Yanks' first-timers, veterans alike gracious
Crew of All-Stars -- minus Mo -- taking in Anaheim's festivities
ANAHEIM -- More lockers in the home clubhouse at Angel Stadium will be stocked with pinstripes than any other uniform, and that creates a welcoming feeling for the Yankees' All-Star Game representatives.
"It's going to feel like we're back in New York in the clubhouse," said Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. "You've got your guys, your managers, your coaches. It's going to be a lot of fun in there."
Anaheim wasn't always the most welcoming travel destination for the Yankees, who have spilled their share of heartache and frustration on that diamond in Southern California, but this trip is different.
Tuesday's All-Star Game and all the preceding festivities are a celebration, and for the eight Yankees All-Stars -- seven of whom are soaking up the sunshine, with Mariano Rivera out due to injury -- there's no reason not to love a few more days on the West Coast.
"It means a lot. It's a privilege. It's an honor," said Derek Jeter, now an 11-time All-Star. "It's something that you don't get an opportunity to come to every year. You appreciate it because all the great players are here. It's something that everyone here enjoys."
By virtue of their World Series victory, the Yankees' traveling party is rolling deep. Manager Joe Girardi brought his entire coaching staff, and in addition to All-Star starters Cano and Jeter, pitchers CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte are on the roster, as well as Alex Rodriguez and Final Vote winner Nick Swisher.
Swisher might have been having the most fun in the room as the American Leaguers met the media on Monday, but that should have been no upset. Swisher has been giddy since collecting more than 9.8 million votes to reach his first All-Star Game, and the Yankees have tried to take advantage of his naivety.
As Sabathia revealed Monday, Jeter had tried to trick Swisher into wearing his AL uniform to the press conference, telling him that it was what they'd all be wearing. Girardi was in on the gag, as was the coaching staff and equipment manager Rob Cucuzza.
Swisher believed it, but a missed phone call saved him some embarrassment. Cucuzza missed Swisher's phone call Monday morning, and when Swisher asked MLB vice president of club relations Phyllis Merhige what he should be wearing, she let him in on the gag.
"I feel bad, because he was probably going to be mad at me," Sabathia said, laughing. "He asked me like four times what I'm wearing to the [conference] today, and I kept saying, 'Robbie's going to give us a uniform, so you just wear that.' He asked me a bunch of times."
Swisher has bigger concerns than wardrobe for Monday. He committed to participating in the State Farm Home Run Derby at Angel Stadium, and said he will try hardest just to keep his easygoing demeanor.
"I'm going to drink my Gatorade and I'm going to put my batting gloves on," Swisher said. "That's all you can do. There's no game plan -- just go out there and have a blast. You swing, see where you can hit them, and go from there.
"I'm like that duck on the water. Everything's cool on top, but underneath, my feet are going a mile a minute. I'm just trying to act cool, but I'm so nervous for tonight. It's like taking [batting practice] with 10 million people watching. No biggie."
|"It means a lot. It's a privilege. It's an honor."|
|-- Derek Jeter, 11-time All-Star|
"For me, I'm just so happy to be here," Rodriguez said. "I didn't like not being here. Obviously I had gone through a lot of stuff. I get a lot of excitement about seeing all the young guys come in for the first time, but being here just gives me a lot of perspective; how different I am as a person, a teammate, from 500 home runs to 600 home runs.
"... There's nothing about being here this year that I take for granted. Last year was such a challenging year. It started tough and ended up pretty well. Obviously, health-wise, to be able to be here and to be able to participate is great."
It might be the last time for Pettitte, a three-time All-Star whose last selection came in 2001, when he had a front-row seat in the bullpen to watch Cal Ripken Jr.'s home run fly overhead off Chan Ho Park. Pettitte said that he can't believe how young the AL's pitching crop has become.
"Everybody obviously keeps asking me what I'm doing here," Pettitte said. "I feel like I'm not doing anything different than I have the last three years that I've been back with the Yankees. Maybe my command has been a little bit better.
"I'm just a little bit more consistent, maybe, with my release point. That's led to less mistakes and a lot better first half."
The All-Star Game is also representing a homecoming for Hughes, whose parents, Phil and Dori, still live in the same Tustin, Calif., house he grew up in -- albeit with some recent modifications.
Hughes' locker in the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field this weekend was stocked with replica AL jerseys for his parents, two sisters, their husbands, three nieces and two nephews. He comes bearing gifts and tickets for Tuesday's game, knowing this trip to Anaheim is much different than any road trip to play the Angels.
"It's nice to be able to see the family and things like that, but this is just so much more special, based upon the fact that it's a reflection of the best guys in the league," Hughes said.
"Just being able to say, when I retire, 'I made an All-Star team when I was playing.' Even if it's just one, to be able to say that is pretty cool."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.