CLEVELAND — Rays outfielder Austin Meadows had already had a pretty good All-Star Tuesday.
There was the red carpet walk that made him feel like he was in a movie, or maybe even a dream. The parade through downtown Cleveland, where he rode in a pickup truck bed with his wife, parents and grandmother and marveled at how many fans were yelling his name, some in Pirates jerseys saying how much they missed him since last year’s trade to the Rays.
“It was crazy,’’ Meadows said. “It’s kind of an emotional moment, seeing all the fans screaming your name and thousands of fans knowing who you are. It was pretty surreal.’’
And then there was the game, which he played a small role in helping the American League to a 4-3 win.
“It was awesome man,”” Meadows said afterward. “It was pretty surreal to be a part of. And I’ll always remember it.”
Voted a reserve on the AL team, Meadows was told he’d be used early off the bench, and ended up playing four innings in the field and getting one at-bat, grounding sharply to first in the fifth, though moving the runner that led to the AL’s second run.
Meadows was in the batting cage in the third getting loose when he got the word he’d be going to left the next inning.
And let the record show that was the moment when it hit Austin Wade Meadows that he was about to play in an All-Star Game.
"They said, “Meadows, you’re in” and it was kind of like man, this is really real,'' he said. "To be able to go out there and see all the fans, being able to be out there especially when Shane (Bieber) struck out the side, with the standing ovation. It was like, me and Mike Trout were looking at each other like man this is crazy.''
Whoa, stop right there. “Me and Mike Trout" — who was atop the list of players Meadows was looking forward to meeting — "were looking at each other?”
"He was telling me where to play and I was like,, "Yes, sir! Yes, sir!'' Meadows said. "Just kidding. But we were out there communicating and it was pretty cool.''
Meadows got one at-bat, in the fifth, facing Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler after Gary Sanchez led off with a double. Meadows took two balls, then swung at a 97 mph fastball that he thought ay have been a cutter, and grounded sharply to first. He did move up Sanchez, who scored on Jorge Polanco’s single, extending the AL lead to 2-0.
"I knew he was going to come back in probably with that cutter or whatever it was, so I was just trying to kill the ball honestly,'' he said. "I was able to move the runner. So it was a good team at-bat.''
The AL scored first in the second, when Alex Bregman singled and Brantley, his Houston teammate doubled him in. The NL cut the lead to 2-1 in the seventh when Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon homered. The AL added a run in the seventh when Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, pinch-hitting for Meadows, came up with runners on the corners and grounded into a double play. Texas’ Joey Gallo then homered to make it 4-1.
Tampa’s Pete Alonso, the Mets slugger who won Monday’s Home Run Derby, had a chance for more glory in the eighth, coming up with the bases loaded. There were no homer heroics, but he singled in two runs to cut the gap to 4-3. The AL held on to wins its seventh straight.
Host Indians players delivered three of the highlights of the night.
On the field, as Bieber came on to strike out the side in the fifth, setting down Willson Contreras, Ketel Marte and Ronald Acuna Jr. to earn game MVP honors, just the third player to do so in his home ballpark.
In front of the dugout, when during the Stand Up to Cancer moment, the Indians All-Star reps gathered with pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. The Indians held cards with Carrasco’s nickname Cookie; his read I STAND.
And on the mound as former Indians ace CC Sabathia, who was a guest member of the AL team in tribute to the long career he is wrapping up with the Yankees, made a mound visit while teammate Aroldis Chapman was working the ninth.
Meadows said it was all fun to watch, and shoot pictures and videos of from the dugout. "Being around those guys, having our phones recording special moments, the Carrasco moment, CC going out for Chapman, all kinds of fun stuff,'' he said.
Now that he’s been in one All-Star Game, Meadows says he wants to come back.
"This is as good as it gets,'' Meadows said. "Best talent in the world. You definitely want to be here as many times as you can. That’s why I tried to enjoy this because you never know how many more times you’ll be here. Definitely make it a goal of mine each and every year, so it’s pretty special.''
Meadows, 24, was playing not only in his first All-Star Game (at any pro level) but for the first time on such a big stage.
“No, I’m not nervous,’’ he said before the game. “I’m just going to go out and have fun and not worry about the results.’’
Then, he added, “And maybe win a car (as the game MVP). That would be cool.’’
Meadows had plenty to keep him busy after the festivities and before batting practice, signing 20 dozen-plus baseballs for the second straight day (he writes right-handed though he throws and hits lefty) and dozens of jerseys.
A bit more enjoyable was sitting around talking — well, actually mostly listening — to the more experienced All-Stars.
“All these guys in the clubhouse are great guys and being able to talk to them and pick their brains has been good,’’ he said.
Also, unpacking the trunk of swag he got from Under Armour, including custom cleats with his name on the inside, batting gloves, sneakers, sunglasses and more.
“Great swag,’’ he said.
The other two Rays All-Stars, rookie infielder Brandon Lowe and starter Charlie Morton, were inactive for the game but enjoyed the other activities, especially the parade.
“It was crazy,’’ Lowe said. “We were driving a mile and it felt like 10. It was unbelievable seeing the amount of people all cheering, yelling congrats, screaming your name. It was probably a once in a lifetime thing.’’
Lowe said it was the first parade he or wife Madison rode in. “Pretty good first one,’’ he said.
Morton said he enjoyed the parade as well, which was something given he and his wife, Cindy, had their four kids, all under 6, with them. “Benji feel asleep in the (hotel) food room so I carried him down,’’ Morton said. “They hauled us off in pickup trucks, in the beds, so I woke him up right when we got in and he did okay. Cam, Gracie and Emmie did okay and my wife did great.’’
Also impressive, he said, was the enthusiasm from fans no matter what jersey they were wearing. “That was awesome,’’ he said. “There were a lot of people out there and everybody was cheering and welcoming,’’
Lowe said he enjoyed meeting a number of the other stars, and was excited for the game.
“Everything’s been pretty fun,’’ he said. “It’s been a blast. And I’m ready for whatever is coming next.’’
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.