DENVER – There was the moment when Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker learned they were National League All-Star starters in manager David Bell’s office before a game last month.
There was the moment when the entire Cincinnati Reds team gathered during a rain delay to celebrate their achievement. It’s the first time both players were picked to play in the All-Star Game.
The moment when it was announced to the Great American Ball Park crowd between innings afterward, Castellanos and Winker saluted the crowd on their walk to the dugout. Winker was tearful in an interview afterward about how much it meant to him.
After all those moments the two players will never forget, the big day has finally arrived. Castellanos will bat fifth and start in right field in the 91st Midsummer Classic at Colorado’s Coors Field. Winker is hitting sixth and in left field. They are the first pair of Reds outfielders to start in the All-Star Game together since Frank Robinson and Gus Bell in 1956.
“To hear that I was named the starter, I think that’s what did it to me,” Winker said, “just because it’s a dream of mine that is coming true. I think anybody, whatever they are trying to accomplish, if they get it, then I think they feel the exact same thing. One of my dreams just happens to be the MLB All-Star Game.”
The two players soaked in the All-Star experience before the Home Run Derby on Monday. Castellanos was constantly chatting around the batting cage, carrying a long conversation with San Diego Padres stars Manny Machado, who grew up in the same area of South Florida, and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Castellanos was one of the last NL players on the field during batting practice Monday, chatting with American League players once the NL session ended.
“Fulfilling,” Castellanos said of his first All-Star Game appearance. “I’m happy that it took this long, and success didn’t come easy because I think sometimes if success comes too quickly, you could not learn patience. I think that getting it now at 29, I’m very excited about it, but I also can put it in its place and not let it dictate how I want to go about my business per se.”
Castellanos said the top thing that he was excited about during the All-Star week was watching the Home Run Derby with his son, Liam.
He had many family members who traveled to Colorado to watch him play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, including his mom and dad who threw him batting practice as a young kid.
“This is first and foremost for them,” Castellanos said. “They get to experience this, and they get to have this memory. This is something that they are going to remember forever. They were with me when they were taking me to tee ball. Now for them to come and this is where I’m at, it’s very special for them and also for my son to be able to recognize that something like this could be accomplished if you work hard.”
Winker had a huge smile whipped across his face when he spotted his family in the stands during batting practice. He walked into the camera well next to the dugout to greet his parents, brothers and other family members. He picked up his young daughter and brought her on the field.
What was Winker’s family reaction to him being voted as an All-Star Game starter?
“Oh, man, they were all happy,” Winker said. “Very, very happy. Proud. Every word you could think of.
“They are very proud. I wouldn’t be here without them and they know that. I’ve thanked them hundreds and hundreds of times. It’s just cool. I’m happy that they are all here and we get to share this. The All-Star Game, it’s an honor, but it really is about them because I wouldn’t be here without them.”
One of Winker’s favorite memories from the All-Star voting process was seeing the Buffalo Bills urging their fans to vote for him, working with the Reds’ social media team.
“I want to thank the Buffalo Bills especially,” Winker said. “I think that was probably the coolest thing for (my brothers), seeing them get involved. That is the childhood team of my whole family. That’s what we share. Seeing that support. I think that was the moment where everyone was like, ‘This is happening.’ It was just really cool for me.”
Near the end of the Home Run Derby on Monday evening, Winker and Castellanos sat next to each other on one of the couches placed on the field. Castellanos’ son, Liam, was running around next to them.
“Definitely excited to be here,” Winker said. “It’s something that I wanted to accomplish. Now that I’m here, it’s just pretty surreal.”