The usually stoic Nick Markakis was encircled by media, fielding questions ranging from his career season to the misfortunes of his former club, the Orioles.
It was Markakis’ first All-Star media day. The 13-year veteran earned his first All-Star appearance, receiving the second most votes among National League players. He’ll man right field and hit seventh in Tuesday’s extravaganza.
Markakis refrains from displaying emotion in most instances, though he was quick to flash a grin and acknowledge the excitement of the midsummer classic.
“There's a lot of media time, which I'm excited about,” Markakis said in jest.
In the final season of a four-year deal, Markakis, always Mr. Reliable, has discovered a new peak. He’s hitting .323 with a .877 OPS in 94 games. He has 10 homers, 29 doubles and 61 RBIs for a team positioned for a postseason berth.
Markakis praised the younger Braves, such as Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, for injecting the veterans with energy. It’s certainly been a welcome change from Markakis’ first three seasons with the team.
When Markakis signed with the Braves in December 2014, much of today’s club was a blur. But he isn’t surprised the team’s found success before his contract ends.
“When I first came here, I didn’t know anybody except Freddie (Freeman) and a few other guys,” Markakis said. “After my first couple years, seeing the players who were there and who we brought in, absolutely. Towards the end of last year we saw it.
“The biggest thing I take pride in is being healthy and staying on the field. You can ask any guy, you can’t really do much on the (disabled list) to help your team. Just try to stay consistent, stay on the field.”
Markakis’ story is perhaps the best of the All-Star game, according to Freeman. The event being in Washington added extra importance, given Markakis still resides in the Baltimore area.
He had his three boys with him at Monday’s media session. He reiterated he’s most excited that they’re getting to experience an All-Star week.
Despite that he will turn 35 in November, Markakis is positioning himself for a rewarding payday in free agency. He was asked if he foresees playing another several years, and he deferred to his children.
“We’ll see, I don’t know. What do you guys want?” he asked his sons with another smile. “We’ll see. As long as my body allows me to, and I’m still being productive, and somebody wants me, why not?”
Markakis was asked specifically about the unlikely proposition of a return to Baltimore, where he played from 2006-14. He gave an upfront answer: It hasn’t been on his mind.
“I haven’t looked that far into it,” he said. “When that time approaches, we’ll deal with it. I’m a Brave right now and we’re currently sitting 10 games above .500, a half-game out of first, so that’s where all my focus is right now. I’m going to do what I can to help make our team better and try to win as many games as we can.”
The Braves don’t have an obvious replacement in right field. While some expect the team to go big-fish hunting, striking out is an entirely possible result. And retaining Markakis feels like a more realistic outcome than it did in March.
As Markakis will tell you, there’s a lot in play.
“We’ll see where it is at the end of the year,” he said. “A lot of things can happen. We’ve got two and a half months of baseball left, then the postseason, and hopefully we’re there. We’ll deal with that stuff in the offseason when the time comes.”
But today, and for the rest of his life, Markakis is a 2018 All-Star; a milestone achievement that will be engrained in Braves history.