CLEVELAND — Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor won’t be in the starting lineup for the American League, but that doesn’t mean he’s had fewer responsibilities leading up to tonight’s All-Star Game at Progressive Field.
As an All-Star ambassador along with Indians legends Jim Thome and Sandy Alomar, Lindor has made numerous appearances to promote Cleveland, which will host the Midsummer Classic for the first time since 1997.
It’s given him a chance to see how the city is handling hosting one of baseball’s crown jewel events.
“Man, this is amazing, it is amazing. Everything is how it’s supposed to be,” Lindor said. “We’re showing out right now, people in Cleveland are showing out right now. I’m so happy for it because I want to show every other team that Cleveland is a great city. The city looks beautiful. I can’t wait to experience everything.”
Lindor, who plays with enthusiasm, energy and an ever-present smile, seems like the perfect choice to represent Cleveland — and baseball.
“Everybody loves him. He’s the best of the best, obviously on the field and off the field,” Indians right-hander Shane Bieber said. “He handles everything extremely well and I look up to him for a bunch of different reasons — just the way he handles everything is extremely impressive. And he has fun with it. He enjoys every second of it, and I think everybody can see that.”
“He’s good for baseball,” manager Terry Francona said of the 25-year-old Lindor. “Thank God he’s in our uniform, but even if he wasn’t I would still say he’s good for baseball. When you get a young player that respects the game, but obviously enjoys playing it the right way, that’s really good for the game. And he seems to be able to elevate his game in the biggest points of the game.
Francona said Lindor reminds him a little bit of Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, a four-time All-Star, 2007 Rookie of the Year and 2008 MVP, because his best plays and biggest hits seems to come when the game’s on the line.
“Some guys maybe shy away, he seems to rise to the occasion,” Francona said.
Though Lindor was only 3 years old when Cleveland last hosted the All-Star Game, he’s heard the stories and seen the highlights from the game 22 years ago, when Indians catcher Sandy Alomar, now the team’s first base coach, hit a game-winning home run and was named MVP.
The atmosphere at then-Jacobs Field was electric and Lindor is counting on fans to recreate the scene.
“We see Sandy’s moment every day on the scoreboard, they play it over and over every day,” he said. “It looks pretty special and I can’t wait now to see what it’s gonna be like. Sandy has always talked about how special the people were and how the city put up a great at-bat. So, as of right now, the city has done amazing.”
Cleveland fans got to celebrate their own in the Home Run Derby on Monday night — Carlos Santana — and will get the opportunity to do the same tonight with Santana as the starting first baseman and Lindor, Bieber and closer Brad Hand on the AL roster.
“The atmosphere (Monday night) is gonna be extremely fun, but (tonight) is gonna be even better,” Lindor said. “I can’t wait for the game, I can’t wait to get to the clubhouse.”
Count Francona, a coach on AL manager Alex Cora’s staff, as another who is excited to see how the hometown fans represent Cleveland tonight.
“I am. And I want to see how they react to our guys. And to (Michael) Brantley coming back,” he said. “(Sunday) night I went down to that (All-Star Bash at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame) for a little while and I was driving around on (my scooter) and the city looks like it’s putting on a really good show, which is not a surprise.
“I’m not from here, but I’ve been here long enough to care. I’m happy for the city of Cleveland.”
Lindor missed nearly all of the first month with an ankle injury and was no guarantee to be selected to his fourth straight All-Star Game. He didn’t make the final fan vote to elect starters, but was selected by players as a reserve.
“To be honest, I never thought about being an All-Star. I always thought about being there Day 1 with my team,” said Lindor, who is batting .296 with 14 homers, 32 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. “I was upset because I wasn’t there with my team for the first couple of weeks. It made me realize that this game is one of the best things I have in my life and it helped me understand not to take anything for granted because at the end of the day, health is a blessing. We’re all blessed to have health. I’m here, thank God.”
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