MINNEAPOLIS -- So much about this All-Star Game leaves Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek on the verge of being overcome by emotion, something he had to fight back numerous times during a 45-minute media session on Monday.
There's the fact that it is his first and that he is the rare setup man to earn a spot on the National League roster. The timing is also opportune, as this All-Star Game is set to be played in Neshek's childhood backyard. His Major League career began here, yes, but also his childhood aspirations to be a big league player many years before.
And then there is the opportunity to share an All-Star field with his brother.
Paul Neshek, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Monday, will also spend the All-Star Game in the Target Field bullpen on Tuesday. As a member of the Twins' grounds crew team, it will be his task to prepare the mound on which older brother Pat hopes to warm up.
"It means a lot," Pat Neshek said. "It's just special. He's amped up for it and said he's going to make our [mound] a little better. I'm not sure how much you can mess that up."
Pat and Paul, separated by about two years in age, grew up playing baseball together in the Minneapolis area. Paul was a member of the Brooklyn Center (Minn.) Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series in 1994. Pat described that as a highlight of his own youth, too, one that he said "gave me a push to want to play more baseball."
While Pat went on to play baseball at the college and pro level, Paul found himself drawn more to hockey. But he beat his older brother to the Majors by two years when he joined the Twins grounds crew in 2004.
He remained on the grounds crew through the 2010 season, then spent some time as a ball boy and worked his way back to the field team this season. Part of his motivation in doing so was knowing that Target Field would host the All-Star Game. Paul Neshek hardly could have anticipated that Pat, a sidearm-throwing setup man who only had two Minor League job offers over the winter, would be involved as a participant.
"I don't think anyone out there is going to appreciate it as much as me," Pat Neshek said. "This is just so special for us."
Neshek's voice cracked, after which he insisted he's not typically the emotional type.
"That just shows how much it means. It hits home for me," Neshek said. "With the Twins and the fans, and my brother, and where it all started, I don't think I would be like this at all if it was in Texas or California."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.