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Rays' Chris Archer relishing spotlight as a first-time All-Star

Chris Archer throws up a peace sign while posing for Major League Baseball’s Twitter mirror, with the photo going out on the @AllStarGame account.
Published Jul. 14, 2015

CINCINNATI — Chris Archer had been talking for a half-hour already Monday when his All-Star media session officially advanced to the "silly questions" stage. So after pondering an mlb.com query whether he considered a hot dog a sandwich (he does, open-faced style), he next shared that the superpower he would most want to have was the ability to teleport himself.

Then when asked the obvious follow-up of where he would go, the Rays ace gave his most telling answer of the whole day.

"There's no place I would rather be," Archer said. "This whole thing … it's just been fantastic. The people I love the most are here. I'm with David Price again, which I haven't been for a while. There's really no place I would rather be. To have four days off and spend 2½ of them here, I'm looking forward to possibly doing this again sometime soon."

Among the 32 other first-time All-Stars, including Rays teammate Brad Boxberger, few if any could have enjoyed the experience thus far more than the 26-year-old Archer.

"It's awesome. There's really no words to describe it," he said. "It's unreal. It's surreal. Being surrounded by all this greatness and to think I'm part of this greatness is something I'm never going to get over."

• • •

Archer mentioned several times Monday how one of his daily goals is to make his parents proud, so it was a no-brainer to have them with him to share the All-Star experience.

That included having Ron and Donna fly from their North Carolina home to Tampa on Saturday so they could be aboard the eight-seat private jet that Archer, the Boxbergers and the Rays arranged to take them to Cincinnati after Sunday's game.

"It was awesome," Chris Archer said of that experience. "I felt like David Price. Didn't have to wait in line for security, didn't have to check our bags or anything. And an hour 45 later, we were here."

They shared a limo to the hotel, then Chris took his family to dinner, met up with two of his closest friends (mentor Ron Walker and buddy Drew Hardy) and eventually made it to a players party, where he was thrilled to meet Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.

Monday, Ron and Donna mostly hung out and watched while Chris worked the Westin hotel common areas visiting with All-Stars and others ("He's like the mayor here," longtime MLB exec Phyllis Merhige said), ventured out for a quick lunch, appeared at a media conference announcing a new MLB youth baseball/softball initiative, attended the AL team media session and finally headed to the stadium for the workout and home run derby. There are more festivities today, when Archer and family will ride in the pregame parade — his second, having been named 2013 Mr. Christmas in their hometown of Clayton, N.C.

Not a bad way to spend a few summer days for mom and dad.

"I promise I won't smile as much next time," said Ron, wearing his Archer 22 All-Star jersey. "This is all so amazing," Donna said. "So amazing."

• • •

Being reunited with Price, the former Rays ace Archer credits for much of his success, was clearly a highlight. They met up Monday morning — Price joking, "he's still young so he went to the Snoop Dogg party (Sunday night) but I'm too old and went to sleep" — and shared a big embrace.

"I've just been his little sidekick all day today learning the ropes," Archer said, noting repeatedly how Price "was critical in my development."

Price said he appreciated the kind words, but Archer deserved all the credit: "I'm just happy to see all his hard work coming to fruition. He definitely deserves it. And I'm sure he'll be here a bunch more times."

• • •

One benefit of being an All-Star, Archer said, is that his thoughts and comments on helping youth causes and getting kids more involved in baseball may carry more weight.

"I think it'd be cool if some of my quotes made more of the national scene now," he said. "I'm saying all the same stuff I've said to you the past two-three years, but maybe it can have more of a platform now."

Archer, though, was pretty well known when he ventured out of the hotel with his family and friends for lunch, shunning the MLB-provided catering or a fancy restaurant to walk across Fountain Square to a Chipotle for his usual — chicken bowl with brown rice and guacamole, hot sauce on the side.

Among the fans who noticed him eating on the patio and approached him for pictures and autographs on their Rays hats was a Tampa family, Carrie Durda and sons Jed, West and Ben.

Archer also was a popular and playful interview subject during the media session, being asked everything from what he thought about Joe Maddon and Pete Rose to what he eats before a game to why the Rays are so successful to how much he is involved in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. He was also asked to post a selfie using mlb.com's Twitter mirror, wish happy birthday to Fox Sports Taiwan, explain his slider grip to a Japanese TV crew and praise teammate Erasmo Ramirez with a reporter from Nicaragua.

Though everyone else knew his name, there was a light moment during a media conference when players union chief Tony Clark, admitting he is more familiar with the players by nicknames, blanked at the podium and said, "Arch … Arch … Chris Archer. Unbelievable."

• • •

While Archer got all the attention, Boxberger was happy to keep a low profile, spending time with his attending family — wife and daughter, parents, in-laws, sister and brother-in-law. He's likely to pitch in the sixth or seventh inning tonight. "It's all starting to soak in," Boxberger said. "I'm definitely getting the feeling for what it is to be an All-Star, just being here in the moment."

• • •

Archer had hoped to start tonight's game, but AL/Royals manager Ned Yost — in what he said was "a really, really tough decision" among several candidates — chose Houston's Dallas Keuchel, based on his superior statistics.

Archer, on full rest after a Wednesday start (that didn't go well) against Yost's team, is slated to be used in the fourth, and also potentially fifth, innings tonight, following Price.

"Chris is going to fill an important role for me," Yost said, raving about him.

Archer said he had no complaints with the decision: "I don't care when, where or how I pitch. If I can pitch in this game, it would be a dream come true."

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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