12:48 pm–Tuesday, Mt. Olive, New Jersey
Now, where was I? Ah, media day.
Waiting to get into the Empire Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Regency on 42nd and Lexington gave me the odd feeling of being back in Chicago.
At the Union Stockyards, that is.
Crammed amid a hoard of hundreds of press members trying to squeeze through three small doorways to the ballroom was akin to a rancher’s cattle call herding the beasts into their pens. One photographer made a sarcastic “moo” to which another Japanese photographer grinned and chuckled. Humor is a universal language, I guess.
An hour earlier I had taken in the American League to no particular interest save Orestes Destrade (whose last name I misspelled in my last entry–apologies) and Ichiro, who had the most media members around him besides Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
The first thing I saw as I entered the ballroom was inspiring in and of itself. I called it “Cubs Row” because save Mets closer Billy Wagner on the far end of the row, it was Geovany Soto, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome next to Wagner.
Soto and Zambrano switched back and forth between Spanish and English like interpreters. It was impressive. Soto told one reporter in English: “It’s just an honor to be voted in by the fans and to play in this game.” He then turned to a Spanish-speaking reporter and said something in Spanish.
“What did he just say?” I asked another Spanish-speaking reporter next to me.
“It’s just an honor to be voted in by the fans and to play in this game.” Oh.
But this is how it is for these guys because so many reporters approach and leave, ask a question and leave, no one knows what’s been asked already, so the players end up answering the same questions over and over.
I worked my way down the line. Kerry had the best line of the day, though. He was talking to a needling New York reporter who kept asking him “How’s it feel to play in such a historic ballpark…I mean it’s Yankee Stadium and it’s the last time the All-Star Game will ever be here…Does it make you feel the history?”
Kerry just said: “You know, the last time I checked, I played in a pretty historic ballpark, too.”
A couple of the reporters went away after Kerry talked about Carlos Marmol and how a good kid he was. I asked if it was weird to be calling someone else “Kid,” because it was weird to me hearing him say it.
“Actually it is,” he said. “I mean, you guys know–Vine Line’s been there since I started. But we all try to help out. [Mark] Grace did that for me when I came up, “Tap,” [Kevin Tapani] all of them. So we’re trying to help the kid out, too.”
Both Dempster and Wood felt a little vindication for themselves at this All-Star Game. Both had their fair share of naysayers who doubted they could make the switch from starter to closer and vice versa, with Kerry saying: “for the four or five people who said I could come back and stayed in my corner, being here is sweet.”
However, it was not the main goal, which is to win the World Series.
“I didn’t work so hard in the off-season to just make the All-Star team, I want to win the World Series.”
(More to come this afternoon as I make my way back into the city one more time….with a short stop at a doctor’s office along the way!