Braun, Fielder, Weeks to start All-Star Game
For first time in 43-year history, Brewers have three starters
MINNEAPOLIS -- A third of the National League's All-Star Game starting lineup is Milwaukee born and bred, and the significance of that was not lost on Midsummer Classic veteran Ryan Braun.Left fielder Braun, first baseman Prince Fielder and second baseman Rickie Weeks will all start July 12 in Phoenix, voted by baseball fans as the NL's best at their positions. Assuming Braun's left calf strain does not linger, it will mark the first time in the Brewers' 43 seasons as a franchise that three Milwaukee players start a Midsummer Classic. The Brewers are the only NL team with multiple starters. They have more starters than the Red Sox, and one fewer than the Yankees. "It kind of means the Milwaukee Brewers have arrived on the national scene," Braun said. "It's special for all of us to go there together and represent the Brewers and the city of Milwaukee. Ultimately, it's a reward for having a good half as a team. I don't think there's any way you get three starters if you don't have a good first half as a team." "Usually, only good teams get to do that," Fielder said about having three All-Star starters. "So, that means we're doing all right."
The Brewers actually have a fourth All-Star. Assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright was selected by his peers to serve on the NL staff.
Braun would make his fourth straight All-Star start, extending the franchise record he set last year. He led NL outfielders in balloting for the fourth straight season, and this time led all NL players in votes.Fielder, a three-time All-Star, will make his second start. Weeks is an All-Star rookie after being left out last season. It's a homegrown trio. Fielder was the Brewers' first-round Draft pick in 2002, Weeks followed in '03 and Braun in '05. "They said it was the first time in Brewers history," Weeks said. "You can't ask for much more than that." "I told those guys, the three guys who are starting are guys that should be starting at their position," said Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke, who had the honor of delivering the news. "I know the fans are a huge part of what we do, but sometimes the fans vote for who they like, and the superstar that's been there before but may not even be having a good year. It's nice to see our guys were voted in. They are the top three guys at their positions, and that's really cool." The trio has helped the Brewers back to a semblance of the respectability Milwaukee had with Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner from the late 1970s through the early 1990s before Molitor's departure via free agency and Yount's retirement sent the Brewers into a dark decade. Things began to change in 2005, when Fielder and Weeks were promoted for good and the Brewers went 81-81 for their first non-losing season in 13 years, since the final season that Robin and Molly and Gumby played together. In '07, Braun was the NL Rookie of the Year, Fielder belted 50 homers and the Brewers finished two games out in the NL Central. In '08, they made the postseason for the first time in 26 years. Now, as the Brewers chase another postseason berth and Fielder plays his final months before free agency, the club has earned another measure of national validation. You'll see it live on FOX when the NL All-Stars take the field. 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 7 p.m. CT. 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.
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.
This marks the sixth straight season that the Brewers have had at least three All-Stars.Braun had his ticket punched from the start, leading all NL players in voting online and in stadiums from the start of the process in April through the end of it Thursday. He's having another special season on the field and off, having inked a contract extension in April on top of the long-term deal that was already in place. It ensures Braun will be a Brewer through 2020, and positions him to be the franchise's next Yount. Fielder and Weeks surged late to win at their positions. Fielder passed Cincinnati's Joey Votto in the next-to-last week of voting and then passed Albert Pujols of the Cardinals over the final days of balloting. Weeks passed the Reds' Brandon Phillips to win the start at second base. "It means a lot," Fielder said. "It's just an honor. Those two other guys [Votto and Pujols] are All-Stars and MVPs, so for me to be able to start this game is just an honor. I'm very appreciative." Statistically, all three players are deserving All-Stars. Braun extended baseball's longest active hitting streak to 22 games on Saturday night before departing with a left calf injury that kept him out of Sunday's series finale in Minnesota. He's second among NL outfielders with a .320 batting average and 61 RBIs, and tied for fourth with 16 home runs. Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays led all Major Leaguers in votes. Braun said it was "pretty amazing" that a player from Milwaukee, the game's smallest media market, led the NL. "It speaks volumes to how passionate and supportive the fans are in Milwaukee," Braun said. "It's pretty cool." Fielder has managed to avoid the sort of distractions that usually dog big-time players in their free-agent years. He figures to be the most sought-after player on the market this side of Pujols, and has at least five home runs and 16 RBIs in all three months this year, including a June in which he batted .337 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs. Fielder led the NL with 69 RBIs entering Sunday. Weeks would have been in the same contractual boat had he not agreed to a contract extension with Milwaukee in Spring Training that covers at least the next four years after 2011. His key is good health; after playing a career-best 160 games last season and delivering career highs in runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs, Weeks is off to another strong start. He's among the NL leaders in runs (second, 59) and total bases (ninth, 159). "It's overdue," Braun said. Said Fielder: "He deserves it." The Brewers will also be represented well in the State Farm Home Run Derby. Fielder was chosen as the captain of an NL "team" and charged with selecting three fellow participants. The Dodgers' Matt Kemp is "definitely coming," Fielder said, and there exists the strong possibility that Weeks will take one of the other slots. Fielder, the 2009 Derby champion, is expected to make his choices by Tuesday.
Fans, having already decided the starters, this week will have 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 3 p.m. CT on Thursday, July 7. 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. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Std rates may apply. On July 12, fans 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.