KANSAS CITY In the postgame clubhouse late Tuesday night, Starlin Castro bobbed his head and danced to the rap music in front of his locker. He put on his earrings and designer jeans and did a television interview.
From the beginning, the Cubs appreciated how Castro acts like he belongs, and his swagger is hard to miss. Why would the All-Star Game be any different?
But you should have seen Castros face light up when he was asked about meeting Derek Jeter for the first time. The big smile reminded you that Castro can still seem like a little kid.
Jeter walked in from center field at Kauffman Stadium after the American League All-Star team took a team photo. Castro and his National League teammates were waiting to line up for their picture and take batting practice.
Castro recalled: He told me to keep working: Youre a very good player. Youre working hard.
This wasnt quite a changing of the guard moment at shortstop. But its worth remembering that at the age of 22 Castro is already in the class picture for best players in the world.
It happened outside Chicago, where every error can seem like a referendum on whether or not Castro can play shortstop. In trying to figure out the learning curve, remember that Jeter once committed 56 errors during his age-19 season at a Class-A affiliate in 1993.
Castro remembered that Jeter was on the disabled list when the New York Yankees came to Wrigley Field last summer. The captain also elected to skip last years All-Star Game and rest after reaching 3,000 hits.
The marketing department put Castro on billboards opposite Jeter to hype that series. Castros not nearly as calculating he comes across as more like Sure, why not? but hes talked a lot about copying Jeter.
That means going to the All-Star Game every year, staying in one city your entire career, getting 3,000 hits and winning the World Series. (It also means protecting your image by avoiding off-the-field incidents, a lesson the Cubs believe Castro has learned.)
Jeter is the face of October baseball. If the Cubs get back there anytime soon, it will be with a maturing Castro, a building block for team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
Maybe one, two years, Castro said. Maybe quicker. I know that Theo and Hoyer these kind of guys at the top they know how to win. They know how to prepare teams for winning games. Youve seen Theo in Boston. Everybodys waiting for that one team to win games, (get to) the playoffs, the World Series. Thats what everybody wants.
Last month Castro didnt know about a USA TODAY report putting him on the trading block which was shot down by multiple levels of the organization until a reporter mentioned it to him.
Whether its that or Bobby Valentine blasting him on ESPN last season for turning his back to home plate, Castro doesnt let it bother him. He immediately apologized to his teammates for forgetting how many outs there were last month in San Francisco.
The moments that get blown out of proportion can overshadow the internal drive Castro needed to separate himself from all the other kids in the Dominican Republic who wanted to play shortstop in the big leagues and the confidence you need to stay here.
I know what I got, Castro said.
After this season, Castro will be a Super Two player eligible for arbitration. He said that he hadnt talked much about the possibility of a long-term contract with his agent yet.
Well see what happens, Castro said. I dont know what the teams supposed to do with me. (But) Im ready to play baseball. I dont think about contract or money or nothing just play baseball and win games.
I dont want to put pressure in my mind to think about a contract or something like that. Just relax and play baseball.
Castro plans to stay in Chicago a very long time, and cant wait to find out what Wrigley Field will look and feel like if the Cubs become an elite team.
Oh my God, its gonna be awesome, he said.