KANSAS CITY -- Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder will happily slide down in the order to hit fifth in the American League All-Star Game (Tonight, 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX) starting lineup.
"Sweet. Perfect," Fielder said, turning to his oldest boy, Jadyn, for approval. "The closest thing you'd probably get to a team like this is on PlayStation, right?"
Manager Ron Washington's lineup was indeed right out of a video game, stacked with three Yankees, three of Washington's own Rangers and a combined 20 All-Star Game starts.
A pair of Yankees stood at the top -- Derek Jeter leading off an All-Star Game for the first time and playing shortstop, and Robinson Cano batting second at second base. The Rangers' Josh Hamilton will bat third and play left field, followed by the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hitting cleanup in right field, Fielder at first base, the Rangers' Adrian Beltre at third base, the Red Sox's David Ortiz as the designated hitter, then Rangers catcher Mike Napoli and Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander will start for the AL squad.
At stake is home-field advantage in the World Series, which might have come in handy for Washington's Rangers last year. They led the Cardinals in the World Series, 3-2, before losing thrilling Games 6 and 7 in St. Louis.
St. Louis, incidentally, had the home-field edge due to Fielder, the former Milwaukee Brewer whose three-run home run keyed the National League's All-Star Game victory last season and earned Fielder MVP honors.
"Of course, there's extra incentive for me," Washington said. "But it depends on if the players can go out there and make things happen that we can put runs on the board and get out front, and then I can match the arms I have with what's happening in the ballgame and we can hold a lead.
"Last year, we didn't get out to a lead, and we were playing from behind in the third inning."
American League lineup
|1. Derek Jeter, NYY||R||SS|
|2. Robinson Cano, NYY||L||2B|
|3. Josh Hamilton, TEX||L||LF|
|4. Jose Bautista, TOR||R||RF|
|5. Prince Fielder, DET||L||1B|
|6. Adrian Beltre, TEX||R||3B|
|7. David Ortiz, BOS||L||DH|
|8. Mike Napoli, TEX||R||C|
|9. Curtis Granderson, NYY||L||CF|
|Justin Verlander, DET||R||P|
Washington never made it to Kansas City. The Royals traded him to the Dodgers in 1976, beginning a long and winding career that included service time with five teams over 10 seasons, then a second career as a coach and manager.
"It's always been a sentimental feeling in my heart, each time I return to Kansas City, because this is where I started," Washington said. "I learned my baseball in Kansas City. I was able to apply it in L.A. ... I learned my baseball on a chalkboard, and we would chalk it out on the board and then go out and apply it on the field, and we would work it out until we got it right.
"So, I'm excited. I just wish Mr. Kauffman was around to see it, because the academy was his brainstorm. There weren't many people who believed that it could work, and I'm just happy that I'm an example that it can work. My dream was to be a baseball player at the Major League level, I wanted to be a third-base coach and an infield coach, and at that point, that's where I thought my dream would stop."
Instead, Washington emerged as a managerial candidate and got his break with the Rangers in 2007.
"But it all started in Kansas City," Washington said. "I'm proud to be back here."