Darren O’Day reached into his locker Tuesday, looking for the right cap. There was the cap he would wear for batting practice, and then there was the one he would wear for the All-Star game.
O’Day is 32, a relief pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. The road to his first All-Star game was long and challenging, and he wanted to share the journey with an old friend.
So he grabbed a marker, turned his game cap upside down, and wrote this beneath the bill: NA 34.
O’Day started his career with the Angels, where he formed a close bond with a minor league teammate named Nick Adenhart.
In 2009, Adenhart threw six scoreless innings in his fourth major league start. O’Day sent him a congratulatory text message, but he never heard back. Not long after the game, Adenhart and two friends died when their car was hit by a drunk driver.
Adenhart was 22.
“Losing his friendship and the joy of watching him pitch was tough,” O’Day said. “He had just started to show how talented he really was.”
O’Day visited Adenhart’s grave two weeks after his death, even in the middle of baseball season. He remains in touch with Adenhart’s mother and stepfather. And, six years after Adenhart died, O’Day still inscribes each of his caps with NA 34 (Adenhart’s uniform number), still remembers his friend.
“Every day,” O’Day said. “Every time I take my hat off. Before an inning. “God Bless America.” There are quiet moments in a stadium, even when there are 40,000 people there.
“I get to play a game for a living. It’s easy to forget how blessed we are and take it for granted. I think about him. It just helps me through it.”
When David Price played at Dodger Stadium two years ago, he had some gifts waiting in his locker.
The gifts, including chew toys, dog biscuits and a Hello Kitty bobblehead with a Dodgers logo, were not for Price. They were for his dog, Astro.
“They got Astro a care package,” Price said. “That was sweet.”
Price can file for free agency this fall. He formerly played for the Tampa Bay Rays, under Andrew Friedman, now the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. The Dodgers need starting pitching. So would Price consider …
“Being a Dodger?” he said, finishing the thought. “I’d consider anybody.”
He had the easy laugh of someone well aware that multiple bidders could push his next contract above $200 million.
Price would fit well with the Dodgers even if Zack Greinke does not opt out of his contract, even better if he does. Of the Dodgers’ original five starters this year, Clayton Kershaw is the only one sure to return next year. Brett Anderson’s contract expires after the season, and Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy underwent season-ending surgery.
Greinke would be 32 when next season starts. Of the top starters expected to be available in free agency, Price and Johnny Cueto would be 30 when next season starts, and Jordan Zimmermann would turn 30 one month later.
The new format for the home run derby — single-elimination brackets and timed rounds — drew raves from fans and players.
ESPN said the derby ratings were up 34% from last year, and the highest since 2009. Commissioner Rob Manfred noted that players hit more home runs than last year, in less time.
“Being on the clock causes players to swing,” Manfred said.
Angels slugger Albert Pujols, who had said this year’s derby would be his last, said he had “a blast” and left the door open to participating again.
“There was a pretty good chance this was it, but you never know,” he said.
Bryce Harper said he would not compete in any derby until the Washington Nationals play host to the All-Star game in 2018. That rules him out in San Diego next year, although he said he loves San Diego.
“I might not even wake up the next day to get to the game, because I’ll be at the beach all night,” Harper said.
Although the Dodgers held discussions this year with a group of South Korean investors interested in buying a minority share of the team, the talks ended with no deal, according to three people familiar with the negotiations but not authorized to comment publicly about them. The Dodgers would not rule out additional talks if the investors wished to revive them, one of the people said.
Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays were honored before the game as winners of a fan poll to determine baseball’s four greatest living players. Koufax, who played at the University of Cincinnati, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Bench, the Reds’ iconic catcher.
The loudest cheers went not to Pete Rose but to Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, who won the home run derby Monday. The loudest boos went to Ryan Braun, all the players from the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols, the longtime former Cardinal.
Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson struck out in each of his two at-bats. The last time Pederson had started a game without striking out at least once: June 19.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin