ST. LOUIS -- Tim Wakefield stood answering question after question about a game he didn't even play in when Victor Martinez strolled by.
"I was ready for you," the Cleveland Indians' catcher told Wakefield, referring to the opportunity to catch the knuckleballer in Tuesday night's 4-3 American League win in the All-Star Game, at Busch Stadium.
"Next time," the Red Sox hurler responded.
And if "next time" isn't next season, the 42-year-old Wakefield will bide his time. After 17 years of not dressing in that All-Star clubhouse, the pitcher had come to learn that its truly worth the wait.
"I'm just excited," he said. "I still have a grin on my face."
And he did ... despite not throwing one pitch. And it was that grin which highlighted two days of All-Star festivities for the five Red Sox who made the trip.
The smile wasn't going to disappear just because Wakefield didn't get a chance to take the field. He was told the scenario, that A.L. manager Joe Maddon would be saving him for extra innings in case a pitcher was needed to go multiple innings. And he came close. If not for Adam Jones' sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, those extra frames -- and the hurler's big chance -- might have come along.
"Yeah," said Wakefield, admitting he was hoping for extra innings. "I would have liked to pitch. But it's OK. It's an experience I'll never forget the rest of my life and I'll cherish it forever. It's just awesome being in this clubhouse with the greatest players in the world and be able to partake in my first All-Star Game at 42 years-old. It's pretty cool."
The coolness factor started with Wakefield's arrival, and didn't let up, perhaps hitting it's peak the minute President Barack Obama walked into the American League clubhouse.
The President greeted each and every player, shaking hands, until he got to Wakefield.
"He got to me and I said, 'Tim Wakefield, nice to meet you'," the pitcher said. "He said, 'Oh yeah, you're the older statesman here' (with the President having been informed by Derek Jeter that it was Wakefield, not the Yankees shortstop, who was the most senior of the group). "Afterward he was like, 'How do you hold that thing?' I said, 'LIke this' and he said, 'You'll have to teach me how to throw that thing some day.' I said I would and he was on his way."
It was a memory and moment Wakefield has filed, along with simply throwing practice knuckleballs in the outfield prior to the game, or even gathering up a game ball from the bullpen to take home. They took 17 seasons to get, but, appearance or not, were undeniably worth waiting for.
"It was all pretty awesome," he said with -- you guessed it -- a smile.
Besides Wakefield's jubilation, here are some more things we learned on a night the American League stretched its unbeaten streak to 13 seasons...
FOR BAY, PATIENCE IS FOR THE REAL GAMES
Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay saw four pitches in his third All-Star Game, claiming a first-inning single for his efforts. As he explained, with the best of the best arms come at you throwing fastball after fastball, there is little sense to wait too long for just the right pitch.
"There is no 'Moneyballing' in this game," said Bay, referring to the book and philosophy that encourages seeing multiple pitches.
But it was taking pitches, especially in his final game before heading into the All-Star break, that Bay feels has him in the right frame of mind heading into the second half. It was in that game the outfielder walked three times, and was hit by pitches twice. The free passes gave Bay as many walks in July (10) as he had in the entire month of June.
"For me the last game I was on base five times, even if I did get drilled twice which wasn't the plan, but I saw it better," said Bay. "When I'm going well I'm getting walks and I know I got a ton early on and then it slowed down. I feel like the last week I picked it up. An indication for me isn't the home runs or hits, but just the walks."
The priority patience is also why Bay might not shy away from his power potential -- which has manifested itself in 20 homers this season -- but isn't going to give him any second-thoughts when it came to proving it for a national television audience.
Bay, who had to grab his daughter just before she ran on the field during the Home Run Derby, Monday, said he stands by his decision not to participate in the event, especially after witnessing Detroit's Brandon Inge repeat Bay's feat of not hitting a single homer.
"I have no regrets about not doing that," Bay said. "Tell Brandon Inge I've been there. It stings for a minute, but then it will go away." Inge was the first player to go without a homer in the contest since Bay was shutout in 2005.
IT WAS A SPECIAL NIGHT FOR JONATHAN PAPELBON
Jonathan Papelbon’s All-Star appearance seemed anything but impressive when he left the mound following a misleading 1-2-3 seventh inning. The Red Sox closer gave up a shot to Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe, but that was pulled back from over the fence by Rays outfielder Carl Crawford.
