MINNEAPOLIS -- He had so many enjoyable moments over the two days but Jose Abreu said his All-Star moment arrived early Tuesday evening.
Shortly after he and his fellow All-Stars had been introduced and were standing on the first-base line at Target Field, the Cuban native couldn’t hold back the tears as singer Idina Menzel belted out the National Anthem.
The majors’ leading home-run hitter later entered his first All-Star Game in the top of the sixth inning and finished 0-for-1 in the American League’s 5-3 victory over the National League.
“When I heard the National Anthem it hit me,” Abreu said through White Sox spokesperson Lou Hernandez. “I love the Anthem. When I learn English I’m going to sing it.”
Abreu was so happy after the exhibition he might as well have grabbed a microphone and belted out a few songs. What he and his family see as the realization of a dream they have long held together couldn’t have played out any better.
Though saddened that it would be the last time New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter ever participates in an All-Star Game, Abreu feels fortunate to have been on hand for the occasion.
“It’s an incredible moment, but it’s also difficult to see his last All Star moment, his last time coming off the field,” Abreu said. “But for all of us in the dugout, it’s a proud moment, a proud moment to share with him, understanding what his career has been and what he’s given to baseball. I have to thank God for the opportunity to share that with such a legend.”
Abreu also understood the legend he was playing behind in Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who a day earlier called the start of Abreu’s career “amazing.” He had no qualms about Cabrera playing five innings and picking up three at-bats, including a two-run homer in the first inning.
Perhaps the only aspect of the extravaganza Abreu would have liked to go different was his first at-bat -- or rather the pitcher he faced. As he stood at first in the top of the eighth inning, Abreu noticed fellow Cuban, flame-throwing Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman warming up in the bullpen. But when the gate swung open half an inning later, Pittsburgh Pirates' Tony Watson entered instead of Chapman.
Abreu’s at-bat lasted one pitch as he flew out to left on an 83-mph slider. Chapman entered on the very next pitch to face Oakland A's Yoenis Cespedes.
“I wanted to face (Chapman),” Abreu said. “Unfortunately, or I guess fortunately, I didn’t face him. Because you see what Chapman does. He’s incredible. He’s not from this world the way he throws. As far as this weekend, my high point was everything. The whole experience was a high point.”
An All-Star for the third time, Chris Sale kept a close eye on Abreu to see how he took in the experience. Abreu said Monday’s media session was unlike anything he had ever been a part of, but “it’s the major leagues.” That was only the start of a 48-hour experience unlike any Abreu has experienced. He and Sale even enjoyed a moment after Tuesday’s game as they playfully gave each other advice on how to hit and pitch through sign language.
No word whether Sale, the team’s karaoke king, has offered Abreu any singing tips.
“He was nothing but smiles,” Sale said. “He’s smiling all the time, but to be able to do that with him, it’s probably his first of a whole bunch of All-Star Games. Being to be able to experience with two teammates of mine was fun.”