07/14/2003 6:38 PM ET
A-Rod, Blalock All-Star opposites
First-timer and six-timer have different perspectives
Rosters: AL | NL
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Hank Blalock and Alex Rodriguez were placed next to each other during the hour-long meet-the-media session at the Westin Hotel on Monday afternoon, but beyond their location in the oversized room, the two had very little in common.
Blalock, here for the first time, sat quietly and answered questions from a handful of reporters who dropped in for a quote or two. How does it feel to be an All-Star for the first time? Is it overwhelming? What will it feel like to share a clubhouse with some of the legendary names in all of baseball?
Typical first-year stuff.
A-Rod, on the other hand, was asked everything from the state of the Texas Rangers to his thoughts on Roger Clemens' last-minute addition to the American League team to the validity of the All-Star game determining home field advantage in the World Series to where he's going to sit during the Home Run Derby to whom he is donating his All-Star bonus money (which he is -- he's just not sure who yet).
The Middle East crisis and the Ashton Kutcher vs. Prince William, who's sexier? controversy were seemingly the only items left off the agenda.
But first, Blalock. A year ago, he watched the All-Star Game on TV, a couple of months after he was sent back to Triple-A following an unsuccessful first stint in the big leagues. Life has vastly improved for the 22-year-old third baseman, who going into the break has a .323 average, 14 homers and 48 RBIs. What a difference a year makes.
"The more experience you get, the more games you play, the more comfortable I am on the field," he said. "Being here (at the All-Star Game) is a result of the mistakes I made last year, learning from them and making the adjustments that can make me successful."
That, he does know. But what's to come in the next couple of days is anyone's guess.
"I'm not really sure what to expect," he said. "I'm looking forward to meeting these guys. These are guys that I was watching since I was in high school, and before, and they're still superstars. Being in the same clubhouse is going to be exciting."
Blalock's day began with a 4 a.m. wake up call but will likely end with an introduction to Barry Bonds, the one player he put on the top of his list of priorities.
"The numbers he's put up ... he was one of my favorite players when I was younger," he said. "All of this is very overwhelming, but I'm really excited to be here. I've never been involved with anything like this. I'm just trying to soak it in the next couple days."
Meanwhile, a few feet over, A-Rod was holding court, impeccably dressed as usual, and saying all the right things. He's done this before -- six times, in fact -- but he could still understand the jitters his young teammate, along with the slew of other first-time All-Stars, were feeling.
"Every year it's a different experience," Rodriguez said. "Seeing guys here for the first time, I remember when I had their shoes on. It was a lot different. It's great to see those guys come in -- it's like being at Disneyland for the first time. It's pretty cool."
As is Clemens' unexpected appearance at this year's Midsummer Classic.
"I love it. I absolutely love it," he said. "Anytime you get a chance to see what's right with the game and see the greatest pitcher of all time -- 4,000 (strikeouts), 300 wins -- it great.
"I'm a big advocate of Roger being here. I was disappointed at first that he wasn't going to be here. It's perfect stage to, number one, celebrate his 4,000 Ks, and two, celebrate the fact that he's the greatest right-hander that ever lived. Obviously, that's debatable, but his numbers speak for themselves. It's great for him, and it's great for baseball and it's great for us as Major Leaguers to show off one of our brightest stars."
On to the 38-55 Rangers, nestled in last place, 20 games behind the front-running Mariners. Now that he's been on a losing team for three years after a playoff run with the Mariners that lasted the same amount of time, how is A-Rod, and his record-setting contract, dealing with adversity?
"Losing's been tough the third year in," he admitted. "It's been more frustrating. The first two years, it was more of a honeymoon. This year, I'm looking for more results. We're getting some results from the young players, but it's time now that we want a winner."
Although he has 22 homers this year, Rodriguez will not be participating in the Home Run Derby Monday night. But he'll still have a front row seat for the popular All-Star event.
"I've been in it in the past and I'm terrible at it," he said. "This year I'm going to do commentary with (ESPN's) Chris Berman and Joe Morgan."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.