Byrd earns first trip to All-Star Game
Center fielder leading Cubs in several offensive categories
CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano says Marlon Byrd inspires him with how hard he plays every day. Cubs manager Lou Piniella likes the outfielder's energy. On Sunday, the players, managers and coaches in the National League showed how much they respect the Cubs center fielder.
Byrd was named to his first All-Star team on Sunday, selected in the players' ballot, determined by National League players, managers and coaches.
"It's been a long road for me," said Byrd, who is playing for his fourth team. "With the players voting me, too, that's just a huge honor for me. They've seen what I've been doing this year and they've given me this opportunity to represent the Cubs."
Piniella gave Byrd the news during batting practice on Sunday.
"Marlon's done a nice job for us," Piniella said. "He plays hard, he's got some energy to him, he does a nice job out in center field. It was a good signing by [general manager] Jim Hendry. He's been a good positive for us."
"[Piniella] was happy and it put a smile on his face," Byrd said. "We haven't given him much to smile about lately. Today, he was very happy for me."
The results were unveiled Sunday by TBS on the 2010 MLB All-Star Selection Show. The All-Star Game will be played July 13 in Anaheim, and be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the 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 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
Byrd bounced back and forth between the Major Leagues and Minors from 2002-07, and didn't become a regular until he went to Texas in 2007. He credited coaches Gary Pettis and Rudy Jaramillo, now with the Cubs, and Rangers manager Ron Washington for helping him achieve the honor.
"You need to have people believe in you," Byrd said.
The National League starting outfield, as selected by the fans, includes Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, Los Angeles' Andre Ethier and Atlanta's Jayson Heyward. Soriano was the only player to show up in the fan balloting in the weeks leading up to Sunday's announcement, and he was ranked 11th.
Besides Byrd, other NL outfielders chosen by the players included Milwaukee's Corey Hart and St. Louis' Matt Holliday. Houston's Michael Bourn and Arizona's Chris Young also were chosen by National League manager Charlie Manuel.
Byrd's teammates stopped by to shake his hand and congratulate him prior to Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Reds.
"I think when we get out there [to Anaheim], it'll really sink in," Byrd said. "Right now, we're getting ready for the game. I'm still doing my whole routine. When I get out there, I'll enjoy it."
This is Byrd's first season in Chicago after signing a three-year contract last December, and he has ranked among the National League leaders in batting average most of the season and impressed his new team with a .348 average in the first month. He batted .333 in June with nine doubles, two homers and eight RBIs.
"You don't envision this," Byrd said of the All-Star selection. "I was trying to figure out a way to get back [to the big leagues] and stick. Texas gave me that shot and gave me a good three years and so far, I've given Chicago half a good year and I'm going to try to continue this thing."
The Cubs were a good fit for Byrd, who was reunited with Jaramillo, his hitting coach in Texas.
But besides what he's done a the plate, Byrd also has shined in center field, making diving catches, and has shown he's unafraid of the ivy at Wrigley Field, jumping up against the brick walls to get balls.
"I've got no complaints with his play," Piniella said. "I've got nothing but praise for the young man. He's come in here and played hard and done a good job."
Last year, pitcher Ted Lilly was the Cubs' lone All-Star representative. Other Cubs candidates included Carlos Silva, who is 8-2 with a 2.96 ERA, and closer Carlos Marmol, who has matched his personal high already with 15 saves.
"I'm a little sad the two Carloses -- Carlos Marmol and Carlos Silva -- won't be out there with me," Byrd said. "I'm going to represent the Cubs."
Byrd definitely appreciated having his peers select him.
"That's the biggest thing," Byrd said. "It means they've been watching to see what you've been doing. The fans, sometimes it turns into a popularity contest and the bigger names, whoever's on ESPN [gets in]. The players see what I've been doing and again, it's an honor for me."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.