Ari breaks down his time in L.A. covering the Astros at the All-Star game

Ari Alexander interviews Astros players ahead of MLB All-Star game (KPRC/Click2Houston.com)

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Hey everyone, it’s Ari Alexander. I just got back from Los Angeles where I spent three days covering the Astros at the All-Star Game and festivities. I got to talk with Justin Verlander, Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez along with Dusty Baker plus a couple of other local guys including Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals/The Woodlands HS), Justin Crawford (Phillies Draftee/Son of Carl Crawford) and Ivan Melendez (Diamondbacks Draftee/Texas).

THE ATMOSPHERE IN LOS ANGELES

Monday was media day for the Astros and the rest of the league at Dodger Stadium, out in the picnic porch area behind center field. Dusty Baker kicked it off with his news conference, where he asked Los Angeles pretty politely not to boo the Astros. They did anyway.

Players got set up at little tables with their name placards (Kyle Tucker took his home for his mom) and did interviews with an assortment of American, Canadian, Latin American and Japanese Media. The big stars, of course, were Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols.

First, I talked to Kyle Tucker, who had a small group of Japanese media waiting for him. We ran through some KPRC 2 Insiders questions and talked a bit about his first All-Star experience. (Click the image below to see his answers.)

Then I wandered over to Framber, who was doing interviews in Spanish for much of the first part of his media availability. I have never interviewed Framber Valdez one on one, partly due to opportunity, partly due to the language barrier. All-Star was the perfect place to talk to him about his journey from the Dominican Republic to the MLB, with an interpreter. Valdez didn’t start pitching until he was 16, didn’t get signed until he was 21, and that was only for $10,000. To put that in perspective, the slot value signing bonus for the first SIXTY EIGHT spots in the MLB draft are above $1 million. Now 28 years old, Valdez is an All-Star. He told me about the perseverance it took to stick with it and continue to improve his craft.

Then I went over into a much bigger crowd for Justin Verlander, who was very forthright on a number of topics including MVP Candidates, his contract status after this season (he has 21 more innings until he hits a trigger that could make 2023 a team option for him, which means he’ll likely opt out for more money next season), and about the ball and how pitchers are frustrated with its inconsistency. Watch out for that “ball” story as I chatted with a number of Astros players about it.

We settled in for the Home Run Derby, where future trade candidate Juan Soto won. Earlier in the day, Soto’s agent, Scott Boras discussed his frustrations with the Nationals, and Astros-related - his excitement to add Jose Urquidy to Boras Corp.

THE GAME ITSELF

Just two of the three Astros played in the game, along with Dusty Baker and Houston’s coaching staff. Framber Valdez threw a clean 3rd inning, inducing three ground balls, and earned the win. It’s the first time in Astros history that Houston has had a winning pitcher in the All-Star game. Kyle Tucker played some in right field, and both stuck around until the end of the game. Tucker told me how “cool” the experience was postgame, while Valdez talked about the win and we chatted a bit about our matching shoes (Ken Griffeys in different colorways -- sidenote, Ken Griffey Jr. was there Monday and also wearing the same shoes, in the Mariners colors though, as Framber and me).

Los Angeles is a great host city, Dodger Stadium not so much as a host venue. Anybody who has been there can attest to the one, slow elevator. Minute Maid should honestly get the All-Star game again, as MMP is FAR more navigable than Dodger Stadium.

WHAT’S NEXT

This afternoon, the Yankees are in town for a doubleheader and a solution to the season series. Either Houston will win the series (they’re up 3-2 right now) with a split or sweep, or the Yankees win the series with a sweep. New York has the All-Star MVP in Giancarlo Stanton, whose two-run bomb helped Valdez get the AL win. Yordan Alvarez is expected back Thursday after a short IL stint with hand soreness, and the Astros should have a mostly full lineup (Michael Brantley is still on the IL).

Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia are set to pitch the split doubleheader and then we’re off for the 2nd half!


About the Author:

Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.