Chris Sale may have attended high school in the middle of the state, but the Boston Red Sox ace pitcher played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast and now has a home a few hours drive across the Tamiami Trail from Marlins Park.
As much as Tuesday’s All-Star Game is a homecoming of sorts for the likes of Yonder Alonso, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton, Miami is close enough to Naples to count Sale in as well.
And, since he will be the starting pitcher for the American League team, it’s a good thing he’s bringing plenty of support.
“This is a fun time,” Sale said on Monday after Cleveland bench coach and AL manager Brad Mills named him as the starter for a second consecutive year.
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“I love coming to the All-Star Game. Being down in Miami about an hour and a half from where I live, that's better. To have my family and friends come and watch it, my college coach is coming down, which is special.
“I'm excited for it. It's a big deal. There's a lot going on. But I would like to sit back and be able to soak this in as well.”
Later, he added that being able to enjoy this with friends and family makes the experience all that more fun.
“All my family lives here, brothers, sisters, in-laws, parents, even my aunts and uncles and cousins," Sale said. "So to be able to be here not too far from where I live now is nice. I can have my family, extended family come down and experience this with me.
“At the end of the day this is something I'll never forget. This is something I'll be hopefully sitting in a rocking chair when I'm 80 years old telling my grandkids and great-grandkids and things like that.”
Sale (11-4) is in his sixth All-Star Game — the first five came with the White Sox — and is the first AL pitcher to start consecutive Midsummer Classics since Toronto’s Dave Stieb did it in 1983-84.
Chicago manager Maddon didn’t have to make too tough of a decision on the National League starter with Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw out of the All-Star Game after leading the Dodgers to their baseball-leading 61st win on Sunday.
Maddon said it wouldn’t have mattered if Kershaw was good to go or not – he was going with Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals.
“If you just broke down the numbers, I am being honest, I had already chosen Max,” Maddon said.
“I thought this was the right way to go.”
Scherzer (10-5) and Sale are most definitely two of the best pitchers in baseball right now as Scherzer leads the majors with a 2.10 ERA and Sale is fourth at 2.75
Sale leads the majors with 178 strikeouts with Scherzer right behind him with 173.
The two also spent a summer – separately – playing on a collegiate league team in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
“We’re representing the La Crosse Loggers pretty well,” Scherzer said.
2017 MLB All-Star Game at Marlins Park
▪ Monday — Home Run Derby: 8 (ESPN, 790-AM).
▪ Tuesday — All-Star Red Carpet and Parade, downtown Miami: 12:30 p.m.; Ballpark gates open: 4:30; NL batting practice: 4:40; AL batting practice: 6:05; 88th annual MLB All-Star Game: 7:30 (WSVN-7, 790-AM).