a few times, especially in that first round. He did a great job of putting the ball where I like it.
I wish I could have mustered up a little more power towards the end to try and win the thing, but my arms got a little tired and I began to swing a little late. By the end, both Paul and I were a little weary. Plus, Ryan Howard was very consistent. He has a ton of power and he was dropping those balls in the river with some frequency.
I have to admit I felt a little intimidated standing in line with the other Home Run Derby contestants for introductions. I was one of the smallest guys there, along with Miguel Tejada. We were sandwiched in there between monsters like David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Troy Glaus, Jermaine Dye. But I think I?ll be able to hold my head high when I get back with my teammates in Chicago later this week. I?m pretty sure I surpassed the expectations they had for me back in the clubhouse.
All in all, the All-Star Game was more than I even imagined. From all of the pageantry to the game itself, it exceeded my dreams. It was disappointing for the National League to lose the game, but to hit a home run in my first All-Star Game at-bat is something I’ll always remember.
I enjoyed every second of my time in Pittsburgh. It was hectic, but you can?t get caught up in that. You never know how many All-Star Games you?ll get to participate in, so I really tried to make the most of it. I?m young, so hopefully I?ll get to come to a few more of these, but I?ll always have this one. I feel like I was really able to soak it in.
The snapshot I?ll always carry with me is just sitting around in the clubhouse and talking with some of the best hitters in the game and seeing how they go about their business. You get to know another side of them that you don?t see when you?re playing against them or watching them on TV. Hopefully I?ve made some lasting friendships.
As players, we?re all part of a fraternity, but we?ll all be enemies again by later this week when we get back to competing against each other on the field.
I can?t think of a better way to finish off the first half than going to the All-Star Game with a bunch of my teammates. It?s a great honor to be selected to represent the National League for the first time, but it?s even better to be heading to Pittsburgh as one of six representatives of the first-place team in the NL East. We?ve put ourselves in great position. We?re where we want to be and it?s only right that we have so many guys on the team.
Having six guys on the team ?- Jose Reyes, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Beltran, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez and me ?- is a testament to the way we?ve played during the first half. We?re the Mets representatives on the team, but we?ll be carrying the flag for the rest of the guys in the clubhouse, too, because everyone on our roster has contributed to the success we?ve had so far this season.
I?ll be in awe the entire time. I?ve been a fan of Major League Baseball for a much longer time than I?ve been playing here, so I?ll have my eyes and ears wide open. The guys who will be on the field with me are the elite players in the game. Some of them will be future Hall of Famers, so I?ll have an opportunity to learn a few things from them while I?m in Pittsburgh, too. I figure I?ll be able to have a lot of fun and become a better baseball player at the same time.
People have been reminding me the last few days that the last time the Mets had six guys in the All-Star Game was 1986 when they won the World Series. That?s a fun piece of trivia, but it?s not a good omen any more than getting swept by the Red Sox last week was a bad omen. How well we do in the end will be a matter of how well we perform on the field.
We?re barely halfway through the season at this point and we still have a long way to go. As well as we?ve done so far, we can be even better in the second half. Personally, I?m going to strive to be more consistent. I feel like I?ve taken a baby step toward becoming the player I want to be. But there?s still a lot of hard work ahead, still many long hours in the batting cage and many long hours in the weight room before I get there.
The other highlight of the All-Star break for me will be appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman next Wednesday night. I don?t know exactly how it came about, but it was arranged through Jay Horwitz in our public relations office and it took about two seconds for me to accept the invitation.
I watch Letterman all the time. We?ll have to wait and see, but knowing the show, I?m sure Dave will have some funny stuff lined up for me, probably some good one-liners for which I won?t have any response. I?ve gotten better at making media appearances since coming to New York, but I still get a little nervous. It?s amazing that I can hit a 95 mph fastball or catch a screamer down the line at third in front of a packed stadium, but when that little red light goes on the TV camera, I still get anxious.
You don?t have to worry about me getting a big head from all of the attention I?ve been getting from the media and fans in recent weeks, though. My teammates aren?t about to let that happen. I?ve actually become one of my their favorite targets in the clubhouse. They love to tease me and give me a hard time. It?s all fun. That?s one of the things I love about our club. You have to really check your ego at the door of the clubhouse and be prepared to take a little ribbing.
Thanks for sending me to the All-Star Game. I?ll let you know what it?s like while I?m there next week.