This All-Star business is old hat for Felix Hernandez, but first-timer Hisashi Iwakuma was elated to be joining Hernandez at Citi Field in New York.
“You can see my smile,’’ he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki after the Mariners’ 13-4 loss to the Reds. “I was very, very happy. I was very nervous at the same time.”
Manager Eric Wedge had gathered the team before the game to inform them of the Mariners’ selections.
“It was good,” Wedge said. “I got everybody in the locker room before the game and just announced that we have two all-stars. I said it was Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Iwakuma and the guys were really excited for both of them. They’ve been down this road with Felix before. For Kuma, it was a pretty neat experience. It was just nice to see how genuinely excited their teammates were for him.
“Boyish grin. Yet humble,” Wedge said. “That was neat to see. And what you’d like to see.”
Here’s more of Iwakuma’s comments when we caught up to him after the game:
“Pregame we had a meeting with the skipper, and that’s when he made the announcement, and that’s when I first found out. I tried to not be too aware of the situation. You want to stay in your routine and pitch your game on your game day, so you don’t want to think about too much stuff away from what you’ve been doing the last couple of months. But I’m very happy things turned out this way. I’m very grateful.”
On being chosen in the players vote, he said, “I’m very happy because we face these players, and that kind of shows they acknowledge what kind of pitcher I am. I’m very happy for that.”
On not being able to pitch in New York because he’s starting the previous Sunday: “It’s unfortunate not to be able to pitch, but at the same time, you want to enjoy every moment of being an All-Star, enjoy the atmosphere with all these elite players.”
On what he’s looking forward to the most: “There’s a lot to learn. It’s a special event. We have all the guys with the best talent that form a team, so that’s what you look forward to. There’s a lot you can learn from them, and hopefully take advantage of that opportunity.”
On going with Hernandez: “Yes, there is a special feeling with that, because we’ve fought together one and two, and we’ve gone through a lot of challenges together already, so it’s very special.”
On joining countryman Yu Darvish on the team: “To be able to represent our country and represent the American League is special. There’s a lot to that, but for him, he’s been an All-Star last year, and there’s a lot I can learn through him. I don’t want to do anything strange. We’ll be talking about what to do at the All-Star game and Home Run Derby.”
On the difference between making the All-Star team in Japan three times and making it in MLB: “There’s a big difference being an all-star in Japan and being an all-star here in the major leagues. This is a much bigger league and we have all the elite players and all the talent. That’s above NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), so there’s a special meaning to that.”
On where the honor ranks in his career: “It’s hard to say at this point because I was told today. It’s special. This is precious to me, and hopefully this is the start of many more to come.”
Hernandez, meanwhile, said this of being part of the players vote (he finished second to undefeated Max Scherzer): “Oh, really? That’s awesome. It feels special. It’s an honor to be part of the All-Star game again. It’s always fun.”
On Iwakuma: “He deserved it, man. He’s one of the best pitchers in the American League. He should be there. For sure.”
Hernandez starts on Saturday before the break and said, “I think I’ll be able to pitch” in the All-Star Game.”
He said he looks forward to the Home Run Derby the most.
“I love to watch,” he said. “It’s pretty fun.”