07/14/2003 7:19 PM ET
Cardinals are flocking together
CHICAGO -- One, two three...
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The Cardinals contingent at the 74th All-Star Game will make itself known immediately. The crowd at U.S. Cellular Field might have to wait half an inning just to see anyone not in a St. Louis jersey swing a bat. Edgar Renteria will lead off for the National League, Jim Edmonds will bat second and Albert Pujols will hit in the third spot. Manager Tony La Russa is serving as a coach for the NL team.
The five Redbirds All-Stars have been traveling in a bit of a pack since arriving in Chicago on Sunday evening, so it's appropriate four of them will be bunched together in the lineup as well. For what it's worth, Scott Rolen will hit seventh and Woody Williams will be available to pitch in relief. The possibility exists that all five could be on the field at once, if Williams gets to pitch early.
"That'd be sweet," said Williams. "I just want to soak it up and get in there somehow, some way. It'd be nice though. It would be a comfortable feeling."
Williams, at 36 the oldest of the birds-on-the-bat battalion, has been almost childlike in his excitement about his first trip to the All-Star Game. He has his family in tow, but he's even outpacing his kids at this point.
"I went to bed about 2 (a.m.) and got up at eight. I was out walking around while everybody was asleep. I don't want to sleep the time away. It may never happen again, so I'm glad I got to share it with them."
Rolen, meanwhile, is taking it a little easier. It's his second trip to the Midsummer Classic, and his second consecutive year as a starter. A year ago, his All-Star experience was colored by talk of his potential impending free agency.
Now, that he's been here before, he's just enjoying being around his teammates.
"I know the program," Rolen said. "I know what's going on. It's not gonna be so hectic. Just check in, get your stuff. I'm not looking at my itinerary. I don't know when the bus is. And that's good. Last year, it was very nerve-wracking."
Pujols, like Rolen, is playing in the All-Star Game for the second time, though it's his first time as a starter. He was the National League's leading vote-getter and finished first among all players in online ballots. He's trying to take it all in stride, just as he has with hype over his chances at hitting .400 or winning a Triple Crown.
"I always have fun in this game, man," Pujols said. "That's what keeps me humble, having fun in this game and not taking anything for granted. That's what I try to do every day. If you don't have fun in this game, you won't have any success. So I try to have fun as much as I can."
It helps when you're hitting .360 something.
But it also helps when you're surrounded by teammates from a close-knit clubhouse. All the Cards representatives kept coming back to their delight at being joined by their mates.
"We're just here having fun," said Edmonds, who was bumped into the starting lineup when Barry Bonds was named the NL's designated hitter. "We've been hanging out together. We came together and some of us went to have dinner (Sunday) night. It's just awesome to have people here with you that you're comfortable around. And to have Tony here is even better."
But to a man, they're all enjoying Williams' experience. One of the most popular and respected members of the team, Williams has been playing since 1993 before finally making the All-Star team.
"I know I do have a deep appreciation for this, especially just being able to put on a uniform," he said. "Each and every day I go out there and look around, it's just amazing that I'm in a Major League ballpark being a Major League player. It's something I don't lose perspective of, no matter if I do good or don't do good. It's something that I will never forget. Each and every day is something special."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.