TORONTO -- Three years ago, Steve Delabar was out of baseball and working as a substitute teacher in Kentucky. Now his feel-good story has been taken to another level as the hard-throwing Blue Jays right-hander has a chance to appear at this year's All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York.
Delabar is one of five relievers from the American League to receive a nomination for the Final Vote. The ballot will give fans an opportunity to decide which pitcher is deserving for the last spot on the American League All-Star team.
It's another remarkable milestone for a pitcher who thought his career was over in 2009, when he suffered a fractured right elbow while toiling away in the Minor Leagues.
"You want to be the guy who can get anybody out -- not just, 'You're a righties guy or you're a lefties guy,'" the versatile Delabar said earlier this season. "You want to be able to get everybody out so that you're a reliable reliever coming out and [not] get a quick hook and get three guys going in one inning because you have to do matchups. Every guy that we have in the 'pen can get everybody out -- it's just about executing pitches."
Delabar has been one of the game's most reliable relievers since he was acquired last year in a midseason deal with the Mariners. He possesses an overpowering fastball and slider which has become a lethal combination in the notoriously tough AL East.
The 29-year-old entered play on Saturday leading all AL relievers with 57 strikeouts in 40 innings. Delabar, who has a 1.58 ERA, has allowed just four earned runs in his past 31 1/3 innings and has yet to surrender more than two runs in any of his 35 appearances.
All of this production has come from a reliever who had never pitched above Class A prior to his elbow injury. When he returned to the game in 2011, Delabar went through all three levels of the Minors before joining Seattle as a September callup.
"I'm just down there trying to grind it out with the rest of the guys," Delabar previously said. "They call our name, we're getting up, getting in there. Last year, it was the same thing -- but it was more I didn't know when I was going to get in.
"This year, it's still about the same -- but you have an idea of when and what might happen. So you kind of just pay attention to what's going on and make sure you're ready."
Now in its 12th year, the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Saturday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and ends Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote online. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 12-26. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on July 12 to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Delabar, simply text message A2 to 89269. In Canada, fans should text A2 to 101010. Standard message and data rates may apply. To vote for another player via text message, use the codes below.
Delabar's road to the Major Leagues seems as though it's a script taken directly from a Hollywood movie. He was coaching baseball in Elizabethtown, Ky., when he heard about a weighted-ball program that was designed to strengthen shoulders and help pitchers avoid injuries.
The routine, which was created by current Blue Jays consultant Jamie Evans, was called the Velocity Program because it also claimed to help athletes increase the speed of their pitches.
There was never any real intention of starting a comeback, but Delabar began using the program because he wanted to have a full understanding so he could teach it to his players. The results that followed were shocking.
During his stint in the Padres' Minor League system from 2004-09, Delabar was throwing only 89-92 mph, but by 2011, he was consistently hitting 93-95 mph, and that was post-injury. He was invited to work out for the Mariners and eventually signed a professional contract.
Now, Delabar is one of the most dominant relievers in the game and has a sparkling 1.58 ERA as a key setup man for the Blue Jays this season.
"For me it was more, I want to do this because I was coaching high school and I wanted to teach the program to the kids," Delabar said earlier this year. "I wanted us to have the best arms in the area and I had heard these crazy numbers, so I had to find out for myself to find out how the program works.
"If I'm going to teach a product, I want to know how the program works. I started doing it, [and] sure enough, the velocity started going up and I gave it another shot."
The Blue Jays have created a social media marketing campaign to help Delabar get elected to the All-Star Game. Fans are encouraged to use hashtag #RaiseTheBar on Twitter to promote Delabar and give him a shot at joining Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Cecil as Toronto's representatives at the All-Star Game which can be watched live on Sportsnet.
For the second consecutive year, the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com (#FinalVote) will include a social balloting element as Twitter support from the candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their final vote totals. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the overall vote total used to determine the American League and National League winners. Fans may follow @MLB on the popular social networking service for the latest standings updates in advance of the 4 p.m. ET balloting deadline.
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 Chevrolet via the 2013 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.