To get a sense of the aspirations and confidence Ronald Acuña Jr. had at an early age, one could simply ask whether he ever envisioned that he would get to a point where he was this year, when he garnered one of this year’s highest All-Star vote totals.
“I mean, I've always imagined,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “I know the talents and the abilities that God blessed me with. So I’ve always hoped for and imagined it. So just a thank you to the fans and people who voted for me to be in my second All-Star Game.”
Acuña garnered the most votes among National League players in Phase 1 of fan balloting and ranked second only to Fernando Tatis Jr. in Phase 2. The 23-year-old Braves outfielder then garnered more votes than any other big leaguer when the votes cast by MLB players were announced.
But when the All-Star Game is played on Tuesday night, the baseball world will not be treated to the tremendous talents of Acuña -- who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in Saturday’s win over the Marlins. The slugger will undergo season-ending knee surgery sometime during this next week.
The Braves outfielder initially still planned to travel to Denver to at least soak in the All-Star atmosphere. But he regretfully reversed course on Sunday afternoon. He was truly looking forward to the chance to share the experience with some of the game’s other top superstars.
“It’s cool and it feels really good,” Acuña said in Pittsburgh last week. “This will be the first opportunity Tatis Jr., [Juan] Soto and I get a chance to share a clubhouse together. So, I’m looking forward to that. Then, we also get to take the field against [Shohei] Ohtani. I think it’s going to be really cool -- and I know we’re all looking forward to it. Hopefully, this will be just one of many All-Star Games for all of us.”
Acuña would have been sharing his second All-Star experience with Braves teammates Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies. He and Freeman have now been elected starters for both of the past two Midsummer Classics. But this would have been the first time he enjoyed the All-Star atmosphere with Albies, who has been one of his closest friends dating back to his earliest days in professional baseball.
“It’s going to be incredible,” Acuña said prior to his injury. “It feels like we’ve been playing baseball together our whole lives. I think we’re going to truly enjoy it together. I’m going to enjoy being on the field with him at the All-Star Game.”
Some of Acuña’s childhood memories of the All-Star Game include being in Venezuela watching Miguel Cabrera and Jose Reyes compete against MLB’s other top players. He watched not with hope, but with the expectation that he, too, would become an All-Star.
“I always believed in my ability and my talents," Acuña said. “I never stopped believing myself and what I was capable of doing. I never stopped thinking that I would ever stop giving 100 percent effort out there. So I've always had that sort of confidence within myself. I always believed in my heart of hearts that I would be competing in an All-Star Game.”
There will likely be plenty more All-Star Game experiences for Acuña. But he will certainly be missed this year.