NEW YORK — Sal Perez’s booming, baritone voice fills the room when he sees a familiar face from back in Kansas City.
“How you doing my friend?” he says, a smile as wide as home plate.
That’s pretty much how he’s greeting everyone this week, and why not? Perez is an All-Star, one of three first-timers from the Royals, and you don’t need to tell him to enjoy it.
“Oh my gosh, what a beautiful sight,” he says. “It’s awesome here. I’m so happy just to be here. I feel like a little kid right now. I feel like a little kid, when you give him something that makes him happy. That’s how I feel.”
Perez’s teammates Alex Gordon and Greg Holland feel pretty much the same way. Gordon jokes that he’s on the team because he “sucked up” while serving as an ambassador in Kansas City last year, and said he was looking forward to having his young son on the field with him during the Home Run Derby.
Holland had less time to prepare for this, having just been named to the team as a replacement on Sunday. He had planned to spend the break with his family in Asheville, N.C., cooking out and sitting by a fire.
Instead, he was booking flights for his family to meet him in New York. He hadn’t packed for this, so his wife bought a few new shirts.
“This is a dream come true,” Holland says. “Really, for any player.”
Mets ace Matt Harvey will start Tuesday night’s All-Star game on his home mound at New York’s Citi Field, and the Detroit Tigers’ Max Scherzer will open for the American League.
Harvey will be the first pitcher from the host team to start an All-Star game since Houston’s Roger Clemens in 2004 and just the 11th overall.
NL manager Bruce Bochy’s starting lineup announced Monday has Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips leading off, followed by St. Louis right fielder Carlos Beltran, Reds first baseman Joey Votto, Mets third baseman David Wright, Colorado left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado designated hitter Michael Cuddyer and Washington center fielder Bryce Harper.
AL manager Jim Leyland has the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout in left field and leading off, followed by New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera, Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis, Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista, Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy.
The 24-year-old Harvey, 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA and an NL-high 147 strikeouts, will become the youngest All-Star starting pitcher since the Mets’ Dwight Gooden in 1988, when he was 23.
Detroit’s Justin Verlander was the AL starter and loser last year. Scherzer (13-1, 3.10 ERA) joins him to become the first pitchers from the same club to start consecutive All-Star games since Arizona’s Randy Johnson (2000-01) and Curt Schilling (2002).
Scherzer was 13-0 before losing Saturday to Texas. He had most wins in a perfect start since Clemens won his first 14 decisions in 1986.
Selig: ‘This sport is cleaner than ever’ — With his staff pursuing yet another investigation into performance-enhancing drugs, Commissioner Bud Selig defended baseball’s drug-testing program on the eve of the All-Star game and insisted “this sport is cleaner than it’s ever been.”
Selig declined to detail timing for decisions in the probe of the closed anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, accused of distributing performing-enhancing drugs. MLB could attempt to discipline former MVPs Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun along with other players.
Baseball began drug testing for the 2003 season, added penalties the following year, banned amphetamines in 2006 and started HGH blood testing last year. Critics said baseball didn’t move quickly enough.
“People say, `Well, you were slow to react.’ We were not slow to react,” Selig said Monday. “In fact, I heard that this morning, and it aggravated me all over again.”
There were eight violations of the major league drug program last year, and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera was among those who served a 50-game suspension following a positive PEDs test. There have been no suspensions in the big leagues this year.
During a question-and-answer session arranged by Politico, a question was sent by Will, identified as an 8-year-old in Los Angeles. He asked: “How old will I be when … you can say that there are no more cheaters in baseball, not one?”
“Will, this is what I would say to you,” Selig responded. “I used to object way back when, when people would talk about steroids. They’re not a baseball problem or a football problem or a basketball problem. They’re a societal problem.”
Selig, who turns 79 on July 30, also denied his willingness to combat steroids has increased during his time in office, which started in 1992.
“Some people say now that I’m over-vigilant because I’m worried about my legacy,” he said. “That’s nonsense. That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. This is in the best interests of baseball. I was brought up to understand that you are to do what’s in the best interest of this sport no matter what, even if it’s painful, and we’re going to do that.”
He maintained the majority of players object to being tainted as playing in what’s referred to as the Steroids Era.
“Most players on their team didn’t do anything. They were as clean as could be,” he said. “So the Steroid Era in short to some people implies, well everybody did it. That’s wrong, and it’s unfair.”
Contributing: Associated Press