Hometown hero: Santana named All-Star starter

Slugger on first career selection to Midsummer Classic: 'I cannot believe it'

June 28th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- It’s official: 's dream will come true.

On Thursday night, it was announced on ESPN that Santana will start at first base for the American League at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard after winning the fan voting in the inaugural Google MLB Starters Election. He got the news while he was on the Indians’ flight to Baltimore. Surrounded by his teammates, Santana was unable to fight back the tears.

“I mean all my teammates, they told me congratulations and they are so happy for me,” Santana said. “…I cried. It’s a little bit emotional. I mean I’m going and I’ll enjoy it, me and my family. I’m so happy.”

This will mark Santana’s first All-Star selection in his 10-year career, and he’ll be the first Indians player to start at first base in an All-Star Game since Jim Thome in 1999.

“I’m so happy for that,” Santana said. “Especially [since] it’s in Cleveland, and my fans, they support me, my teammates, the front office. I feel great. I cannot believe it.”

Santana earned 49.2% of the vote to beat out Luke Voit of the Yankees (25.8%) and C.J. Cron of the Twins (25%). The Tribe’s slugger will be the only starting position player representing the host city at Progressive Field. The reserves and pitchers will be announced on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET., also on ESPN.

Prior to being named a first-time All-Star, Santana had led all active players for the most career Wins Above Replacement (29) without a selection to the Midsummer Classic, according to Baseball-Reference. But his offensive outburst this season made him stand out above all other AL first basemen.

At the time the polls closed, the 33-year-old owned a .290 batting average with a .951 OPS, 18 home runs and 48 RBIs. Through the first 80 games of the year, Santana led the Tribe in homers, RBIs, runs scored (55), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.541), OPS and hits (82), and he's tied with Francisco Lindor for the most doubles (15).

“The first week in June,” Santana said of when he realized he had All-Star potential. “I got in touch with my agent and he told me that I have very good numbers to make it. He told me, 'Keep going and don’t worry about that and don’t make any changes.' I [was] thinking about that ... and I [was] going to play hard for that.”

Earlier this week, Santana said that starting in the All-Star Game in front of a home crowd in Cleveland is something he’s dreamed about. After spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Indians, Santana went to Philadelphia for the 2018 season, but he never sold his house in Bratenahl, Ohio.

Something told him there’d be a chance he’d return to Northeast Ohio. He was traded to Seattle for just a few days before he became part of a three-team deal that brought him back to the Tribe on Dec. 13. Now, he’ll have a chance to represent the club that helped mold him to become one of the best players in the game in front of a home crowd.

“I mean this year is like a blessing for me and I’m telling God every day to give me an opportunity for this year to come back to Cleveland … and look now. It’s a great year for me, and I have to keep it going. Keep it going, help my team and try to have fun with that.”

The 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played on Tuesday, July 9, at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.