- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Alex Andreopoulos was in the Blue Jays' clubhouse waiting out a rain delay the other day, and Jose Bautista walked over to him with a request. "It'd be great," Bautista said, "if you came out to the All-Star Game to throw batting practice."
As in, in the Home Run Derby.
Andreopoulos had one detail to clean up before finalizing his plans: On Tuesday, during the All-Star break, he was committed to attend the soccer game of his 7-year-old daughter Zoe. So with help from the Blue Jays' traveling secretary, Andreopoulos arranged a red-eye from Phoenix, through Chicago. He will be on the mound today, when Bautista takes his turn in the Home Run Derby, and if his travel goes well, he will be at Zoe's soccer game.
Andreopoulos -- the Jays' bullpen catcher who often mistakenly receives the mail of Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos -- has been throwing to the second group in Toronto's batting practice the past couple of years, which means he's been the guy who throws to Bautista on a daily basis. "He likes it middle in, right at the belt," Andreopoulos said. "His bat just flies through; it just whips through."
Bautista, like most players, has a regular batting practice routine, and what Bautista does, from round to round, is aim the ball to particular fields -- to right, to left, to center.
Andreopoulos was a catcher in the minor leagues for eight years, going as far as Triple-A, and when he finished he called J.P. Ricciardi, then the GM of the Blue Jays, and asked about a job; it just so happened that Toronto had just fired its bullpen catcher.
This is his ninth season as the Toronto bullpen catcher. Right after Bautista picked him to throw batting practice, some of the Jays' players began teasing him. "The guys are busting my chops, saying stuff like, 'Don't hit him,' 'You better throw strikes,' that kind of thing," Andreopoulos said.
He does not think he will be nervous, figuring that once he gets on the field and starts working up a sweat, all the anxiety will dissipate. Which would be good for Bautista, because as we've seen year after year after year with the Home Run Derby, the hitters are only as good as the guy who is pitching to them.
• Presumably, there will be discussion within Major League Baseball about how to deal with the many players who are dropping out of the All-Star competition. The players like the honor of being named but they don't like to play.
Here's one idea: Get commitments in spring training from players about whether they will attend the game if chosen -- not necessarily play, but at least attend. And if they are not on a disabled list, they would be expected to play. And if a player doesn't want to commit, then Major League Baseball won't put him on the All-Star ballots.
You can bet that some agents will nudge their players to commit, in order to be on the All-Star ballot. And if some players sincerely don't want to attend, as Manny Ramirez did not, then they can get that conversation out of the way early and everybody -- fans, All-Star managers, etc. -- will know that that player isn't going to be considered.
• Travis Hafner had one of the best moments of the season the other day, mashing a walk-off grand slam for the Indians. Right after the game, he said the other day, he went back to his locker and there was a text message from his brother, who reminded him that Travis had hit his grand slam on their late father's birthday.
As Hafner thought back on the at-bat, he said, "It was like my Dad was in the batter's box with me."
• From tiqIQ.com, here's how the secondary ticket prices for the All-Star Game have evolved over the past couple of weeks, day by day. The withdrawals of many of the All-Stars could not have helped.
June 29th: $494.73
June 30th: $490.72
July 1st: $490.72
July 2nd: $482.07
July 3rd: $465.29
July 4th: $440.22
July 5th: $427.13
July 6th: $415.69
July 7th: $382.44
July 8th: $351.67
July 9th: $302.23
July 10th: $288.33
The percent change from the 29th 'til now is minus-41.7 percent. The percent change from last year (average price: $594.23) to this year is minus-51.5 percent.
Flying to Arizona this morning, so a short column today. We will be back at it on Tuesday.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney tells the story of Jose Bautista's personal pitcher for the derby, and the flight connection he'll need to make to help Jose win.