López excited to make All-Star Game a family affair

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Orioles closer Jorge López surprised his son, Mikael, with a birthday party during a trip to Boston two months ago, with teammates filing out of the visiting clubhouse, reliever Joey Krehbiel holding a cake, and singing to the 9-year-old between games of a doubleheader. López registered a four-out save in the nightcap. An incredibly sweet moment even without the confections.

López has another surprise in store for Mikael. How his papá was chosen to the American League’s All-Star team.

Mikael was told about it, but he doesn’t really know.

“I’m just so grateful. Being selected for the first time, I can’t even describe it,” López said yesterday inside the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field.

“Mikael doesn’t understand yet until he gets there and sees everything. He’s never seen it before. I used to watch it at home or at the hospital when he used to be there. But from what I can remember, he couldn’t see it and understand what the All-Star Game means.”

The magnitude of it will begin to make sense after the family arrives at Dodger Stadium. Mikael is allowed to travel again, getting clearance from doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. He’s had to battle a pair of chronic autoimmune diseases, familial Mediterranean fever and Crohn’s, for most of his life and underwent chemotherapy treatments and a bone marrow transplant last summer.  

The improvement in Mikael’s condition also allowed him to visit his father in Chicago for the Cubs series. He underwent some tests yesterday on his lungs, with doctors checking his respiratory system, a first in a lifetime of them.

Everything went well, and López shared a video of Mikael that he kept on his phone.

López will fly directly from Tampa to Los Angeles after Sunday’s game. Members of his family, including wife Karla, an aunt and both sisters, will meet him there.

The reliever intends to stay in Los Angeles through Wednesday and head back to Baltimore, where the Orioles begin their next homestand on July 22 with a three-game series against the Yankees.

The memories will go with him.

“My wife is really happy and she’s kind of nervous,” López said. “This is the first time for her, also. But I’ll just go there and try to have fun, the most that I can. Try to meet new people. Just be there and be myself with my family.”

Being himself on the mound has worked out splendidly. López has a 1.70 ERA and 17 saves, and he’s the lone All-Star on an Orioles team that won 10 games in a row before last night’s 5-4 loss to the Rays. He warmed in the ninth, just in case they rallied.

Six of his saves have covered multiple innings, tied for most in the majors and the third-most in club history. Chris Ray had nine in 2006 and Armando Benitez had seven in 1997.

They weren’t All-Stars with the Orioles. Ray never made it.

“It’s an exciting moment,” López said. “I want to see everything, the plan, how everything is laid out at the stadium, where the stage is going to be. I want to understand that. We’ll see how it goes.”

John Means was an All-Star in 2019 and didn’t pitch. López would love an opportunity, but he’s going to enjoy himself no matter what happens.

“If they ask me, I’m ready,” he said. “If not, I’ll be so happy to just watch the game and be there and support, and whatever I have to do.”

Manager Brandon Hyde hoped that his club would have more than one representative, but he believed that López was the right choice. Perhaps a teammate would have accompanied him to Dodger Stadium if the winning streak unfolded a little earlier.

“I just think we’re getting more national attention right now because of the streak,” Hyde said. “Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays would be on more people’s radar than maybe two weeks ago.”

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