LaHair, Starlin picked as NL All-Star reserves
Slugger selected for first time; shortstop makes second straight appearance
CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro was nervous Sunday. He arrived at Wrigley Field early on All-Star selection day, but nobody said anything to him. Bryan LaHair, on the other hand, was preparing for another day, thankful to be in the big leagues after nine long seasons in the Minors.
It wasn't until Cubs manager Dale Sveum called a team meeting prior to Sunday's game that Castro could take a deep breath and LaHair suddenly couldn't breathe.
Castro was named to the National League All-Star team for the second straight year, and he'll have company as LaHair also was selected as a reserve.
National League roster
|C||Buster Posey, SF|
|1B||Joey Votto, CIN|
|2B||Dan Uggla, ATL|
|SS||Rafael Furcal, STL|
|3B||Pablo Sandoval, SF|
|OF||Melky Cabrera, SF|
|OF||Carlos Beltran, STL|
|OF||Matt Kemp, LAD|
|RHP||Matt Cain, SF|
|LHP||Aroldis Chapman, CIN|
|RHP||R.A. Dickey, NYM|
|LHP||Gio Gonzalez, WAS|
|LHP||Cole Hamels, PHI|
|RHP||Joel Hanrahan, PIT|
|LHP||Clayton Kershaw, LAD|
|RHP||Craig Kimbrel, ATL|
|RHP||Lance Lynn, STL|
|LHP||Wade Miley, ARI|
|RHP||Jonathan Papelbon, PHI|
|RHP||Stephen Strasburg, WAS|
|RHP||Huston Street, SD|
|C||Yadier Molina, STL|
|C||Carlos Ruiz, PHI|
|1B||Bryan LaHair, CHC|
|2B||Jose Altuve, HOU|
|SS||Starlin Castro, CHC|
|SS||Ian Desmond, WAS|
|3B||David Wright, NYM|
|OF||Ryan Braun, MIL|
|OF||Jay Bruce, CIN|
|OF||Carlos Gonzalez, COL|
|OF||Andrew McCutchen, PIT|
|OF||Giancarlo Stanton, MIA|
"It kind of caught him off-guard a little bit," Sveum said of LaHair, 29, who made the Cubs' Opening Day roster this year for the first time. "That's what we live for in this game -- one of those special moments."
LaHair can thank his peers for the honor. He finished eighth in the fan balloting with 950,206 votes, and second in player balloting behind the Reds' Joey Votto, who was named the NL starter at first base. LaHair is batting .284 with 13 homers and 28 RBIs, but he has switched to right field with the arrival this week of top prospect Anthony Rizzo.
"It gives you chills," LaHair said. "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."
His teammates applauded the news. LaHair has persevered, coming into this season with 195 big league at-bats, and 136 were with the Mariners in 2008.
"It was a dream as a little boy to be an All-Star, but to think it would happen this fast or if at all -- it's really tough to get into that game," he said.
Castro, 22, finished fifth among NL shortstops in the fan balloting, receiving 2,185,278 votes, and he was first in player balloting, ahead of the Cardinals' Rafael Furcal, who was named the NL starter. Castro was the Cubs' only representative at the All-Star Game last year, and he leads all NL shortstops with 94 hits and a .296 batting average.
Last year, Castro was the youngest Cubs player named to the Midsummer Classic. He also is the first Cubs shortstop to be selected in back-to-back All-Star Games since Don Kessinger, who was named to the All-Star team from 1968-72.
"I'm happy for him because he's improving," Alfonso Soriano said. "He's a good player and consistent. That's the most important thing in the big leagues. You can do it for one year and the second year, you disappear. I'm happy for him because he's young, he's working hard and he's been consistent. Sometimes when you get to the big leagues, you do it for one year, but from what I see with Castro, he wants to do it every year."
That's his goal.
"When I was a little kid, I would see baseball games and good players who made the All-Star Game, and I'd think, 'Oh my God, it's unbelievable, and one day, I want to be there,'" he said. "And now this is my second one. I'm not stopping here. I'll keep working hard to make some more."
Castro has started all 78 games for the Cubs this season. Since making his Major League debut on May 7, 2010, he is tied for fourth in the Major Leagues and leads the NL with 440 hits.
He's also committed 13 errors this season, but on June 19, he made an All-Star worthy acrobatic grab. Somehow, Castro snared Alejandro De Aza's popup on the run in shallow left in the White Sox fifth. The ball bounced off Castro's glove, but he caught it with his bare hand and stayed on his feet.
"The work he's put in around the bag and clearing himself to turn the double play, you can tell it's working," Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney said. "He's not staying within three feet of the bag and turning and letting guys get in on his feet. He's pushing off the bag and clearing himself and getting a good strong throw."
The Cubs see lots of positives.
"Theo [Epstein] and I talk about it all the time, and that is when we got here, people questioned [Castro's] ability to stay at shortstop and they were frustrated," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I don't think there's any question he'll be an above-average defensive shortstop. He's made some errors, but he's a 22-year-old shortstop.
"The range is there, he's worked really hard with Dale and Pat on his defense and I think he'll be the shortstop for a long time. He's really proven a lot to us in a short time, and I think he'll keep getting better."
LaHair was selected to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team last year, but this is different. He's handled the switch from first base to outfield to make room for Rizzo without a complaint.
"It's good to hear a feel-good story like that about a guy who has definitely paid his dues in the Minor Leagues," Reed Johnson said. "He's not only had an opportunity to have a great year and stick in the big leagues but also make an All-Star team."
"It's not something I play for," LaHair said about making the All-Star team. "I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I'm thankful the players voted me in. I'm extremely thankful for that."
He's the first Cubs player to be elected as a first baseman since Derrek Lee in 2007 and only the third Cubs first baseman to make the team in the last 30 years (Mark Grace).
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played in Kansas City July 10, and can be seen on FOX at 8 p.m. ET. It 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. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). 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.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.