Papelbon followed by permitting a warning track fly to Miguel Tejada before winning an eight-pitch battle with Jayson Werth that ended with an elevated fastball for a strikeout. As the four-time All-Star headed back to the dugout, his team still tied, 3-3, there seemed little reason to expect that the game would turn into a career highlight.
But that is exactly what happened. After Papelbon held on, the American League pushed across a run in the eighth to take a 4-3 lead. That margin proved decisive thanks to shutout work from Twins closer Joe Nathan in the eighth and Mariano Rivera in the ninth.
Papelbon could not stop beaming about that smooth late-inning relay among baseball’s closing royalty.
“It’s pretty special, obviously, to me, especially for the guy who closed it at the end,” said Papelbon. “Me being the winning pitcher and Mo saving that game was pretty neat, pretty special. Things like that, and this game will probably be at the top of my memory list throughout my career for sure.
“With us three (Papelbon, Nathan, Rivera) pitching seven, eighth and nine was special to me,” Papelbon added. “You’re talking about pitching in front of two great closers, two people I look up to and two people I root for to do well, to take the closer’s role into what I think it’s evolving into today.”
EVERYONE IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE IS HAPPY TO HAVE HOME-FIELD…BUT NO ONE KNOWS WHETHER IT WILL ACTUALLY BE HELPFUL
It has been the party line since 2003: “This time, it matters.”
The All-Star Game does carry some consequence, as the victorious league claims home-field advantage in the World Series. The last seven times the World Series has extended to a winner-take-all Game 7 (starting in 1982), the home team has won.
And so, the American Leaguers had some reason to rejoice on Tuesday, aside from the dazzlingly efficient 2-hour, 31-minute pace of their 4-3 victory.
“It is so important to get home-field advantage in the World Series. We were just there last year, we did not take advantage of it,” said American League (and Tampa Bay) manager Joe Maddon. “But first and the seventh game possibly is really important, and for us, the Rays playing in Tropicana Field, it's very important. So there was a lot on the line there today.”
Even so, though the A.L. won all of the first six years that the All-Star Game victor was used to determine World Series home-field advantage, the two leagues have split the World Series evenly in that time.
“Everyone talks about (home-field advantage),” said Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson. “When you do get it, over the last six seasons, we’ve been split. National League has won three World Series, American League has won three World Series.”
CLEARING THE FENCES IN THE A.L. EAST IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT
It will go down as one of the more remarkable defensive plays in All-Star history. Jonathan Papelbon’s first offering out of the bullpen -- a fastball over the plate -- was greeted by a sweet swing from Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe. Papelbon watched the flight of the ball with a mix of surprise and dismay.
“I thought it was a for-sure out, and it kept carrying and carrying,” Papelbon recalled. “I said, ‘Wow -- this ball is carrying. Now it’s going to have a chance to get out.’”
Carl Crawford raced back towards the track in left-center. The Rays outfielder plays his position at a Gold Glove level thanks to exceptional range and great reads on the ball. But he had never earned a Torii Hunter-style notch in the belt. Never in Crawford’s career could he recall jumping to pull a ball back from over the fence.
On Tuesday, he had the chance to do so. He climbed the wall at Busch Stadium and yanked a ball that seemed destined to just barely clear the fence back into his glove for an out. A 3-3 tie remained intact, and Crawford had created a Kodak moment for which he would earn All-Star MVP honors.
“It was a pretty amazing play,” said Papelbon. “It does to show you: defense wins championships and defense wins All-Star games, too. … Clearly the game-changing point tonight.”
“I don't think I've ever robbed a home run before, so I picked a good time to do it,” said Crawford. “It's definitely probably my best catch I've ever made.”
Now that Crawford has joined the ranks of home run robbers, life in the American League East may seemingly look a bit more challenging for hitters. It is a division that increasingly features excellence in the outfield, whether Crawford and the immensely athletic centerfielder B.J. Upton in Tampa, centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston, centerfielder Vernon Wells in Toronto and Adam Jones in Baltimore.
Alex Speier contributed to this report.