MLB All-Star Game: The league’s annual reunion of past pals

Jul 8, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; National League outfielder Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies talks with National League pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Family reunions are a ritual in the United States. All of the same bloodlines come together in a single location, sharing stories, laughs and cherishing the short time amongst their own.

As America’s past time, baseball is no different. Their reunion, rather than having a funky name, is merely dubbed: the All-Star break.

All other factors remain similar. Friends seek out friends, hoping to reconnect in the midst of a hectic season and even new friendships are made, akin to meeting a family member someone never knew they had.

Despite the relationships differing from those of an actual family, Major League Baseball’s players have formed their own version. In turn, the event has become far more than just collecting talent for the fans.

“We’re competitive and we go at it, but I think Major League Baseball, the Player’s Association; it’s a family,” Nolan Arenado said. “We are looking out for each other. We’re trying to beat each other and we’re trying to make it to the top. But at the end of the day, it’s a brotherhood.”

The connections are vast. For the Rockies alone, the web spans wide.

Josh Bell and Trevor Story have been teammates for a long time. Both Texas natives, the two soared up the ranks side-by-side. Now that they’ve made it to the top, it resembles a dream.

“Playing travel ball with (Bell), pretty much (grew) up together, it’s kind of surreal,” Story said. “We always talked about being here and kind of hoping that we’d be All-Stars one day and here we are, on the same team.”

With a 162-game schedule, meetings, business and family, the two’s time together is limited now. Outside of their time training together in the offseason, the All-Star break serves as their chance.

That chance is one former teammate’s Matt Chapman and Arenado cherish. Now living in different locals in their free time, plus their standing in two different leagues, their time together is even more shortlived.

“It’s extremely hard,” Arenado said. “He’s in Oakland, I’m in Colorado, (so) we don’t play each other (much). I think he lives in Newport, I live in San Clemente, we train at different places. He’s a hard worker too, so we’re always constantly doing something.”

Arenado’s tree stretches further than just Chapman. As a product of the Southern California breeding grounds of top ballplayers, he’s shared a jersey with many of the game’s elite.

With the Atlanta Braves scout team, he even played alongside All-Stars Freddie Freeman, Gerrit Cole and Mike Moustakas.

“We’re all really familiar with each other, all the guys from Southern California,” Cole said. “If you didn’t play with them, you played against them growing up. It’s always cool to see peers from when this was just a dream, to it being a reality.” 

Now, the groups flock together in the outfield, infield and behind the batting cages during daily batting practice. The conversation is as widespread as the connections themselves.

A newcomer, like David Dahl, is on a mission with those shared words. Figuring out new ways to prepare and improve his game is a top priority. The veterans of the league are his avenue to making sure this isn’t a one-time trip.

“I want to talk to everyone. Everyone is so good and (I) just try to learn,” Dahl said. “My hope is that this is the first of many. I want to be one of the best and I’m going to continue to work hard… I’m honored to be here, but it makes you want more.”

Outside of strategy – a popular topic – the players divert their energy to catching up on a year of ever-changing life.

The hardest part is being reunited with a friend that wasn’t supposed to leave. In the case of D.J. LeMahieu, his departure from the Rockies was unexpected. Now, their time is greatly reduced.

“We’ve missed him. Being together for the last three years and then all of a sudden he’s not there, it’s a little different,” Story said. “We enjoy our time here and got to catch up and talk shop. It was good to see him.”

LeMahieu was part of the club for seven years of his eight-plus year career. In that time, he earned a pair of All-Star bids, three Gold Gloves and an NL batting title. Most importantly, he was a part of the organization’s core, a group weaved together tightly.

The former second baseman went through the turmoil of several losing seasons, as well as their pair of playoff chances in the last two years.

“(LeMahieu’s) the best,” Charlie Blackmon said. “It’s not often (that) you see guys leave a team and then the team that he left, everybody still talks about very highly of him, as long after his absence has been. We’re still telling D.J. stories and he’s still held in very high regard in the Rockies’ locker room.” 

The break, though productive, is only four days. With a parade, Home Run Derby, media sessions and the All-Star Game itself, the time is limited.

Returns on the time – in the form of reconnection, newfound links and tips – are limitless.

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