Athletics right-handed pitcher Paul Blackburn might have risen to unexpected All-Star status this season, but his actual trip to the Midsummer Classic at Dodger Stadium was even more of a surprise.
Originally scheduled to take a commercial flight to Los Angeles from Houston, where the A’s just wrapped up a three-game series, Blackburn was invited by the Astros to join them on their charter flight to LA.
The A's pitcher obliged.
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“It was just brought to me and [they] asked if I wanted to fly with them, and I said, 'Yeah, you know, if [Astros manager] Dusty [Baker] would allow that then yeah, of course,'” Blackburn told Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston. "... It was fun. I felt like they made me feel welcome and comfortable. We had some good conversation, some good laughs."
While Blackburn is the A's only representative at Dodger Stadium this week, the Astros boast five All-Stars: infielder Jose Altuve, outfielder Kyle Tucker, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez and pitchers Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez.
"On the bus, it wasn’t awkward, I just felt a little uncomfortable," Blackburn said with a smile. "Everyone was walking on. I had no clue who anyone was. No one probably really knew who I was on there."
The Astros and A's rivalry isn't quite at its peak this season, with Oakland sitting 28 games back and in the cellar of the AL West. Blackburn has faced the Astros in two starts this season, both losses. He allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 5-1 loss on May 30 and surrendered six runs in four innings in an 8-3 loss on July 8.
Still, though, Blackburn appreciated the division leaders putting the competitive nature of baseball aside for a bit of big league camaraderie.
"It’s awesome," Blackburn said of the Astros' invitation. "It shows that within baseball, it’s a brotherhood, and everyone respects each other and tries to help each other out. I’m greatly appreciative to their organization for letting me tag along over here."
Blackburn has an opportunity to play alongside his new buddies from Houston at 5 p.m. PT Tuesday night when the American League teams up to battle the National League in the All-Star Game.