Nathan shows Santana All-Star ropes
Twins closer guides starter through first All-Star festivities
DETROIT -- Joe Nathan has done this before. Johan Santana hasn't. So it was up to the closer to give the ace a few pointers outlining roughly what to expect during All-Star week, which has all of the excitement of a World Series, without any of the pressure.
First up: media interviews. Monday is the day when all All-Star players are made available to reporters, all at one time. The players gather in one room and go to their assigned booth, and soon after, the doors open and a few hundred reporters descend upon the athletes for one big sound-byte bonanza.
It can be a little overwhelming, but it's part of the process. Santana, having never been through this before, relied on his teammate for guidance. Nathan, at the ripe old age of 30, is considered the elder statesman in all things All-Star. He was a first-timer in Houston last year.
"I didn't know what time we were coming down here," Santana said. "[Nathan] told me what to expect on this media day. He also told me, 'Just wait until you get to the ballpark and see all the things you have to sign.'"
Both pitchers are happy to be here, of course. They're also happy to have a teammate by their side to share the festivities.
"Last year, we felt like we were a little short-changed to only have one of us here," Nathan said. "To have somebody here with me is nice."
Said Santana: "It's something special that we're never going to forget."
The best part of being an All-Star, most of the players would agree, is the simple exercise of sitting around the clubhouse and swapping stories with players who would normally be in the other dugout. Without the pressure of caring about moving up in the standings, padding a batting average or shrinking an ERA, the All-Star Game is a perfect time for players to talk casually about the one thing that binds them: baseball.
"You have your own routine," Nathan said. "It's just fun to see what they like to do. You're hanging out with some of the best of the game. I got to see Mariano [Rivera] work last year and see what he does. There's things you can learn and it's just fun to hang out with them."
Life has changed for Santana since he won last year's AL Cy Young Award after winning 20 games and compiling a 2.61 ERA. Anonymity is no longer an option. Suddenly, people are interested in everything from his daily routine to what he eats for dinner.
The whole thing took Santana, who transitioned effortlessly from Spanish-speaking to English-speaking reporters during his media session, a little by surprise.
"I've always been the same guy," he said. "The guy who's on the field and joking around with my teammates and trying to have some fun. That's the most important part of this game. As long as you have fun, you're going to be fine.
"When I go to my country (Venezuela), some people look at you as a hero. I'm the same guy. I'm a human being, like you guys. It's nice to represent or mean that much to people. But the media always wants to know how you feel, the things that you do. Before, it wasn't that way."
Now, Santana is not only a Cy Young winner, but an All-Star, too. He plans to embrace this week as he has everything else in his young Major League career. Nathan hopes his teammate remembers every bit of it.
"I just tried to tell him to let it go at a slow pace," Nathan said. "The first time, it tends to go by a little quick. Try and slow it down, and if you get a chance, take a step back and really take it in."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.