07/03/12 12:11 PM ET
Home Run Derby memory is fondest for Sveum
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"Throwing in a Home Run hitting contest is kind of overwhelming in a way, because everybody is sitting there watching," said Sveum, now the Cubs' manager. "When you throw B.P., nobody is really watching you. [With the Home Run Derby], you know it's on TV, millions of people watching.
"There are a lot of firsts involved," he said Monday. "You're throwing to Hall of Famers and regular hitters and All-Stars, and talking to them and getting to know guys who you don't know, and you know they're great players. Having your son on the field, those are the things you can't replace or take away. He'll never forget being on the field."
Sveum, 48, was a teammate with plenty of All-Star players, but his only trip to baseball's Midsummer Classic came in 2005 when he was a coach on American League manager Terry Francona's staff. Francona had invited his entire staff as a reward for winning the World Series in '04. Sveum brought his family, including son, Rustin, who had a front-row seat while he threw to both the Red Sox's David Ortiz and Mark Teixeira, then with the Rangers.
"Ortiz asked me, and Teixeira didn't have anybody there to throw to him," Sveum said." I said, 'Sure, no problem.' [Teixeira] asked me to throw the same way I throw to Ortiz. It didn't quite go as well. I needed to keep the ball away from him and he was hitting everything foul. Ortiz likes it up and in."
Ortiz had an impressive first round, hitting 16 long balls, including six in a row. But Bobby Abreu stole the show with 24 home runs in the first round.
"[Ortiz] was impressive, but Abreu's was even more impressive," Sveum said.
It wasn't just being on center stage that was strange, Sveum said.
"It's different to throw, because it's the first time you throw without a cage and you're throwing to a catcher, which I don't like," he said. "It takes some getting used to, because the hitters take pitches. When you're throwing B.P., it's rapid fire, one after another."
Most players like having someone they're comfortable with. Sveum did not throw to Ortiz during the Red Sox's regular season, but he did in May 2005 at a Hall of Fame home run derby.
"I think he was 10-for-10 -- 10 pitches, 10 home runs," Sveum said.
Sveum joined the Brewers' coaching staff in 2006, and almost went to the '09 All-Star Game when Prince Fielder was asked to compete in the Home Run Derby. It didn't work out, but Sveum did give Fielder some advice.
"I told him, 'Don't get caught up looking for the ball inside,'" Sveum said. "'You can hit the ball to every field.' I said, 'Just think about right-center field' and that kind of stuff. I didn't say a lot. The guy's good. I said, 'Don't sit there and swing at pitches inside, because you'll just hit them foul all the time.'"
Fielder must have listened. He won the event that year.
The coaches get the same treatment as the players, receiving a goody bag with All-Star Game souvenirs. Sveum admits he's not a big autograph collector. His game room at home includes photos celebrating the '04 World Series.
"I've got autographed bats from people I respect," he said. "They didn't have to be great players, but I respected them and thought they were winning players -- [Gabe] Kapler, [Kevin] Millar, [Jason] Varitek."
And included in the display is a souvenir bat from that '05 All-Star Game.
"Besides being in the postseason, [the All-Star Game] is the next best thing to the postseason," Sveum said. "You're around the best players in the game, and some of them are going to be maybe in the top 10 in the history of the game. [Gary] Sheffield was in that one [in '05], and he's a guy I played with. It's kind of funny to be a coach and you played with somebody who is still in the All-Star Game."
He'll give Cubs first-time All-Star Bryan LaHair a few tips on how to handle the hoopla when he goes to Kansas City next week.
"I could see basically a rookie going in there and being overwhelmed with everything, because it's pretty cool to walk in and you see the Gary Sheffields and the Derek Jeters," Sveum said. "You go on and on, right on down the line. Some guys you've idolized, and to walk in there and now you're lockered next to them and playing on the same team for one night -- it's a pretty incredible day when you walk in that clubhouse. It's mind boggling to sit in the locker room with that many great players."
"There's not much advice I can give," Sveum said. "Walk in and realize you're one of them."
The next chance for Sveum to take part in the All-Star Game would be either if the National League manager invites him or the Cubs win the World Series.
"Hopefully, it's the winning part," he said.
The 2012 All-Star Game will be played at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on Tuesday, July 10. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.