All-Star bound, Reyes 'never doubted myself'

July 12th, 2021

After the first injury, it would have been easy for to get down on himself. After the second, it would have been logical to start to lose some love for the game. After the third, it would have been hard to blame him if he folded.

But along the way, there were those in his ear who kept him inspired. It was his daughter, Aleyka, who started cancer treatment just a month before Reyes underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017. They were his coaches and teammates, keeping him in a proper headspace as he endured blow after crushing blow to start his career. They were also the medical staff, keeping his highly prized right arm on the right trajectory as he made his winding ascent towards the big leagues.

And it was, in part, himself.

"My parents and my kids, my family, my girlfriend -- everybody who's been there for me. They've never not believed in me, and that's been huge for me," Reyes said recently. "They've always been there, they've always pushed me, they've always found ways for me to find the love again to come back here and play this sport. I love them."

It's been said that it takes a village to raise a child, after all.

Reyes may not be able to take the entirety of such a group -- several of whom likely inspired him in ways he doesn't even realize, or won't for years to come -- with him to his first career All-Star Game in Denver. But spiritually?

"Those will be the people that'll be there with me," Reyes said, "for sure."

For Reyes' teammates and coaches, the right-hander's path to this moment -- the Tommy John surgery in 2017, surgery to repair a torn lat muscle in '18 and a broken finger that derailed the majority of his '19 -- makes his first career selection to the Midsummer Classic all the sweeter. To him, it's a validation of the work that's been put him not just by himself, but by those who kept him going through the plethora of dark days.

"You don't know if you're going to pitch again; you don't know what that looks like," said his manager, Mike Shildt. "People are doubting that. You have high expectations. You're an uber prospect, which is hard enough to live up to anyway, and you have setbacks.

"And then you have the heart to compete for a team and want to contribute to a team that's successful. Alex has all those things, and he was able to take all those setbacks, and it probably makes it even sweeter."

It was Shildt who alerted Reyes of his first Major League callup at Triple-A Memphis in 2016. And Shildt was the first to notify him of his All-Star nod in the visiting manager's office at Coors Field on the Fourth of July.

A pair of sweet moments, indeed. Reyes, after speaking with the media about his selection, couldn't contain a giddy smile as he FaceTimed friends and family on the top of the bench in the visitors' dugout. He even struggled to stifle a smile when speaking to reporters.

Is that grin ever going away?

"I doubt it," Reyes, of course, smiled.

There's one thing Reyes never doubted, though.

"I've never doubted myself," he said. "I've always said that I've always believed in myself. After each injury, I've always come back. I've worked hard, and I've been able to bounce back. … This is something that I feel like my talent could be. So it's just about putting the work in, going out there and having the chance to do it."

An All-Star Game was never thought to be out of the question for Reyes, once the second-highest-ranked pitching prospect in baseball and always seen to be a front-end talent for the Cardinals' rotation.

But earning the selection as a reliever, a closer in the midst of MLB history, with the second-most saves converted to start a Major League career (22), one shy of the all-time record?

Well, defying the path set out for him is just how Reyes likes to do things, of course.