WASHINGTON — Blake Snell's first All-Star experience started with, well, a bang.
The first pitch the Rays left-hander threw, a 98 mph fastball, was knocked over the leftfield wall by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
Snell seemed a bit unsettled initially in his first turn on such a grand stage, though he didn't allow any more runs, working the third inning and getting the first two outs of the fourth — including a strikeout looking of hometown star Bryce Harper — before being taken out in what ended up an 8-6 10-inning win for the American League Tuesday.
"I was a little nervous, really excited, a lot of mixed emotions," Snell said. "It was great. I had a fun time. I'm happy it's over, I'm happy to go see my family and enjoy the moment."
As for the rude welcome by Contreras, who said he was looking for a first-pitch fastball.
"It was a good hit," Snell said. "I'm happy Contreras did that. Locked me in for the rest of the night."
Snell's overall first impression was just okay, though it was still a tremendous experience: the one run on the homer, two walks, three strikeouts, 39 pitches (19 strikes), going from ahead to behind too often.
And there was a certain irony, given the Rays' unusual pitching strategies like using an opener, that he was the one AL pitcher scheduled to go longer than one inning.
After the Contreras homer, Snell went from ahead to behind but got Chicago's Javier Baez on a sharp comebacker, struck out Colorado's Nolan Arenado, walked Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt and got Atlanta's Freddie Freeman to ground out.
He was sharper in the fourth, battling back to get Los Angeles' Matt Kemp looking at a curve and then Harper on a borderline 97 mph fastball. Snell was supposed to be limited to around 35 pitches, so when he walked Atlanta's Nick Markakis on his 39th that was it.
"Live fastball, good curveball, he's got a great arm,'' Kemp said. "He's one of those young arms that's going to be good for a long time."
Snell, 25, was cheered by some of the sellout crowd of 43,843, greeted first at the dugout by Rays manager Kevin Cash, who was serving as an AL coach.
Snell had a pretty relaxed day, but he was still busy. He had breakfast at the team hotel, spent a little time with his dad and three brothers who came with some friends from Seattle, headed over for the red carpet event near the stadium, signed the requisite dozens of balls, bats and jerseys.
And then he was ready for the best part of his afternoon, talking with the other AL stars.
While pretty much every other AL player filtered in and out of the main clubhouse during the 5-6 p.m. media window, Snell was nowhere to found, even with helpful staffers checking the usual hangouts, such as the food and trainer's room.
Snell, it turned out, was huddled in a players-only area, talking extensively with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and Astros aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole among others.
"That was what I wanted to do," he said, adding that the conversation was engaging enough to put off Plan B. "I was going to try to get a nap, but it was kind of hard.''
Snell also chatted some with Rays teammate Wilson Ramos, the elected, but now injured starter making his second All-Star appearance, but said he didn't ask for any advice.
"I don't have any questions," Snell said. "I know what to expect. You're going against the best, so be ready."
Best part of the day?
"Hanging out with the guys, hanging out with the best of of the best," Snell said as he headed out, nattily dressed, to meet his family for a late dinner. "Can't ask for anything more. That was amazing. Pitching was amazing, too."
Snell's rise has been a reward for the entire Tampa Bay organization, as he was homegrown drafted and developed.
"It probably hasn't been talked about enough,'' Cash said. "There are a lot of people that should be and were very excited. And that trickles from amateur scouts to pro scouts to player development to every person he has crossed paths with, which is a lot. He's come all the way up through the system. It's like Evan Longoria making the team, given the buildup as Blake came up through the system.''
Plus, Snell is pretty much all the Rays have to show from the top of the vaunted 2011 draft, in which they had 10 of the first 60 picks. Enough to make amends for Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook, Jake Hager and the rest they missed on in assorted ways?
"If you get a No. 1 starter it's tough to argue that you went wrong,'' Cash said.
Since Snell wasn't named to the team until Friday as an injury replacement, he didn't have time to get his swag game in order, getting a pair of custom Nike cleats delivered in time to get signed but not much else.
"I didn't bring a lot here,'' he said. "I really didn't know what I was getting into so I didn't know what to do. The next time I do get selected here I'll be ready.''
Snell said he hadn't been hearing from many of his Rays mates, figuring his phone would be buzzing after he pitched. Among others, he figured to hear from good buddy Chris Archer, who also gave up a home run in his first All-Star appearance.
"I know he'll watch the third and fourth inning," Snell said. "I know that for sure."
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.