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New view in store for Wood, Prior
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07/14/2003  9:28 PM ET 
New view in store for Wood, Prior
Cubs hurlers will watch start of All-Star Game from pen
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Mark Prior is the youngest Cubs player to go the All-Star Game since Greg Maddux in 1988. (AP Photo)
CHICAGO -- Mark Prior and Kerry Wood will get a whole new look at the big leagues Tuesday as they take part in the All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field.

Neither pitcher has had the pleasure of sitting in a bullpen and watching a game unfold from the outfield before.

Prior is in his second big-league season and hopes to spend that time in the pen picking the brain of fellow All-Stars like John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves.

"I am looking forward to tapping into Smoltz, (St. Louis') Woody Williams -- a lot of veteran guys who have been around the league," Prior said. "This is my first full season so I still have a lot of things I am new at. Hopefully I can talk to those guys -- Smoltz in particular -- because he's had the highs of his career as a starter and the lows of his career getting hurt and now he's back as one of the best closers in the game. I might try to talk to a few hitters -- not a whole lot, though."

For Wood's part, even the interaction with the crowd will be different.

"I'm sure the fans will be talking and we'll get to mingle with them a little bit," he said. "I won't mind sitting in the bullpen watching the game."

    Kerry Wood   /   P
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Cubs site

Wood is also looking forward to passing some time with New York Yankees hurler Roger Clemens, who was a last-minute addition to the American League team. Growing up, Wood counted Clemens among his favorite players and tried to model himself after the Rocket.

"Roger is obviously a guy that everyone wants to see," Wood said. "When you think of an All-Star Game, you don't think of him not being here. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see him and talk to him. I'm glad to see him here."

Both Wood and Prior were a little more excited about the gift bags distributed to each player to thank them for taking part in the All-Star Game.

"There was a drill set in there, so I am excited to check that out," Prior said.

For some reason, the hair gel and toothpaste included also stuck out in his mind as did the backscratcher.

Wood admitted to picking a favorite item as well.

"We got all kinds of stuff," he said. "They put this little video game thing in there and I ended up staying up until 2 in the morning last night playing that. I got addicted real quick. Bags full of this, bags full of that -- even the wife got something and she was excited about that."

Prior, 22, and Wood, 26, have more than just the goodies at the Midsummer Classic to be excited about. The two hurlers are jockeying for the top spot in strikeouts this season. Wood leads all Major Leaguers with 156 strikeouts, Prior trails him by a slim six at 150.

But both players insist they are not keeping track. The pair said it is more about the wins than it is about any personal milestone. With the Cubs knocking at the door of the National League Central Division lead, the two hurlers are a big part of the success. But as first-time All-Stars, the dynamic strikeout duo would like to make a good impression with the fans.

Wood had been mentioned as a possible starter, but he will come out of the bullpen after NL manager Dusty Baker chose San Francisco's Jason Schmidt.

"I'm ready to throw," Wood said. "Today would be my day to pitch so if the phone rings and they ask me to get up, I'll be ready."

    Mark Prior   /   P
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Cubs site

Prior almost didn't make it to the festivities. A collision with Braves second baseman Marcus Giles forced him to leave Saturday's game early and resulted in a sore shoulder and some bruising.

But Prior was no worse for the wear. Giles, however, was not so lucky. He will miss the All-Star Game while he recovers from a concussion suffered during the mishap.

"Unfortunately, Marcus is a little mad at me right now," Prior said, jokingly. "I talked to Marcus and I feel awful for what happened and I feel bad he can't play basically because of my bad baserunning."

Prior will have some time on his hands in the early innings Tuesday. Maybe he can get some tips on baserunning after chatting with the pitchers about technique.

Prior said it will be odd to get ready and come out of the bullpen instead of warming up before the game and going right out to the mound. But a change in the rules -- the winning league will retain home-field advantage for the World Series -- means not every player will play.

"If I get the chance to pitch, I'm really looking forward to it," Prior said. "If not, I'll still enjoy it. Obviously I don't know what they want to do. It's different this year, it's not about getting everybody in. It's supposedly about winning, so we'll see what happens."

2003 All-Star Game

2003 All-Star Game information >

Prior said whether or not he plays pales in comparison to being chosen for the team. He said he was flattered his peers voted him as one of the pitchers.

"To know I got voted in by the players is a big boost for me, to know they respect me as a pitcher at 22."

Prior, who went out and bought a new video camera for the occasion on Monday morning, plans to soak it all up. But Wood said he's going to keep the youngster on the straight and narrow.

"I've got a short leash, but I can extend it a little bit," he said, with a smile. "But it's nice to have a teammate to share it with."

Amy Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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