July 7, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There’s something special about being named an All-Star.
It’s more than simply getting the opportunity to play in the Mid-Summer Classic — although that certainly means a lot. Being named an All-Star means a player has earned the admiration of the fans, who select the starting position players, or the respect of the other players and coaches, who select the reserves.
Former Georgia Tech stars Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles and Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies got to know that feeling Sunday night, as they were part of the select few chosen to represent their respective leagues in the 2014 Major League All-Star Game to be held next Tuesday night at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn.
Wieters was voted a starter for the American League for the first time in his career, while Blackmon was selected as a reserve for the National League by St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny.
For Wieters, his third selection (he also was selected as a reserve in 2011 and ’12) is bittersweet. He’s elated to be voted a starter but also knew he would be unable to play having undergone season-ending Tommy John surgery on June 17 to repair a torn ulnar-collateral ligament in his right elbow (he was replaced by Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez).
But he’s not letting his anything dampen the satisfaction of being recognized by the fans and he fully intends to make the trip to Minneapolis.
“I think when the fans vote you in, it’s your duty to go,” Wieters told MLB.com. “It’s a fun event. It’s a great event. MLB does a great job of putting it on, and I’m able to go and support other teammates, which is always fun, to watch your own guys play in that game. And there’s no better seat than in the dugout.”
With this third trip to the All-Star Game, Wieters, one of three Baltimore Orioles chosen (along with centerfielder Adam Jones and outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz) became the fourth Yellow Jacket to be selected to at least three All-Star Games, joining pitcher Kevin Brown (six), shortstop/1B Nomar Garciaparra (five), and catcher Jason Varitek (three).
He certainly was earning his place on the team until his elbow injury became too much to play through. At the time of his injury, the sixth-year catcher, a former first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2007, and a two-time Gold Glover (2011, `12), was having a superb season. In 26 games, he was batting .308 — 20 points better than his previous season high (set his rookie year of 2009) and 63 points higher than his final 2013 mark — with five homers and 18 RBIs and was on pace to set career highs for hits, homers, and RBIs. But the elbow, which severely hampered his throwing, eventually forced him to have season-ending surgery.
Blackmon, the seventh Yellow Jacket chosen to play in an All-Star Game, will be going to his first Classic — he joins Brown, Garciaparra, Varitek, Mark Teixeira (two appearances), Marlon Byrd and Wieters.
His selection continues a season of firsts for the outfielder, who was drafted by the Rockies in the second round in 2008 and has battled through injuries on the way to his breakthrough 2014.
Going to Minnesota is certainly something for which he is grateful and is an opportunity he will not take for granted.
“This is the first time I’ve made the team out of camp,” he told MLB.com. “Even at that, I was on the bubble the whole time. Just a few months down the road, I could have just as easily not made the team. Here we are talking about the All-Star Game. It’s just a blessing.”
In his fourth Major League season, Blackmon, who will travel to the game with teammate and N.L. starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, began play Monday having already played more games in 2014 (87) than in any of his three previous seasons — his previous high was 82 last year — and he’s already set career-highs for runs (48), hits (95), home runs (12), RBIs (47), stolen bases (16) and total bases (149).
He’s had a record-setting season as the leadoff hitter for Colorado. Charlie leads all National League leadoff men in homers and RBIs and his 12 round-trippers have tied the Rockies single-season record for a leadoff man. Earlier in the season, he also tied the Rox record with nine hits in consecutive games (April 4 and 5).
Blackmon really caught the eye of the baseball world on April 14th, when he became the 100th player in Major League history to have at least six hits in a game, going 6-for-6 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He’ll get the chance to catch the eye of the entire world on July 15.
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