This entry is long overdue but there is a reason it has taken me so long to write it. It has taken me two weeks to recover from the All Star festivities.
Now I've been in a Minor League All Star Game before. It was in 2009 in the Midwest League and it was in Clinton, Iowa … the smelliest place in all of professional baseball. Our bus from Kane County broke down on the highway in the middle of nowhere on a 95 degree summer afternoon so that should tell you how the rest of that experience went.
This time around Tulsa did it right. As soon as we landed they had people waiting on us in the airport to take our luggage and guide us to where we needed to go. They put us up in a fancy hotel right downtown. As soon as we got there they had gift bags waiting on us. Gotta love free stuff!
The first night was the welcoming party and poker tournament at the Hard Rock Hotel in the top floor suite. A top-notch buffet as well as open bar was a recipe for success. Throw in the poker tournament and the fact that I don't even play poker and it was a great time.
One former Athletics prospect who we traded a couple years ago (shocking) was there and the whole time we took our nametags off and stuck them on his back without him noticing. As you'll see from the picture I'm including [editor's note: see the photo gallery below] it was pretty much every player involved in the All-Star Game on his back. The only way he found out was because I got a little ambitious and tried to put mine on his hat and he felt it.
The next day I began with the most delicious and heartburn-inducing breakfast/brunch you could ever imagine. I found some hole in the wall that has been serving chili cheese coneys for almost 100 years in Tulsa. Needless to say, they were the best I've ever had. I easily ate five in a matter of a few minutes.
That night they had the autograph session followed by the banquet. I'm not exaggerating a bit when I say the Midland Rockhounds were the sharpest dressed team there. We killed it hands down. Swag.
So Whitey Herzog was the guest speaker and let me tell you … that man is truly something else. He's got stories on top of stories and they're pretty hilarious. He is also very opinionated which I definitely respect since I'm the same way but here are just a few noteworthy opinions he shared:
- Jim Thome doesn't deserve to be a Hall of Famer since he DHed so much in his career
- 600 home runs shouldn't guarantee the Hall of Fame
- Make a separate hall in the Hall of Fame for guys in the ‘Steroid Era'
- Remove the DH rule and increase the 25-man roster to 27 or 28
- Fans want to see strategic moves like double switches and not home runs
So that's that. Not much else to say besides wow. Ladies and Gentlemen, Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog.
So the final day brought the Home Run Derby and the actual All-Star Game. I took part in the Derby. Basically, I choked. Damian Easley threw BP to the three of us representing the South Division. I hit a homer my first swing and managed to blank the rest. At least I got that one though; you can't leave empty handed! I hit the fence a couple times and had my warning track swing working really well. It's a lot tougher than it looks! It was so much fun, though.
After a quick 20-minute turnaround following the Derby in the scorching Tulsa summer heat it was time to play the game. Hanson, yes 'Mmm...Bop' Hanson, sang the National Anthem. That was probably the most fun I've ever had playing a game because it was just like when we were kids again, it was all about having a good time. No pressure.
I actually broke up the North Division's no-hitter in the 5th inning with a two-strike single to left field so that was cool. It was pretty much the Oscar Taveras show, though. He had three hits, including a homer. He's the real deal. I tried to join in the fun in the 8th inning and got into a curveball pretty good to right field. I thought I went oppo taco, but per the usual it was caught at the fence. This is the same fence I fell over last year so I'm pretty sure that right field fence at OneOK Field has it out for me. Proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYwjrAmjjw0.
After the game they had a post-game reception at this bowling alley for us. It was conveniently downtown right by the stadium and hotel. I'm a terrible bowler, but the fact that it was manual scoring made me way better. Those pins are hard to keep track of! What a great way to end the festivities and head back to reality or in my case, Little Rock, Arkansas.
So all in all it was a great experience. They treated us great and it's always nice to mix things up and play with guys you usually play against. I'm nowhere near satisfied with being a mid-season Texas League All-Star, though. That is a nice accolade, but it's not where you start it's where you end up.
Connect with Jeremy on Twitter. Follow him at @Baseclogger. To catch-up on all of Barfield's previous blog entries, click here