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La Stella joins Trout to give Halos two All-Stars

@RhettBollinger
June 30, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Superstar Mike Trout will have some company in this year’s All-Star Game, as second baseman Tommy La Stella was named to the American League team on Sunday, marking the first time the Angels have had more than one All-Star since 2015. • 2019 All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard:

ANAHEIM -- Superstar Mike Trout will have some company in this year’s All-Star Game, as second baseman Tommy La Stella was named to the American League team on Sunday, marking the first time the Angels have had more than one All-Star since 2015.

2019 All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard: July 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX

La Stella was a finalist to start at his position for the AL, but he fell just short in voting with Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu earning that honor in the Midsummer Classic at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on July 9. But La Stella, 30, was still named an All-Star for the first time in his career with a breakout year that nobody saw coming. He entered the year with 10 career homers in 396 games over five years with the Braves and Cubs, but he has batted .304/.356/.500 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs in 77 games this season.

“It’s a lot, honestly,” La Stella said. “It’s a lot of reflecting back on getting here, and all the people helping me along the way. My parents, my friends, everybody back home, they were pushing for me to make the All-Star Game. I’m happier for them honestly. It means more to them, because they were so excited for me and wanted it for me.”

When the Halos acquired La Stella in a November trade with the Cubs for Minor League reliever Conor Lillis-White, La Stella was expected to be a platoon player at second and third base. But La Stella started off the season hot offensively and never looked back, earning regular playing time for the first time in his career. He had mostly served as a pinch-hitter and part-time player with the Cubs over the past four seasons.

La Stella said the consistent playing time has helped his approach at the plate, as he hasn’t made any dramatic changes to his swing. The results, though, have been startling, and now he’s the first Angels player other than Trout to be an All-Star since Albert Pujols and Hector Santiago in 2015.

“I was focused on my role,” La Stella said. “It took up most of [the] attention that I was going to play sparingly. When I got traded over here, I was hoping I’d get a little bit more playing time. My sights shifted. Obviously, not on an All-Star Game, but hopefully getting more consistent playing time.”

Halos manager Brad Ausmus can relate to La Stella’s ascent, as he also had a breakout year as a 30-year-old catcher with the Tigers that led to his only All-Star appearance in 1999. Ausmus even talked to La Stella about the parallels last week and was hopeful he’d be selected as an All-Star.

"It’s a tremendous experience," Ausmus said. "It would be great if every single player could experience going to an All-Star Game in their career. Obviously, that can’t happen, but that’s the type of experience it is. It’s just a blast. I’m always happy for guys. I don’t want to say Tommy’s an underdog, but he’s not someone I would have picked to be an All-Star this season. I was similar, no one would’ve picked me to be an All-Star that 1999 season."

La Stella’s former manager, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, was also happy for him, as the two had a solid relationship during their time in Chicago, which included winning the World Series in 2016, with Game 7 also in Cleveland.

"Even Tommy didn't see that, and he'll be the first guy to tell you that," Maddon said. "I am reveling in this. I would tell him straight up that last year or the year before, I could never envision him playing this many days in a row and maintaining his game. I could not be happier."

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.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.