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.