Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard will make his first All-Star appearance tonight in Phoenix, but if it weren't for some words of advice from his father, he might never have made it there.
In 2009, Clippard was told by his pitching coach at AAA Syracuse that he would be a reliever, rather than in the starting rotation like he expected. A discouraged Clippard took the news hard.
In an interview with MLB.com, Clippard recounts the car ride from Florida to Syracuse that changed his career.
"I had a long conversation with my dad and told him where I was at in my career -- what was going on and everything like that," Clippard remembered. "He put it in perspective and just said, 'You still have a uniform on, you are in Triple-A and you are on the 40-man roster. You have a lot of good things going for you. Don't let this little hiccup stop you. You have all the talent in the world.'
"To hear him put it in perspective like that, it made a lot of sense to me. So as the 20-hour car ride progressed, I started feeling a lot better. By the time I got to Syracuse, I was itching to go and hungry again. It went from being devastated to having a higher energy [level] than I had ever had."
Clippard has come a long way since then, upgrading from that solo car ride to a private plane courtesy of fellow All-Star Troy Tulowitski. But despite the luxury ride, he's staying grounded.
“I’ve always enjoyed meeting the other guys around the league,” Clippard told the Washington Post. “Obviously the All-Star Game brings in another level, a lot of future Hall of Famers, a lot of guys that have hit home runs off of me. It’s going to be cool to meet guys like that.”