First-timers bring fresh talent to All-Star Game
Midsummer Classic to feature 25 players who will be making first appearances
There were plenty of new faces revealed Sunday on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell for this year's Midsummer Classic, set to be played July 10 at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
The National League has a slight edge in terms of its number of newcomers, with 15 players selected to play in their first All-Star Game, including two Giants -- outfielder Melky Cabrera and catcher Buster Posey -- as starters. As for the American League, 10 players will be making their All-Star debuts, including one fan-voted starter, Rangers catcher Mike Napoli.
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, who was selected as an AL reserve, will also be making his inaugural All-Star appearance. The fact that it will happen in front of his hometown fans just makes the honor that much sweeter for the Kansas City slugger.
"I'm very humbled and very honored, especially at our own ballpark and being able to play in front of the home crowd," Butler said. "My family is going to come out to see me play and do all the activities on the field. I'm just speechless right now."
Aside from Cabrera and Posey, there will be 13 other first-timers on the NL roster in Kansas City next week: Aroldis Chapman, R.A. Dickey, Lance Lynn, Wade Miley, Stephen Strasburg, Huston Street, Carlos Ruiz, Jose Altuve, Ian Desmond, David Freese, Bryan LaHair, Carlos Gonzalez and Giancarlo Stanton. Joining Napoli and Butler in their debuts for the AL will be Ryan Cook, Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Jim Johnson, Fernando Rodney, Chris Sale, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.
For Sale, the All-Star appearance won't be without some sacrifice. The 23-year-old lefty, who is 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA in his first season as a starter for the White Sox, had previously planned to spend the All-Star break working on his new house in Florida with his wife, Brianne.
"I guess I'll have to find another time to do that," Sale joked after learning of his selection. "But I'll sleep in an empty house for the first couple weeks of the offseason. That's fine with me."
Lynn, like Sale a former reliever, admitted that he never could have imagined garnering his first All-Star honors in his first season in a starting rotation.
"I probably would have laughed at you and told you that was a great joke," the Cardinals right-hander said. "I have the luxury of having a great team behind me. I'm just grateful for the opportunity."
While the primary goal for players is obviously to capture a World Series ring, being selected to play in an All-Star Game for the first time also ranks high on their bucket lists.
"It's one of the more special things that has happened so far in my career," said Johnson, the Baltimore closer who leads the AL with 25 saves. "I'm looking forward to it. But it's not the end-all, be-all. I think there's more important stuff that needs to be accomplished. It's a good stepping stone. I think of it that way."
While the 29-year-old Johnson suddenly finds himself in position to pitch on a bigger stage, there are two on the NL roster who few would have foreseen at the start of the season: Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair and Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
LaHair spent the better part of the previous nine seasons in the Minor Leagues and was shifted from first base to right field last week to make room for Cubs top prospect Anthony Rizzo.
"It gives you chills," LaHair said of the honor. "You get a chance to quickly reflect, and I'm sure I'll reflect more later on, but you think about all the work you put in and the adversity you've been through and the different adventures you've had along the way to get your first opportunity in the big leagues, and now an All-Star Game is just incredible."
Dickey is having a career season at the age of 37, firing back-to-back one-hitters during June and emerging as an early Cy Young Award favorite.
"Obviously it's an honor," Dickey said. "And more than that, for me, it's something to be shared. It's not an honor just for me. It's an honor for every person that's ever poured into me and helped me along the way, every fan that believed that special things could happen if you apply yourself. So it's neat to be able to celebrate that with a network of people."
The All-Star nod is just another accolade for Dickey, who topped the Mets' franchise record this season by tossing 44 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. In Kansas City, the he will pitch on the same staff as 24-year-old Reds fireballer Aroldis Chapman, who put together an impressive scoreless streak of his own earlier this season.
Chapman didn't allow an earned run over his first 24 appearances this season, setting a club record. But aside from being record-holders and first-time All-Stars together, there aren't many comparisons to be made between Dickey and Chapman -- though it might be interesting to see NL manager Tony La Russa use the polar opposites back-to-back.
"It was real progress, step-by-step, to get to where I am now," Chapman said. "I never thought I would be able to get to an All-Star Game. Now that I am here, seeing that I'm going to All-Star Game, I'm really proud about it. It's a dream. I really did not think I would be here and be in the All-Star Game."
Two more first-time All-Stars were added Thursday when Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish and Cardinals third baseman David Freese won the MLB.com Final Vote.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
The Home Run Derby can be seen on MLB.com and ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday.