Standing at his locker was Brett Gardner, surrounded by cameras and reporters. Lying on top of his suitcase was his cellphone, lighting up with what likely were congratulatory text messages. Draped over the back of his chair was his jersey, unlike any he's ever worn before.
Said Gardner, "Never had a jersey with my name on my back."
That changed Thursday when his last name was printed across the top of a red and black American League All-Star jersey. The 31-year-old, in his eighth major-league season, was named an All-Star for the first time after being named as a replacement for injured Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon.
"I'm really excited about it," Gardner said. "This is a big honor to be mentioned up there with obviously some of the best players in the game. It will be a moment that I'll definitely cherish forever."
Gardner learned he was bound for Cincinnati while walking to leftfield before the start of the fifth inning of the Yankees' 6-2 win over Oakland on Thursday. A surprise announcement was made over the PA system and the scoreboard read, "Gardy's Going! Brett Gardner is a 2015 All-Star!''
"I'm really happy for him," Joe Girardi said. "He's so important to our team. And what he's done for this club, I really believe that he deserved to go. And now he's going."
Gardner was one of five American League finalists in MLB's Final Vote, in which fans decide the final roster spot for both teams. The Yankees lobbied aggressively for Gardner, with some players even wearing bald caps to promote their teammate.
"I'll be 32 years old next month, this will be my first All-Star Game," Gardner said. "I don't know how many more chances I'll get at it. Those guys have been pulling for me."
He didn't partake in any vote-grabbing gimmicks, opting to let his bat do the campaigning for him. On Thursday, he sent the first pitch he saw into the right-centerfield seats for his 10th homer of the year and 50th of his career. After going 3-for-5, he is hitting .303 with 40 RBIs and 62 runs.
In his last 19 games, he is 33-for-79 and has a slash line of .418/.495/.722 with five homers, 12 RBIs and 19 runs.
Because of those numbers, AL All-Star manager Ned Yost selected Gardner to fill the spot of Gordon, who will be replaced in the starting lineup by Baltimore's Adam Jones.
"He could have picked several other guys that are obviously very deserving," Gardner said. "And for him to choose me, definitely very grateful."
As for his new jersey, Gardner's fellow All-Star, Mark Teixeira, had a suggestion.
"Tex dared me to wear it on the plane tonight," Gardner said. "I think I'll wait a few days before I put it on. It will be a special moment to put that on."