07/14/2003 6:13 PM ET
Yankees All-Stars having fun
CHICAGO -- As the hundreds of media members poured into the ballroom of Chicago's Westin hotel, the American League All-Stars prepared for an hour of questions and answers. For many of these players, it was an unusual experience. For the four members of the New York Yankees, it was just another Monday.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
"This is like a regular game for us with all the media," said Alfonso Soriano. "This looks like our clubhouse."
Soriano, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui were each elected by the fans to start for the American League All-Star team, while Jason Giambi replaced Mike Sweeney of the Royals as the team's backup first baseman. Each of the four players have their own unique perspective on the Midsummer Classic, but they all agree that coming from the Bronx, the spectacle of the All-Star Game is easier to handle.
"This is like home to us," Giambi said. "This is what it's like every day."
"We understand what this is about," Posada said. "We go through it every day, so it's not as tough for us as it may be for a player from a smaller market."
Giambi and Posada are each making their fourth All-Star appearances, while Soriano is back for a second straight season as the starting second baseman.
"A lot of players play for 10 or 15 years and never get to play in an All-Star Game," Soriano said. "I'm in the league three years, and this is my second time here. It's very important to me."
"It never gets old. I love being in that clubhouse, talking to the guys and exchanging stories," Posada said. "It's fun to be on a team like this, to take the field with guys like A-Rod and Soriano up the middle. It's fun to see."
One of the most dynamic players in the game, Soriano beat out Seattle's Bret Boone for the starting gig. With a .292 batting average, 22 home runs, 52 RBIs and 25 stolen bases, Soriano has put himself on the fast track to 40-40, a club he missed out on joining last season by just one home run.
"We have some great players," Posada said. "I think Soriano is the best second baseman in the game right now, and he's still getting better. That's scary."
Posada is starting behind the plate for the second consecutive season, giving him a look at some of the AL's top arms. Roger Clemens, who was added to the roster on Monday, is the only Yankees pitcher on the AL team. The first hurler he will work with is Esteban Loaiza of the White Sox, so Posada will try to formulate some kind of plan with the starter before they take the field.
"I try to get on the same page as him before the game, talk to him about what he likes to do," Posada said. "It's tough. They're still going to shake me off, but that's natural. I try to find out what their best pitch and second-best pitch is. I'll just try to call the best pitches I can to get somebody out."
For Giambi, the All-Star experience is all about having fun. He believes that even with home-field advantage being awarded to the winning league, the players will play the same way they always have -- to win.
"I don't think the atmosphere is going to be much different, it will just be a different game for (Mike) Scioscia to manage," Giambi said. "The misconception is that guys just showed up, threw some bats and balls on the field and just played. When you have the chance to face Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, guys like that from the other league, you don't want to embarrass yourself."
Giambi also enjoys the atmosphere that the home city provides, with the streets filled with people and parties filled with celebrities.
"I love coming into the city, the town is jumping. It's different than being here for a regular-season game," Giambi said. "It's our chance to see all the other players in a different setting. Plus we get to meet some celebrities who come into town, which is cool."
Giambi's presence at the All-Star Game is particularly satisfying for the 31-year-old, considering the rough start he had this season. On May 27, he was batting just .227 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs. Then came June, when he ripped through Interleague Play, batting .373 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs, doubling his season stats en route to Player of the Month honors.
Despite his solid numbers, Giambi was not selected to play in the game until Sweeney went on the disabled list with a back injury. Giambi said that even though it took an injury for him to make the team, he's thrilled to be in Chicago for his fourth All-Star turn.
"If you look at the numbers, I definitely deserve to be here," he said. "Sweeney was having a phenomenal year. First base is always a tough spot, because there are so many great players at the position. I'm excited to be here, especially after the slow start I had."
The bottom line for the Yankees' All-Stars is having fun. Thursday, they will begin the second half of their season, locked up with the Boston Red Sox in a tight AL East race. For the next two days, they plan on making their All-Star experiences memorable.
"It's all about fun," Posada said. "So that's what we'll have."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.