MINNEAPOLIS – There are 750 active player jobs in Major League Baseball at any one time. Of those, 68, or nine-percent, were on the active rosters for the 85th edition of the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Target Field.
Blue Jays rightfielder Jose Bautista participated in his fifth Midsummer Classic and fifth in a row.
While some players look for ways to excuse themselves from the festivities, choosing instead to take a four-day break from the daily grind of the six-month season, Bautista relishes the opportunity to be front and centre on one of the sport's biggest stages.
"Nothing gets old, everything's the same, you get to enjoy everything every single time," said Bautista. "There's always different stuff going on and new and different, exciting players. I'm excited to see those new names like Jose Abreu and Mike Trout. I know (Trout's) been here before but he's one of the younger guys that are part of this event so there's always great stuff to see and enjoy so I don't complain whatsoever. Always proud and humbled to be chosen."
Bautista, for the second time, was the leading vote-getter, netting almost six million votes.
He doesn't take the responsibility lightly. His itinerary in Minneapolis was jam-packed. If he was weary, he wasn't letting on but regardless, there would be hardly any rest.
Bautista arrived via private jet on Sunday night, flying in from Tampa Bay, where his Blue Jays had just finished a series with the Rays. He went to his hotel, checked in, took enough time to drop off his belongings in his room and then, in a manner of speaking, went to work.
First up was a Sunday night MLB.com party for which Bautista played host. He eventually made it to bed and estimated that he got five hours of sleep. There was more to do – much, much more to do – on Monday.
Bautista had breakfast on Monday morning. Then, a charitable endeavour; he went to the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities to meet some of the program's children and donate shoes.
By one o'clock in the afternoon central daylight time, Monday, Bautista had arrived at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis. It was media time, including indulging reporters for 45 minutes during the American League players' availability, followed by the Home Run Derby press conference.
"Basically stressful, I'm going to lose a couple of more hairs in this next 48 hours," Bautista told TSN.ca during the availability. "It goes by fast. It feels like right when you get here you're doing one thing after the other. You don't get enough sleep. You always have something to do but you can't help but enjoy it when you're out on the field and playing with stars. I can't complain about it but it is busy."
Bautista participated in the Home Run Derby. He was the American League's captain. He hit 10 home runs in the first round, received a bye to the semifinals and hit four more. He was defeated by eventual winner, Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes.
The Derby behind him, it was back out on the town for a party thrown by Marucci Sports, which has become one of baseball's premier suppliers of equipment like bats, batting gloves, gloves, you name it. Bautista sits on the company's board of directors.
The party ended. Bautista estimated he got about six hours of sleep before waking up on Tuesday morning. It was right off to the All-Star parade through downtown Minneapolis and the red carpet which followed.
Bautista was in rightfield for five innings, going hitless in two at-bats.
He was to fly to Toronto, on a private jet, over the lunch hour on Wednesday.
Blue Jays fans concerned Bautista kept too busy in advance of what will be the most important second half of his tenure in Toronto, needn't worry.
"I still get two days on Wednesday and Thursday," said Bautista. "I'd rather be here then at home relaxing. It's a good signal when you get picked and selected to come here and I'm not going to keep complaining. I'm going to keep trying to be a contributor to my team and hopefully play good enough to keep getting selected."
After all, it wasn't obvious in his early years that Bautista would become the elite player you see today.
He'll keep coming to the All-Star Game as long as he's invited.
"Maybe if I was somebody like Mike Trout, who's been here since his first year and this would be my 17th year, maybe I wouldn't care about it so much but that's not the case," said Bautista. "I work very hard and somehow manage to be good enough to get selected. I don't think it means that much more but it means about as much as it probably means to every other guy that's here. We value it a lot and it's always great to be recognized among the best so I'm always humbled and honoured to be here."