OAKLAND -– Getting six players named to the All-Star Game was a terrific team accomplishment for the A’s.
Perhaps the news can only be trumped by each individual’s story of how they arrived at the honor.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson was confirmed Sunday as Oakland’s first fan-elected All-Star starter since Jason Giambi in 2000. Five teammates join him on the American League squad –- outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, first baseman Brandon Moss, and catcher Derek Norris were chosen as reserves; starting pitcher Scott Kazmir and closer Sean Doolittle were picked in the player vote.
That’s the most All-Stars for the A’s since the 1975 squad had seven, and that team was coming off three consecutive World Series titles. It’s a testament not only to this year’s team having a major league-best 55-33 record, but also the rising profile of the organization after back-to-back A.L. West championships.
Throw in new pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who was chosen by players as a National League All-Star, and it makes seven. Samardzija will travel to Minnesota but not play in the July 15 showcase.
“This is great,” Donaldson said. “To have so many guys, I feel like it’s very deserving. It’s a pretty special moment for every one of us.”
Especially considering the road so many of them have traveled.
Moss was a journeyman who thought his career might be over when he signed with Oakland as a minor league free agent before the 2012 season. Kazmir was out of the majors just two years ago and pitching in independent ball before making his comeback with Cleveland last season.
Doolittle converted from first base to the mound just three years ago, and has emerged this season as the A’s closer. Norris still is not even a full-time starter, but he’s made such an impression in a part-time role that he was chosen as one of seven manager’s picks by A.L. skipper John Farrell, as was Moss.
The A's hadn't had a position player picked for the All-Star Game since catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003.
“We’ve got a guy that came from Cuba, a guy that was pitching for the (Sugar Land) Skeeters a few years ago,” Moss said. “We’ve all taken pretty interesting paths to get (here) and have this opporutnty. Nothing in this group gets taken for granted.”
Norris was beaten out for the starting catcher spot by the Royals’ Salvador Perez in player balloting, because fan-elected Matt Wieters of Baltimore is injured. Cespedes was overtaken in fan voting for the third starting outfield spot by Baltimore’s Adam Jones.
That didn’t take away from the joyous clubhouse atmosphere before Sunday’s 4-2 win over Toronto, as manager Bob Melvin broke the news to his team.
Doolittle, who had been working out in the weight room, nearly missed the party. When he tried to re-enter the clubhouse, both doors were locked with the meeting already underway.
“I’m glad someone finally opened the door,” Doolittle cracked.
Kazmir was an All-Star with Tampa Bay in 2006 and 2008, but this selection was sweet simply because of the career valleys he experienced.
He enjoyed a solid comeback season with Cleveland last year and has picked right up with it this season, going 10-3 with a 2.53 ERA to this point.
“I feel like this is the most special All-Star (Game) for me just because of the path that I went through the last couple years,” Kazmir said. “As a whole, I feel like this is gonna be so much more special just because of how many guys were elected to be on the All Star team.”