Hitless day doesn't spoil CarGo's first Classic
Outfielder goes 0-for-2 in unfamiliar DH role, but ASG still 'special'
KANSAS CITY -- Carlos Gonzalez had never been to an All-Star Game before Tuesday's event at Kauffman Stadium, though it was not the novelty of that appearance that took him aback. Instead, it was starting at designated hitter that was unusual for Gonzalez, who had never played anywhere but the outfield for the Rockies.
Calling it a "new experience," Gonzalez did his best to keep warm between at-bats but ultimately finished 0-for-2.
He hardly minded.
"Having the opportunity to be around all these guys and having the experience of doing the Home Run Derby, being on the field, getting ready for the game, it was awesome," Gonzalez said. "It was a great moment, something I'm definitely going to remember for a long time, and hopefully I'll get more opportunities to go to the All-Star Game."
Of course, Gonzalez still took some credit for the National League's 8-0 victory, joking that his teammates were able to tag American League starter Justin Verlander for five runs in the first inning largely because he set them up for him.
"It's tough when you have to be leading off and see pitches," Gonzalez said. "I saw all the pitches and then I told the other guys what was coming."
Before the game, Gonzalez lounged around the NL clubhouse, meeting other members of the team. One of the game's best outfielders for three years running, Gonzalez was most excited to meet the fellow members of the NL's outfield elite -- particularly Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers and Ryan Braun of the Brewers.
"We always play each other, but we never get a chance to spend time with each other," Gonzalez said. "This is a special day. It's always going to be with me."
Gonzalez also spoke highly of his experience in Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby. As in the All-Star Game, he did not succeed individually in the Derby. But he did not need to.
The thrill, for Gonzalez, was simply in being there.
"Being able to be together in the same locker room and having a chance to play together," Gonzalez said, "is fun."
If Gonzalez continues to produce as well he has in recent years, he should be here more often than not. By all accounts, Gonzalez should have been participating in his third All-Star Game Tuesday, given his MVP-caliber numbers in 2010 and his fine follow-up season in 2011.
But while he burst onto the national scene two years ago, batting .336 with 34 home runs and finishing third in NL MVP voting behind Joey Votto and Albert Pujols, Gonzalez was one of the game's most notable All-Star snubs that summer. The next year, Gonzalez's most prolific production came in the second half, even if his first-half numbers were again strong enough for All-Star inclusion.
This summer, he left nothing in doubt, hitting .330 in the first half with 17 homers, 19 doubles and a .967 OPS, the eighth-highest mark in baseball. Gonzalez reached the midway point ranking in the top 10 in the Majors in just about every meaningful offensive category -- not necessarily an unusual perch for him.
And his first All-Star appearance was worth the wait. Despite his 0-for-2 performance -- he struck out swinging against Verlander in the first inning and grounded out against the Rangers' Joe Nathan in the second -- Gonzalez cherished his moments as Colorado's lone All-Star representative.
"It was fun and I enjoyed it," Gonzalez said. "Even though I didn't get a hit, it was something that I enjoyed. Being able to see what the preparation is for all these guys and how they go about their business, it's something that I was looking forward to seeing. I'm going to get better and learn from them."