Clippard excited to be in Jeter's final All-Star Game
Reliever also proud to be representative for first-place Nationals at Target Field
MINNEAPOLIS -- Tyler Clippard had planned to spend his All-Star break at home in Florida, playing golf and soaking up some rays on the beach. Instead, the Nationals reliever will enjoy having a great view of what he called "The Derek Jeter Show."
Clippard was added to the National League roster on Sunday as a replacement for the Braves' Julio Teheran, who started that day against the Cubs. It is the second All-Star appearance for Clippard, who picked up the victory in the NL's 5-1 win in 2011 at Chase Field.
Notified of his selection to the roster, Clippard said that he was happy that the Nationals would have representation at the game, but also that he'd be linked again with Jeter -- a teammate briefly in 2007, when Clippard broke in as a starter with the Yankees.
"That's really one of the main reasons I'm really excited to be here, just to see his last All-Star Game and be a part of the opposing team, and be on the field with him during that period of time," Clippard said. "I know it's going to be a special event for the fans, but I'm happy to have a front-row seat."
Clippard was initially drafted by the Yankees out of high school in 2003 and said that his first encounter with the captain came on the back fields of the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., when Clippard was an anonymous Minor Leaguer just hoping to work his way up the chain.
"I was in the Minor Leagues at the complex there in Tampa, and as a young kid, probably about 18 or 19 years old -- watching him walk around, very much in awe just because it's Derek Jeter," Clippard said. "I think I asked him for his autograph and he was very cordial, very nice about it. It made me feel like I was part of the team, even though I was just a Minor League kid.
"It made me realize what kind of a genuine guy he was. Being able to play with him in the big leagues for a couple months, just the way he went about his business in big league Spring Training, you could tell that he was a good person and a guy that respected the game. I'm thankful that I got to be around him for that little period of time that I did."
Clippard, 29, has come a long way since toiling on those sun-baked diamonds. He leads the Nationals' relievers in wins (six), holds (19) and relief strikeouts (53), and also has a 2.03 ERA in 40 innings.
Clippard expects to be more comfortable in this Midsummer Classic go-round than he was in '11, when there was a star-struck feeling in exploring the NL clubhouse.
"I was kind of in awe of just being there and being around all those big names," Clippard said. "I was like, 'Man, what am I doing here?' Then, I remember sitting at a table, I think it was with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and we were just sitting there.
"I'm having lunch with these guys, Cy Young winners, and this is awesome. Those kinds of little experiences where you do feel like a team for one day. It's really a fun thing, to talk to them and cut up."
As Washington's only representative in uniform, Clippard said that he'll have to make friends quickly; Jordan Zimmermann was also selected as an All-Star from the Nationals' roster, but the right-hander was forced to bow out due to a strained biceps.
Clippard said that the Nats could've easily had several other representatives, including Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano, but he is happy to have been selected.
"It is a little bit weird, because we're a first-place team and there's a lot of deserving candidates on our club that should be here -- probably moreso than I should be," Clippard said.
"At least we have somebody here. Coming into that Sunday before they told me I was coming, we weren't going to have anyone here. That would have been a tough one to swallow for our team. I don't think anybody was too pleased about that. I'm happy that I could get the call to represent our team."