For the eighth time in his career, Jose Altuve is headed to the Midsummer Classic. And this year, there's no doubt in his mind that he will play.
The veteran Astros second baseman will join manager Dusty Baker and his staff at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles on July 19. Altuve was elected to start for the American League for the fifth time in his 12-year career, garnering 57 percent of the vote over the Blue Jays' Santiago Espinal.
Entering Friday, Altuve was slashing .280/.386/.539 while leading AL second basemen in OPS (.907). He has also discovered a power stroke that's new to him this season -- his 32 extra-base hits and 17 homers lead AL second basemen, and he's on pace to surpass his single-season home run career high of 31 (accomplished in 2019 and '21).
"I'm really happy," Altuve said prior to the Astros' matchup with the A's at the Coliseum on Friday. "I'm thankful for my family, teammates, the people of Houston and every single fan that made this dream come true. It's No. 8, but it feels like the first one."
Altuve's first All-Star selection came in 2012, back when Houston was still in the National League, and Baker remembers it well. He said he was surprised that the players and managers had voted for Altuve over Brandon Phillips, who played second base for Baker in Cincinnati at the time.
"The players were right, and I was wrong," Baker said. "I had no clue that [Altuve] was going to be this great a player, but I guess the other players and [2012 All-Star Game NL manager Tony La Russa] realized that he was indeed an All-Star."
Altuve's eight All-Star selections are now the most in franchise history, surpassing Hall of Famer Craig Biggio's seven All-Star seasons in Houston.
"It means a lot," Altuve said. "Obviously Craig is a Hall of Famer, so every time that someone says my name next to his, I feel honored."
Altuve was most recently elected to the 2021 team, but he decided not to play due to nagging injuries. This year, though, he's all in.
"Absolutely," he said. "I'm feeling really good right now, and I'm going there."
Yordan Alvarez, the Astros' other All-Star finalist, was not elected to start at designated hitter for the AL, as the Angels' Shohei Ohtani edged him in the voting, 52 percent to 48 percent. Alvarez leads the Majors in OPS (1.075) and slugging percentage (.665), and he is likely to earn his first career All-Star selection as a reserve.
"I'm 100 percent sure he's going to be in there," Altuve said. "He didn't make the starters roster, but in the end, what matters is to be there, to enjoy the two days, and hopefully he gets to play and hit some homers."
Added Baker: "That's a tremendous honor for him, such a young player, to finish second to Shohei."