Start with the shades. Tyler Clippard distinguished himself at the 2014 All-Star Game before the game began. The best players in the world stood on the third base line, hearing their names boom over the loudspeaker. Only one of them wore sunglasses. It was Clippard.
“I just put on the shades,” Clippard said. “They were prescription, and I wanted to be able to see. So it was either that or my glasses. I couldn’t really change. I was like, ‘Uh, I probably shouldn’t be wearing these, but it’s too late now.’ ”
The happy-go-lucky reliever had set a fitting tone for his night. He retired the only two batters he faced, and they happened to Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve, but even then he provided a dash of comic relief. Pitching to Altuve, Clippard launched a curveball off the backstop, as has happened twice to him this season. He laughed, shrugged it off and moved on, because that’s how Clippard is. It would be hard to find a ballplayer more at ease with what he does and who he is.
Clippard soaked in his second All-Star Game. He has decided the best part is the game, the chance to sit and talk in the bullpen, to marvel and to learn.
“It’s such a whirlwind,” Clippard said. “It goes by so fast. Both experiences are just unbelievable. Sitting out in the bullpen and talking to the guys about how they hold their pitches, facing all these all-stars and how good they are what they throw, how they want to pitch these guys. I could talk all day to these guys and try to pick their brain. I was watching [Clayton] Kershaw warm up in the bullpen, trying to just get something from him. Stuff like that, when you’re involved in these games, that’s what’s special about it.”
Clippard made sure to chat with one all-star on the American League team. As a rookie, Clippard played for the Yankees and called Derek Jeter a teammate for two months. They share an agent, Casey Close, and run into each other in the winter in Tampa, where Clippard is from and where Jeter lives.
Clippard approached him Monday as the AL team batting practice before the Home Run Derby. Tuesday night, Clippard watched as Jeter received three standing ovations and a three-minute curtain call.
“It was awesome,” Clippard said. “What a class act. I think he probably felt a little hesitant. He didn’t want to take away from the other players out there, you could tell. But it was kind of his day. We as players wanted to recognize him, and had no problem waiting a little bit to stand up and applaud for a guy who’s meant so much to baseball, who’s been such a great teammate. He’s an awesome guy. What a career.”
And, for Clippard, what a week. He didn’t know he would make his second All-Star Game until an hour before first pitch Sunday in Philadelphia. Two days later, he induced fly outs from Altuve and Cabrera and watched Jeter, his old teammate, play in his last All-Star Game. And he showed off some sweet sunglasses.