ST. LOUIS -- The defending world champions will be represented by four All-Stars next week, when baseball's best descend upon Kansas City for Major League Baseball's 83rd All-Star Game, set for Tuesday, July 10 at Kauffman Stadium.
Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal were among the eight NL position players chosen through the fan vote, meaning that both will be in manager Tony La Russa's starting lineup. La Russa is coming out of retirement to lead the NL squad, which will also include St. Louis players Yadier Molina, Lance Lynn and David Freese. Molina and Lynn were chosen via player balloting; Freese was the NL Final Vote winner.
Beltran (seventh), Furcal (third) and Molina (fourth) are all multi-time All-Stars. This will be the first All-Star experience for Lynn, who is in his first full Major League season, and Freese.
Molina received more player votes than any other NL catcher. Lynn garnered the fifth-most number of votes among league starting pitchers. Though Lynn has scuffled recently, the timing of the balloting worked in his favor. Players turned in their ballots last weekend, before Lynn made his most recent two starts.
Was Lynn surprised by Sunday's news?
"I am and I'm not," he answered. "I had a good run at the beginning of the year. The last three [starts] have not been so great. They thought I did well enough to vote me in -- the players did. It's just a great honor that those guys thought I should be."
The Cardinals and Giants lead the NL with four All-Star representatives, though St. Louis has the chance to boost that number to five through the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote presented by Firestone. Third baseman David Freese is one of five players on the Final Vote ballot, which gives fans the opportunity to vote an additional All-Star onto both rosters.
The club's representation runs deeper than just All-Star players. Current coaches Derek Lilliquist, Jose Oquendo and Mark McGwire will also be participating in the event, as all are members of La Russa's All-Star staff. Former St. Louis coaches Joe Pettini, Dave McKay and Dave Duncan are members of that coaching staff, as well. Pettini and McKay are now with other organizations. Duncan is on a leave of absence from the Cardinals due to his wife's battle with cancer.
The 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. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
With Kansas City playing host to this year's All-Star Game, Beltran will be heading back to Kauffman Stadium, where he emerged as a superstar more than a decade ago. Beltran spent parts of seven seasons with the Royals, with whom he won Rookie of the Year honors and earned his first All-Star invite.
Beltran has only been back to Kansas City once since the Royals dealt him to Houston in June 2004. That visit came last weekend during Interleague Play.
"My dad and my mom were [in Kansas City] when I got my first at-bat in the big leagues, and they're going to be here for the All-Star Game," Beltran said. "It's going to be an emotional part of being able to play this game for a long time."
Beltran, a first-year Cardinal, is certainly deserving of a starting spot. He entered Sunday leading the National League with 61 RBIs and ranked second with 20 home runs, behind another All-Star, Ryan Braun. Beltran also ranks among the NL's top 10 in batting average (.310).
He finished second among NL outfielders in the fan voting but led all outfielders in the player vote. This is the fourth time Beltran has been elected as an All-Star starter.
"For me, it really means a lot," Beltran said. "It's a rewarding accomplishment for everything that I've gone through -- knee injuries, being able to rehab myself, being able to come back to play at the level that I'm playing."
It was also announced on Sunday that Beltran would be one of four NL State Farm Home Run Derby participants. Also competing in the event, which will take place on Monday, July 9, will be Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez and Giancarlo Stanton.
Furcal, who joined the club midseason a year ago, is an All-Star for just the second time since '03. He has hushed concerns about health and durability so far this season, and, even with a recent slide, has had one of his more productive seasons.
Furcal is batting .280, a figure that dropped significantly as a result of hitting just .176 in June. Furcal's batting average going into the month sat at .333.
"When you retire, you're going to see how many [All-Star appearances] you have and you think about starting All-Star Games," Furcal said. "It's special for you. It's special for your kids when they start asking you what that means. I think that means a lot for me and all my family."
Though Molina lost out on a starting assignment by finishing behind San Francisco's Buster Posey in the fan vote, he is still heading to his fourth straight All-Star Game. Widely considered baseball's best defensive catcher, Molina has not been solely a defensive standout this season.
On track to have the best offensive year of his career, Molina ended June with a .311 season average and 44 RBIs. With his 13th home run on Sunday, Molina is only one shy of his career high.
"That's what you work for," Molina said of the invite. "That's why you do the offseason work and during Spring Training. You work hard to have a good season."
If there was a surprise selection in the bunch, it was Lynn, only because of recent results. The honor, though, rewards Lynn for a spectacular season start. He and Mets All-Star R.A. Dickey were the first Major League pitchers to hit the 10-win mark, with Lynn reaching that total in 13 starts.
Lynn, who moved into the starting rotation when Chris Carpenter went down during Spring Training, had an ERA of 2.42 through those 13 games. That ERA has since jumped to 3.62 following three subpar starts.
"My last couple of outings haven't been what I would have liked, but to get voted in by your peers and to represent the organization in a game like that is an honor," Lynn said. "I'm really excited about getting that opportunity."