O's Wieters earns first All-Star nod
First Baltimore catcher in Midsummer Classic since 1989
ATLANTA -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter stopped just short of using the word justification, but that's exactly what Sunday's news -- in catcher Matt Wieters being selected to the American League All-Star team -- felt like.
One of the most hyped prospects in franchise history, the 25-year-old Wieters is headed to his first career All-Star Game and will be Baltimore's first backstop to go to the Midsummer Classic since Mickey Tettleton was selected in 1989.
"I can't imagine anybody catching, throwing and calling a game at a higher level than he is," Showalter said of Wieters, who leads all Major League catchers in runners caught stealing (22) and fielding percentage and is the only catcher to not be charged with a passed ball.
"[He's] getting big hits. [He's] very deserving. Proud of him. I know [bench coach] John [Russell] is too. When you think about all the expectations this guy had to meet; there's a toll."
Saddled with being the organization's hope for the future and tasked with almost unfair expectations from the moment he arrived in the big leagues in 2009, Wieters' selection probably won't satisfy his critics. But it was a deserving reward for the quiet catcher, who was selected by AL manager Ron Washington to join Yankees backstop Russell Martin and Detroit's Alex Avila, who will start the game.
"I'm sort of proud of the whole body of work [in the first half]," said Wieters, who called the selection humbling and the most exciting news he's heard in a while. "Each year you are in this League, you are going to have to prove [yourself] to be able to stay around and play for a long time. You know, [I'm] just proud of being able to improve from last year to this year and to have the improvement that allowed me to have the opportunity to go to Arizona."
The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played on July 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 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.
In his second full Major League season, Wieters made a conscious effort to improve his offense and entered Sunday hitting .262 with seven homers and 33 RBIs. He also has a .425 (23-for-54) average with runners in scoring position.
Wieters, who called his father and wife immediately when given the news on Sunday morning, might not be the only Oriole out in Arizona. Center fielder Adam Jones, who was an All-Star in 2009, was named as one of the five AL Final Vote Candidates, a competition in its 10th year that gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and Data Rates May Apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Standard rates may apply.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
Wieters, who planned on helping campaign for Jones, said he's excited to take in all the festivities surrounding the All-Star Game, including the chance to meet some of the game's premier players.
"As a first-timer, it'll sort of be eyes wide open, just trying to take everything in and have a good time with it," he said.
"I don't really think that there's anything that really needs to be justified. We are out there playing as hard as we can. It's nice to be able to be selected to the All-Star Game, and that's what I'm taking it as. I don't think once you are in the big leagues there's no longer trying to justify what pick you are, things like that. You are going out there to play your best and try to have the most success you can have."
"This is hopefully the first of many," added Russell, a former catcher who has praised Wieters' aptitude and work ethic. "He has a good feel for our pitching staff and a good feel for the opposing team. A lot of times that takes time to grasp as a catcher, and he's really developed all those things and he's getting better with it. He does all the things fundamentally that you'd like to see, and he takes a lot of pride in what he does."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.