The first All-Star experience for Royals super utility player Whit Merrifield was emblematic of his career as a whole — a “whirlwind,” he said Tuesday.
The late-blooming Merrifield did not make his Major League debut until he was 27. Now, four years later he’s quickly elevated himself from a cast off to one of the most dynamic and versatile players in all of baseball.
Merrifield appeared for two at-bats and four innings in center field during the American League’s 4-3 win in the 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
His impact on the game was minimal — an 0-for-2 night and no putouts on defense — but if there’s any consolation, it’s that he feels he’s finally put his name in front of baseball fans across the country.
“It’s sort of a sense that people know who I am now, which has been a big struggle for me — to get people to say my name right,” Merrifield said. “The fact that I’m here now, it’s special for sure.”
“[It was] everything I hoped it would be,” Merrifield added after the game. “Bunch of adrenaline.”
Merrifield, who replaced Mike Trout in center fielder to open the sixth, had his first chance to do damage came in the bottom of the inning. He worked the count to 3-0 against Braves right-hander Mike Soroka before flying out. He later struck out in the eighth.
It was no matter for Merrifield, who still enjoyed every moment — from the introductory red carpet, to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, to the game itself and even to seeing divisional rival Shane Bieber of the Indians take home Most Valuable Player honors.
“Just hanging out with these guys in the locker room, honestly, has been my favorite part so far,” said Merrifield, who had his mom, dad, brother, sister, grandpa, fiancée and future parents-in-law in town for the festivities. “The Derby was cool. Never experienced that before, so it was cool to be here for that. Red carpet was cool, really cool this morning.”