In between warmup throws, Gardner learns he’s an All-Star
NEW YORK (AP) Brett Gardner headed to left field for the start of the fifth inning and noticed his image on the 101-by-59-foot video board in center.
”I just thought that was kind of random,” he said.
Then Gardner noticed one of the television cameras focused on him. A few seconds later, he heard public-address announcer Paul Olden tell fans Gardner had been picked to replace injured Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon on the AL roster for Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
”I was definitely surprised. It caught me off guard,” Gardner said.
A first-time All-Star at nearly age 32, Gardner kept on making warmup tosses with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, not reacting to the surprise.
”I don’t really let my emotions get to me too often,” he said.
Gardner homered and had his seventh game of three or more hits this season, helping the Yankees finished their final homestand before the All-Star break with a 6-2 win over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. He is batting .303 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs.
”He’s so important to our team,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Gardner was on the fan ballot for the AL’s final roster spot but was fourth behind Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier and Detroit outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in voting that ends Friday.
The Yankees stenciled ”(hash)VOTEGARDY” in white in the batter’s circle, and Girardi and Alex Rodriguez wore bald caps at the ballpark on Wednesday as part of the team’s election campaign.
”What they did yesterday with the baldhead caps was pretty embarrassing for some of those guys,” Gardner said with a smile. ”I told Alex to take it off before anybody got a picture, but I think it was too late.”
Jason Zillo, the Yankees executive director of communications and media relations, had the idea to surprise Gardner with an announcement by Olden. When Gardner got back to the dugout in the middle of the fifth, teammates congratulated him, and catcher Brian McCann gave him a hug.
”It makes you feel good about your club, how close they are and how bad they wanted it for him,” Girardi said. ”You could see the happiness. I told Mac right before it was announced, and Mac was fired up.”
Gardner joins teammates Mark Teixeira and Dellin Betances on the AL roster; Teixeira was a replacement for injured Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera.
Gordon sustained a severe groin strain while tracking down a fly ball Wednesday night against Tampa Bay and is expected to be sidelined for at least eight weeks. Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones will replace Gordon in the starting lineup.
AL manager Ned Yost of the Royals picked Gardner over Cespedes.
”Tough decision. Sat there all morning trying to figure it out,” Yost said. ”Cespedes has more home runs. Gardner is more of a speed guy. I really looked at the stats over the last six weeks.”
After Thursday’s game, Gardner was joined in the clubhouse by his young sons, Hunter and Miller, eager to hit in the batting cage behind the Yankees dugout. His family had not been at the stadium on the getaway day before a series at Boston, but made the trek to help celebrate.
A black All-Star jersey was draped on Gardner’s chair by his locker, with red sleeves and No. 11 in red with white piping.
”I haven’t tried it on yet, man,” Gardner said. ”Tex dared me to wear it on the plane tonight, but I think I’ll wait a few days before I put it on. It will be a special moment to put that on. I’ve never had a jersey with my name on my back. I’m not saying that the Yankees should change, but it’s pretty cool.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.