Orioles' five All-Stars settle in for their national close-up

NEW YORK — Along the far side of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field on Monday afternoon, there was a scene that hasn't occurred at the All-Star Game in years: A full-fledged Orioles row.

One wall, five tables and five Orioles players — all answering rapid-fire questions that ranged from deep to dumb in the annual media briefing a day before the midsummer classic.


What does Chris Tillman think about the Biogenesis scandal? Why does Chris Davis believe 61 is more impressive than 73? What animal would Adam Jones be if he could be an animal? What's Manny Machado's favorite music video? What piece of baseball memorabilia does J.J. Hardy really want?

The seriousness of the questions didn't really matter. The fact that the quintet — from right to left, Hardy, Davis, Machado, Jones and Tillman — was actually at the All-Star game together was what was significant for an Orioles team that had become accustomed to sending just one player nearly every year.


"This is just awesome to see," said Tillman, who was added to the American League roster Sunday as a replacement for Justin Verlander, who wouldn't have been available to pitch after starting Sunday. "I am happy for the fans. That's the most important thing, it's for Baltimore. Not Tillman or Jonesy or Davis. This is for the city of Baltimore."

The Orioles haven't had five players at an All-Star Game since 1997. That also was the last time they had three starters. Tillman, Davis and Machado are first-time All-Stars.

"This has been awesome, seeing all the guys this morning, it kind of hit me, 'Wow, you are at an All-Star Game,'" said Machado, the Orioles' 21-year-old third baseman who hasn't been in the majors for a full year. "You've got to just step back and take a breath and just enjoy every moment of it."

Machado said he walked around talking to everyone in the American League clubhouse on Monday afternoon. He said he spoke to Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter for a few minutes and then had a chance to meet New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera for the first time.

"I want to pick everyone's brain," Machado said. "They might find me annoying."

Machado wasn't the only one a little star-struck by the event — and by Rivera. Hardy says at some point, maybe in the Orioles' final series against the Yankees in September, he's going to ask Rivera, who is retiring at the end of the season, for a jersey.

"I think that would be one of the most special jerseys I'd have," Hardy said.

Hardy was asked if he had a specific memorable experience against Rivera in his career.

"No, he gets me out every time," Hardy said. "There's nothing memorable about that."

Some of the queries were a little less about baseball and more about entertainment — or just overall nonsensical lines of questioning.

Machado was asked about his favorite current music video — he said he hasn't had time to watch them.

"I actually started listening to the new Jay-Z [album], so I think that's up there right now," Machado said. "And Kanye [West] is the man. Kanye is up there, too."


Jones was asked if he could be an animal, which animal he would be.

And Jones answered it immediately.

"Lion. I'm a Leo," Jones said. "I like to command respect, I get it and we run the show."

Jones added a little of his unique flavor by placing a World Wrestling Entertainment championship belt in front of him during his talk. He got it from a friend a few weeks ago and said he decided to use it as a prop for the night's Home Run Derby. Jones said ultimately he is going to take it back home with him to Baltimore, but he wanted to present it to Monday's winner.

"I want [Davis] to get it, but he has to hit the most home runs per round to get it. It's just my little token of appreciation. Something cool to have around the clubhouse," Jones said. "We've got ping-pong tables and pool and everything else going on in the clubhouse. So I just sit at my locker and play with my belt."

Davis said he was a little worried about his buddy and the gold, jeweled title belt.

"Somebody's gonna take it, I mean, it's a big, shiny belt," Davis joked. "I'm excited about seeing Jonesy get out there and interact. I know he likes to put on a show."

Davis was by far the most mobbed Oriole during the media scrum — perhaps the most popular of any AL player other than Rivera. He was asked about his nutrition routine and said he eats healthy about 80 percent of the time and not-so-healthy the other 20 percent. Sundays, he said, are often his eat-whatever days.

"Donuts, pancakes. I love breakfast. Chicken fried steak is my favorite meal," he said. "I'm as Southern as it gets."

Davis, the majors' leading home run hitter with 37, didn't get all softballs, though. As expected, he was asked about whether he has taken performance-enhancing drugs, which he again denied. He also addressed his comments last week that he believes the 61 homers hit by the Yankees' Roger Maris is the actual record and not the 73 hit by Barry Bonds in 2001. Davis said if he gets to 61, he'll celebrate it.

"I think I'm going to celebrate anything close to [61]. That's a lot of home runs in a season, the most I've ever hit is 40 [in minors and majors combined]," he said. "I'm sure [Bonds] celebrated 73. That's a lot of home runs. Everybody is different. Everybody believes what they want to believe, and I still believe 61 is the record."

Tillman, who had a steady stream of media members come to him but wasn't as mobbed as the other four Orioles, was thrown into a hot-button issue as well. He was asked how the scandal involving Miami anti-aging clinic Biogenesis and its reported connection to several big league stars will affect the game.

Tillman sidestepped it like a seasoned pro.

"In our clubhouse, we don't really let our focus go to that," Tillman said. "We don't really know a whole lot about it. We just focus on what we need to focus on: Going out and winning ballgames."

That winning ballgames thing was also a main subject of interest during Monday's media session. People stopped by Orioles row to see exactly what has happened with the perennial also-ran that is now 10 games over .500, in contention for its second consecutive playoff berth and has five All-Stars.

Jones told the media contingent that he believes his club is for real. And that Baltimore is embracing baseball again.

"We kind of have a chip on our shoulder. You walk into Camden Yards and [the fans] are a little bit meaner, which I like. Because they have expectations now," Jones said. "As players, that's what you want, to have fans show up in bundles and have that expectation. Right now we've created that and now what we're trying to do is maintain it."


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