By: Will Burchfield
Justin Verlander said he would talk to Michael Fulmer when he heard his teammate had been elected to the All-Star Game. As a veteran who’s been to six Midsummer Classics, he said he’d offer some advice to a youngster heading to his first.
Initially, the timing was off. Verlander had just been rocked by the Indians when he learned of Fulmer’s All-Star nod last Sunday.
“Went over to him a little bit ago and said congrats, but I’ll probably be in a little more chipper mood to chat with him on Tuesday,” Verlander said.
He followed through on his word. The two pitchers chatted earlier this week.
Verlander’s basic advice was simple.
“He said, ‘Enjoy everything, go to every event they have,'” said Fulmer.
But in the Tigers dugout on Wednesday night, Verlander told Fulmer something that resonated with the All-Star Game rookie.
“He said, ‘You’re gonna sign a lot of autographs. I said, ‘I’m sure.’ He goes, ‘But when they give you one of your All-Star jerseys or balls, put it in that room and have all the guys sign it,” Fulmer said.
It’s something Verlander has done each time he’s gone to the All-Star Game, most recently in 2013.
“I think it’d be a cool kind of memento,” said Fulmer, “especially for my first one.”
Fulmer isn’t eligible to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game because he’s starting on Sunday versus the Indians. Justin Upton has replaced him on the American League roster, but Fulmer will still head down to Miami and take part in the festivities.
“I can go down there and enjoy myself and not do anything,” said the easy-going Oklahoman.
He plans to talk to as many of his fellow All-Stars as he can, soak up all the advice they have to offer and maybe even seek out a few autographs.
“I wanna see everybody,” he said.
He’s especially excited for Monday’s Home Run Derby, although he respectfully declined to nominate a favorite in a field that includes some hulking hitters.
“This is probably the biggest kind of names in the Derby that I’ve seen in a while, biggest in the most kind of pop,” Fulmer said. “You can’t shy away from (Aaron) Judge, obviously (Cody) Bellinger’s been putting on a show, the hometown kid Giancarlo Stanton. I mean, these guys are massive and I think it’ll be cool to have a front-row seat on the field just to watch these guys do what they do — hit balls out of the stadium.”
Fulmer has yet to face the 6’7 Judge in the majors, but crossed paths with him in the minors. He isn’t all that surprised by the slugger’s breakout in 2017.
“You could just tell by his size that he can hit the ball a long way. He put in the time to work on his swing and make more contact and obviously it’s paying off because when he makes contact, whew, you gotta watch out,” Fulmer said.
He hopes he gets a chance to square off with Judge later this season. The Tigers visit the Yankees at the end of July, and the Yankees come to Detroit in August.
“I’m looking for a chance to square off with every guy in the league, honestly. I’ll give him my best stuff and I hope he gives me his best stuff in return. That’s how the game of baseball should be played — my best stuff versus your best stuff, and we’ll see who wins,” said Fulmer.
For now, though, Fulmer has his eyes on Cleveland. Then onto Miami, a city he’s never been to for a game he’s never played in.
“I don’t know what to expect. I’ve watched it on TV every year, but to be a part of the festivities and the recognition of all these stars, this is gonna be something I’ll never forget,” he said.
He’ll come home with a heck of an experience and, if he remembers, a lifelong memento.