NEW YORK -- While much of the baseball world was focused on the Trade Deadline later that day, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, in the first year of a three-year contract extension, woke up early on Tuesday after a big night game and proceeded to have more fun than possibly any other Major League Baseball player.
The veteran shortstop, suddenly on a roll and having driven in the decisive run in a big victory a night earlier at Yankee Stadium, headed for the MLB Fan Cave in Greenwich Village at 9:30 a.m. ET. He met up with "Super Troopers" movie actors Kevin Heffernan and Jay Chandrasekhar, both of whom he had met and befriended at a team hotel a few years back. They all filmed an upcoming best-friends comedy video together for MLBFanCave.com, shooting on location at the Fan Cave and then at nearby Washington Square Park.
"This was awesome. I'm glad I got to come see the Fan Cave and have fun with Jay and Kevin -- that was fun," Hardy said. "After this is done, I'm going to go back and take a nap a little bit and then head to the ballgame. But this was fun -- definitely worth it.
"I've been on an episode of 'The Young and Restless,' and that was out in L.A. in 2007," said Hardy. "I've done a little bit of acting, but this was more fun."
After enduring one of the toughest extended slumps of his career -- featuring an 0-for-28 skid at its depths -- it was quite a change to see Hardy riding gleefully through an iconic park on a tandem bike with Chandrasekhar, an Orioles fan, and cutting up with Hefferman, a Yankees diehard who said between takes, "It's OK with J.J. if I talk [trash] about the Orioles, right?"
Hardy has multiple hits in four of his past eight games, including Monday's 5-4 victory to open the current series at Yankee Stadium. His two-out seventh inning single off a David Phelps 93-mph four-seamer scored Nick Markakis for what held up to be the winning run. Hardy was 2-for-5 and has 15 hits in his past 51 at-bats (.294). Given the recent struggles, that should constitute a positive trend for Orioles fans as the calendar flips into August.
"We've got to keep it going," Hardy said, not once but twice. He deflected questions about his individual game and all that "advice" he received to the club's here-and-now. "We're capable of playing really good baseball, and it's just a matter of staying consistent. We've got two months left and we better stay consistent."
This is a massive series for Baltimore. Monday night's victory pulled the Orioles within 6 1/2 games of the Yankees in the American League East and tied them with Detroit at two games behind the second Wild Card slot.
"It's going to be interesting," Hardy said. "This whole adding the new Wild Card team is going to make it a lot of fun. It's always fun playing for something when you get into August and September."
Hardy knows from experience.
He was outstanding for Milwaukee in its long-awaited 2008 National League Division Series against Philadelphia, a four-game loss. He then played two years later for the Twins in an AL Division Series sweep at the hands of the Yankees. There was a common denominator in those two series, and it presented itself Tuesday at the Fan Cave in the form of Yankees ace CC Sabathia. Sabathia was spending the entire morning doing satellite interviews with TV stations around the country, promoting his partnership with Bayer and helping the Red Cross while Hardy was upstairs.
Hardy waited in the stairwell for a few minutes hoping to say hello to Sabathia down in the basement, but the interviews kept going strong and there was no time for them to chat.
"I'll see him at the ballpark," Hardy said with a smile.
Indeed, Hardy lights up when you mention his former teammate, whom he considers one of his most-admired players around the Majors -- division rivalry or not.
"In 2008, when we were with the Brewers, and we traded for CC, and he pitched on short days' rest for about two months of the season, it was unbelievable," Hardy said. "People ask me all the time, 'Who were some of the best teammates you've ever been with?' and CC is right up there. In 2010, I faced him with the Twins. He won that game."
Could the trend of being around Sabathia every other year in the postseason continue? It would if the Yankees hold on as division champs and the Orioles nail a Wild Card. For now, the Orioles avoid Sabathia, whose next start is Friday against Seattle.
"Preferably, it would have been better on the same team when he was pitching for us, but this is actually the first series of the year that we don't have to face him," Hardy said. "That's always nice."