CLEVELAND — Jeff McNeil thoroughly enjoyed his All-Star experience, from flying in a private plane to watching his good bud Pete Alonso win the Home Run Derby to making his Midsummer Classic debut, but he left Progressive Field sort of bummed Tuesday night.
In his only at-bat, the video board displayed his name next to a gigantic photo of Jacob deGrom, who also played in the game but who is decidedly not the Mets’ multi-position All-Star. The flub came in the top of the eighth, when McNeil stepped to the plate with two on and nobody out against Indians lefthander Brad Hand. He wound up flying out to left.
“That was tough,” said McNeil, who was smiling but annoyed and brought it up unprompted. “They put deGrom’s picture up there. I didn’t really like that. I want to see my picture up there. I know my family does too. What are you going to do, I guess. I don’t think that should happen.”
What went through McNeil’s mind when he saw his name next to deGrom’s face?
“That can’t really happen,” McNeil said. “I work so hard and get to the All-Star Game. That’s one of the things you look at, you know? You look around and check everything out. It is what it is I guess.”
McNeil wasn’t alone. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras had his first name spelled as Wilson and Rockies outfielder David Dahl was known as Davis Dahl, according to the Progressive leftfield video board, which is 59 feet high and 221 feet wide.
Pointing out the error to McNeil was Tigers catcher James McCann, McNeil’s long-lost friend and fellow first-time All-Star who was behind the plate when it happened. They were youth-baseball teammates, growing up in Santa Barbara, California, but hadn’t seen each other since they were about 13, McNeil estimated.
“It was my first time seeing him basically since then,” McNeil said. “He grew up in Santa Barbara with me, so that’s pretty cool. He happened to say, hey, check out the scoreboard.”
McNeil said he can use the video-board oopsie as motivation to make it back to the All-Star Game. And that one detail didn’t totally ruin his past few days.
“It was a blast. Every part of it was awesome,” McNeil said. “I started in Double-A last year. To be an MLB All-Star, I didn’t think it would happen this quick. It’s awesome. I love every minute of it. Hopefully my career keeps going up.”