My Experience as an All-Star

Two days before the 2005 All-Star Game, my wife Christi and I were exactly half way between Minute Maid Park and Hobby Airport in Houston when my phone started to ring. My heart sank. When I looked at my phone I saw that the caller was the GM of the Astros, Tim Purpura.

“It’s Tim,” I said.

That single comment was enough for Christi to start crying. We both knew what he would say: I had made the National League All-Star team. In every other circumstance we would be happy, but this All Star break was special. Let me explain.

We had lost three babies to miscarriage in the previous two years, a very difficult experience. But now Christi was pregnant with identical twin boys and we were going back to the place we were married, Lake Tahoe. Christi’s aunt, Sue, owns a cabin on the water in Rubicon Bay. It is a special place for us because we were married on that beach. It is our favorite place in the world. But it would have to wait because now instead of going to the lake I was going to Detroit for the All-Star Game.

At the time, baseball was going great. Personally, I was in some sort of dream, batting .290 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs for the Astros, and our team was surging. On May 24, 2005 we were just 15-30. On the day of this phone call, we were 44-43 and back in the hunt for a playoff spot, which we eventually secured.

Whenever I think about picking up the phone in the back of the car I am reminded how strange life works. Right before I answered, I thought to myself, “I’m an All Star? How can this be? I’m from Hermosa Beach. Our dads coached us. I didn’t get a scholarship in college. I was a 9th round draft pick as a senior. Now I’m an All Star?”

I looked at Christi with a concerned look and said, “I’m sorry, babe.” She gave a little smile and nodded. She was sad and she was happy. But her pain was that baseball rules over our lives during the season. When the team tells you to go somewhere, you go. I don’t want this to sound like I am complaining at all. It isn’t that. It is the feeling we all have that we are not in control of our lives. It is tough to handle even when you are blessed to do something you love.

My left thumb pushed the answer button and I said, “Hello?”

“Hey Morgan! It’s Tim. Congratulations, you are an All Star!”

“Thank you Tim! This is unbelievable. What should I do?”

“We are making arrangements for you right now. You will fly out tomorrow morning. Good luck. You really deserve this, Morgan.”

“Thanks, Tim. I can’t believe it!”

I hung up the phone and said, “Driver, we need to turn around.”

The next morning, Christi and I were on a plane to Detroit. We reached the hotel and put our bags down. My parents and Christi’s parents were flying in that day. It would have been great to just crash on the bed, but downstairs was a banquet room filled with reporters and I needed to be there in five minutes.

Walking into the banquet room was strange. Each player had a chair and a folding table. On the wall behind each desk was a sign with our names on it. John SmoltzJeff KentRoger ClemensAlbert PujolsMorgan Ensberg.

Morgan Ensberg…I made it!

Just as I sat down some of the reporters came over with smiles. Reporters and I got along really well. Probably because I talked to them and treat them with respect.

“Well congratulations, Morgan” one of them said. “This had to be a surprise?”

“It sure was!” I said with smile. “Christi and I were in the car half way to the airport when Tim called.”

The reporter said, “You’re kidding me. In the car? Where were you going?”

“We were heading to Lake Tahoe to meet up with Scott and Kelly Linebrink.” (Scott was pitching for the Padres at the time and we were close. Our relationship revolves around him telling me how great Texas is and me asking him if all Texans wear their pants that high.)

The reporter just shook his head with a smile, “That is amazing. Well good luck! I’ll see you later on today during batting practice.”

The interviews lasted an hour and I repeated that story about 40 times. My jaw became sore from smiling so much while telling the story.

When it was over, it was time to go to Comerica Park for batting practice. I have never seen so many people on a baseball field in my life. The media filled foul territory from third base to first base. It was packed so much that we didn’t have room to take practice swings to get loose outside the batting cage.

As I took my cuts I kept feeling like this wasn’t real. My group had Pujols, Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds in it — I loved it.

The outfield was filled with other guys I knew. Jake Peavy was out there. Dontrelle Willis was talking to Jimmy Rollins. Bobby Abreu, who I played with in Venezuela, was out there talking to Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Beltran. But the guy I wanted to talk to most was Smoltz, the best pitcher I ever faced. We spoke for a while and it was really fun. I asked him to stop throwing 100 mph and he said, “No.” What was I going to say, “Ok. Fine, throw 100 mph.” I’m thinking, “Dude, I’m totally joking around with John Smoltz — and he’s laughing!”

We lost the game that night. I got two at bats. The first was against Joe Nathan and I popped up on the first pitch. My second at bat was against some guy name Mariano Rivera. I came out of my shoes three times in a row and drew nothing. He struck me out on three cutters at 94 mph. He’s good.

The next morning, Christi and I boarded a plane and headed back to Houston and that offseason we made it back to Lake Tahoe. We go there every year but that was my one and only appearance in the Midsummer Classic.

Morgan Ensberg, All Star — I’ve even got the video to prove it!


30 Comments on “My Experience as an All-Star”

  1. Ashitaka says:

    ABs against Nathan and Rivera? That’s…not cool.

  2. Karen says:

    Great story! You do have a future as a writer, if you want to pursue it. 2005 certainly was a magical year for the Astros.

  3. Katie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Morgan! You made us feel like we were there with you.

  4. Dave Madison says:

    And if I recall correctly, Fox was late coming back from the commercial, and we nearly missed your first AB.

  5. Rene says:

    Superb story. Yes. You made it.

  6. SFC B says:

    The highlight of my 2005 was the Astros’ playoff run.

    Yes, the rest of my year was really that bad.

