? What's it like
being a major league rookie? Strange sometimes, if you forget you're famous.
"A couple times walking down the street, a random person has started
looking at me weird," says Phillies starter Cole Hamels. "I'm like, Oh,
shoot. Do I have something on me or something? All of a sudden they're like,
'Hey, good job.' You have to step back and go, 'Oh, O.K. Thanks.'" ... In
Detroit flamethrowing setup man Joel Zumaya was thrilled to see a fan in a
Tigers jersey bearing his name above "101"--the speed he's recorded on
the radar gun. "I made sure I signed it for him," says Zumaya (right).
"You're treated like a king, but I was brought up humble. That's how I'll
stay." ... Rookies, of course, are beloved in Red Sox Nation. "Someone
had me sign their [prosthetic] leg," says Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon
(below). "But the strangest thing was when somebody wanted me to sign their
baby--to sign the stomach with a Sharpie. I did it." Meanwhile, just being
close to Papelbon's bullpenmate Craig Hansen is enough to draw a crowd. "My
buddy dropped me off [at Fenway] in my truck," Hansen says. "As he's
leaving, people are swarming him and asking for his autograph."
? Eager to get
accepted by his teammates, Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis keeps a low
profile. "You don't want to be known as one of those hotheads, a guy who
won't shut up," Markakis says. Third baseman Melvin Mora has taken Markakis
under his wing and gives him advice on topics from pitchers to finance. Mora
insists Markakis share the empty extra locker set aside for veterans on road
trips. ( Mora knows about being paternal--he's the father of six kids, including
five-year-old quintuplets.) ... Twins outfielder Jason Kubel got welcomed more
boisterously after he hit a 12th-inning grand slam on June 13. "I had
Gatorade dumped on me by Cuddy [ Michael Cuddyer] and Torii [Hunter]," he
says. "It was the most fun I've ever had."
? Angels catcher
Mike Napoli (far left) loves the high-class transportation--"You get to fly
with [just] your team, [and] they come down the aisle with all kinds of food
and drinks"--but being in the Show doesn't change everything. In the
minors, says Padres second baseman Josh Barfield, "I ate a lot of
peanut-butter sandwiches because that's what was put out for pregame meals. And
postgame meals. I got to dread peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches." And now
that he has access to big league spreads? "I have [peanut butter] every
day. Why? Because it's a choice now."
Joe Nelson, 31, and Phillies catcher Chris Coste, 33, each spent more than a
decade in the minors before sticking in the bigs this year. "My friends
work 9-to-5 jobs," says Nelson (right, 3.00 ERA). "They always said,
'Nelly, don't quit. No matter how bad it is, your job is a million times better
than any job I've had.' They were right." Coste's hitting .340 but not
feeling secure. "I may not be on the team next year," says Coste
(left). "As much as I want to buy something, I can't. My family and I have
one car." Coste and Nelson both like the taste of big league life. Says
Nelson, "It's like having strip steak or filet mignon. Once you get filet,
that's all you'll order the rest of your life."