All-Star Game nods to Cubs' Castro, LaHair
A lot of people figure that Starlin Castro is going to make a whole bunch of all-star teams.
Not many people figured Bryan LaHair would stick in the major leagues, let alone make the National League all-star team.
The 22-year-old Castro made his second straight all-star team Sunday, but it was the 29-year-old LaHair who was the subject of perhaps the coolest story of the 2012 baseball season.
A journeyman minor-leaguer until making his first big-league club out of spring training this year, LaHair got the great news from manager Dale Sveum in front of his teammates Sunday: You're an all-star.
"This is amazing, such a great day," said LaHair, who was voted onto the team by National League players, who placed him behind only Cincinnati's Joey Votto at first base. "A lot running through my mind today. It's just a really great thing."
It's even better than that.
Think about this: LaHair was a 39th-round draft choice of the Seattle Mariners in 2002. He made stops in places like Everett, Inland Empire and Tacoma before getting a cup of coffee with the Mariners in 2008.
After the 2009 season, the Cubs picked him up as a minor-league free agent. He spent all of 2010 and most of 2011 at Class AAA Iowa, hitting a combined 63 home runs.
With the new Cubs regime rebuilding this season, they gave LaHair a shot at first base, figuring he'd be OK until hot prospect Anthony Rizzo was ready.
Rizzo is here, but LaHair is making the Cubs find playing time for him in right field. He has a hitting line of .284/.364/.526 with 13 home runs and 28 RBI.
"It was a dream as a little boy to be an all-star, but to think that it was going to happen this fast or at all, it's really tough to get in that game, and I'm just really thankful to the players for voting me in," he said.
It would have been only natural for a player in LaHair's situation to think of quitting altogether at some point.
"It's just incredible," he said. "I have a loss for words in a lot of ways. I made a few all-stars down in the minors and Little League and those kinds of things. I'm just really thankful and feel really blessed to be (an all-star).
"It gives you chills. You get a chance to reflect, and I'm sure I'll reflect more later on, kind of all the work you put in and the adversity you've been through and just the different adventures you've had along the way to get your first opportunity in the big leagues, and you end up making the all-star team, it's just really incredible."
As for Castro, he made his first appearance in the Cubs' interview room and handled the session in English very smoothly. Two years ago he spoke just a few words of English, and even last year he used a translator many times.
He even injected a little humor about not knowing until relatively late in the day about his selection.
"It's different," he said. "This year I was a little bit nervous because he (Sveum) told me, like, late. Last year, when I came in here in the morning, he (ex-manager Mike Quade) told me right away. So today I went to practice and said, 'Nobody said anything. I don't go or what?'"
He's going, on the strength of a hitting line of .296/.318/.428 with 10 doubles, 7 triples, 6 homers and 40 RBI. His 94 hits led NL shortstops entering Sunday.
Castro was the top vote-getter on player ballots, but starter Rafael Furcal of the St. Louis Cardinals will be the starter as the fan favorite. "Perennial starter" and not just "perennial all-star" would sound good to Castro.
"Everybody wants to start it, but I'll play in the second half (of the game)," he said. "It's unbelievable because as a little kid, I see a lot of stars, a lot of baseball games, a lot of good players who make the All-Star Game.
"I said, 'Oh, my God. Unbelievable. I want to be one day in there.' And now it's my second one. It's not stopping here. I'll keep working hard to make some more."
It may "get old" for some players, but there was none of that feeling Sunday around LaHair and Castro.
Editor's note: For more on the Cubs, click here to join the conversation with other Cubs fans on Bruce's Inside Pitch blog.
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