07/14/2003 5:26 PM ET
A tale of four All-Stars
Oakland's representatives have different experiences
CHICAGO -- Mark Mulder knows his way around town, Keith Foulke knows his way around the stadium and Barry Zito just knows his way around.
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
Ramon Hernandez? Admittedly and blissfully clueless.
The four members of the Oakland A's, in town for the 2003 All-Star Game, are having decidedly different experiences.
Mulder, who grew up in a suburb of Chicago rooting for the White Sox, is making his first appearance in the Midsummer Classic, but he's not wearing the deer-in-the-headlights look that some of the stars wore during group media sessions at a downtown hotel Monday.
In fact, he looked right at home.
"That's because I pretty much am home," Mulder said. "There's definitely a certain sense of comfort."
Even more comfortable is Foulke, another rookie All-Star. Foulke spent 5 1/2 seasons on the South Side before the White Sox traded him to Oakland in the offseason.
"It makes it a lot easier, for sure," Foulke said. "Especially once we get to the park, because I know the place so well. I won't have to go searching for the right gate to get in or the clubhouse or anything like that. And I'll know a lot of the reporters who used to bug me all the time.
"I've done it all before, so yeah, that kind of takes the edge off."
Zito isn't as intimate with the town as Mulder is, and he's not as intimate with the park as Foulke is. But he's intimate with all that comes with being an All-Star, having played in last year's game at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
"It's kind of familiar to me now, so it's definitely nice," Zito said. "It's a pretty overwhelming experience when you do this for the first time, but I kid of know what to expect with everything now."
Zito, who threw 106 pitches over eight shutout innings Sunday, was replaced on the American League roster Monday by Roger Clemens on Monday but said he'd probably still suit up and take in the scene from the dugout.
"It's a fun time whether you play or not," he said. "There's never any guarantee that you'll play anyway."
Hernandez, who called making his first All-Star team "a dream come true," expects to play in the game but insisted he wouldn't be disappointed if he doesn't. He's very much in happy-to-be-here-mode.
"I've never seen anything like this, so I'm just excited to go to the stadium and check everything out," he said. "This game is the best baseball in the world, so just to be part of it is great."
Hernandez does not, however, consider himself one of the best baseball players in the world. His peers, apparently, disagree. He was among those voted in by the players.
"If they want to say that, that's fine," he said, "but I'm not going to tell you that. To be a player's pick is a great feeling, though. I appreciate it."
Foulke, who was a popular subject Monday because of his ties to the team hosting the event, didn't want to do much talking about his former club. The split was not particularly harmonious -- Foulke lost his closer's job in Chicago last season -- but he's not interested in looking back.
"I'm not out to make anyone look bad," he said. "What's done is done, and now I really love being in Oakland. It was a great change for me."
Working out of the bullpen Tuesday will be a change for Mulder, who is leaving 18 tickets for family and friends and likely will pitch two innings behind starter Esteban Loaiza of the hometown Sox. And he definitely expects to feel some butterflies.
"I'm going to try to treat it like a bullpen [session]," he said, "but this is a lot bigger deal than working in the 'pen, so I'm sure there'll be some nerves."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This column was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.