  7. K9 says:

    I have video, too!
    Thanks for the informative and entertaining story.
    ( and I mean that in the best possible way! I love them)
    absolutely fascinating.
    I love the way you write! Great blog, keep em coming.

  8. Matt says:

    Sorry to hear about the miscarriages, I can’t imagine going through that. Good story as usual, I always enjoy player insights.

    Also, I’ve never seen so many female names in the comment section of a sports blog. Your wife better watch out.

    • Matt I know that you are just joking, but I really believe that the women become the most loyal fans. Most guys seem to just roll their eyes when a woman says anything about sports. That is short sighted. Women have an ability to see things men don’t. We want this blog to be a place where we can talk ball and be respectful! So far, so good!

      Morgan

  9. Donna says:

    I second Katie’s comment about how your post made us feel like we were with you at the All-Star game in ’05. Thanks for sharing!

    Also, thanks for your response to Matt. I have been a baseball fan all my life and an Astros fan since moving to Houston in 1991. I love being at the ballpark, whether my team is having an up year or a down year. When our announcer says “Welcome home to Minute Maid Park” I say “Thank you!”

  10. jklender says:

    Glad that your All-Star experience took place in Detroit, Morgan. That game was a significant stepping stone to baseball returning to success in our town. I hope we cheered loud enough for you when you were introduced.

    Great stories, always.

  11. lisa gray says:

    matt

    grow up

    believe it or not, there is a HUGE difference between fans and groupies. us females posting here are not trying to persuade mo to go all tiger woods. i personally have like zero interest in insulting either mrs.ensberg or my Husband and i would be just as interested in mo’s blog if he looked like willie mcgee or rich garces. ok???!!!

    we are here to talk baseball with a real honest to goodness BASEBALL PLAYER who wants to talk about BASEBALL with us instead of giving up that – why dontchu run along and go do something like knit or play with your dollies – type crap we get.

    men who are ACTUAL BASEBALL PLAYERS are a heck of a lot less likely to do all that eye rolling when the female knows baseball and wants to TALK BASEBALL. unlike other guys who get their little selves All Up Set when we ask stuff like – how do you time the pitcher when you are on second? does it help or hurt the batter to distract him with signals about pitches? how can you throw a FB at different speeds without changing your delivery or arm motion?

    etc

    and mo is right about female fans. go to the ballpark sometime. look at the people who keep score/have scorebooks. most of us are FEMALES.

    • John says:

      Hey Lisa, why do you keep score at baseball games? Most fancy big-league parks these days have gigantic scoreboards you can look at at any time! Just kidding. In all seriousness, you deserve respect for being one of the best posters on this blog. Just though you should know that.

    • Lisa I am with you.

      Morgan

  12. joe c. says:

    Mo-

    You had bat in hand with Pujols AND Edmonds within striking range? If you just would have just gone Tonya Harding for one second, you could have saved me a lot of heartache during the ’05 NLCS.

    In all seriousness, you were hitting out of your mind in ’05 and although I felt you were clearly deserving, I was shocked the national media actually recognized it. Score one for the underdogs!

    For the record, chicks that know baseball are hot.

  13. John says:

    Look at Big Mo, boastin’ about his All Star appearance, droppin’ big names in boldface type and stuff.. HA! Just kidding, buddy. It was well deserved for you that year. Bummer that you had to face arguably the best AL closer of the past 7 or 8 years not named Mariano and Mariano himself.

  14. lisa gray says:

    john

    why do i keep score?

    well, it is because unlike mo, i knew i wanted to be a baseball player more than anything the very first time my mama took me to the Dome and we walked out and i looked at all those rows and rows of brightly colored seats and out at that impossibly green turfgrass and watched the players and i told her – i WANNA PLAY TOO!!!!!

    at least play catch with kevin bass…

    and then i found out that grrrls are banned from baseball – broke my heart. yeah, it is a real genuine rule in The Baseball Rulebook – put there after the AAGPBL broke up cuz some of the minor league teams were thinkin bout signing some of the females and like what if they were actually good enough to make the ML roster? CHAOS!!! cats and dogs living together!!!!! you might could laugh at the idea that some female could make a ML roster, but first i suggest you go back and look at some of those AL rosters in the 50s not named yankees. a modern AA team could beat those guys…

    so anyway, i keep score – my own kind of score, with notes, so i can go back any old time i want and look at my scorebook and remember the game like i was down on the field because it’s the closest i can ever get to playing baseball my own self

    • John says:

      Lisa,

      I’m sure you knew I was joking, but I’m glad you shared that story anyway. Kevin Bass rules, but he’s no Jose Cruz Sr!! I know how good those female players of the 50s were, but I did not know there was a rule officially put in the rulebook abolishing them. That’s a travesty. And as far as keeping score goes, like I said, I was joking. I, too, keep score when I go to games, despite the gigantic scoreboard at the ballpark!

  15. lisa gray says:

    john

    honey i know u were joking bout the scorekeeping. but unfortunately i was not joking about the no females in baseball rule. they might could have looked over at what was left of the Negro Leagues and seen satchel paige pitching to mamie peanuts johnson (all of 5-4) and seen her get a hit offn him and then started to worry…

    jose cruz he was a STAH!!!!!

    kevin bass, well he looked like a brotha lived down the street and it was a lot easier to imagine going up to him and asking if he wants to play catch and him saying – sure thing little sista…

  16. folding tables are very convenient to use specially if you have a house that lacks a large space”,

  17. Pine Desk · says:

    if you are in an apartment that is confined, then folding tables would be very well suited for you -,`


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