Nick Markakis now has the distinction of being the Major Leaguer who has played the most career games before garnering a first-All-Star selection. Ozzie Albies could soon become the youngest Braves player to appear in a Midsummer Classic since Hank Aaron in 1955.
When this year’s All-Star rosters were announced on Sunday night, Markakis and Freddie Freeman celebrated the honor of being elected to the National League’s starting lineup. The Braves will also be represented by Albies and Mike Foltynewicz, who both will also be first-time All-Stars when the Midsummer Classic is played at Nationals Park on July 17.
“To have Nick Markakis go to the All-Star Game, you almost get emotional,” Freeman said. “He deserved it many more times before this. The guy has over 2,000 hits and is the ultimate pro. It’s going to be awesome to see that.”
Freeman and Markakis received more votes than any other NL players during this year’s balloting process. Albies and Foltynewicz gained their selections via ballots cast by players.
Markakis has already played 1,928 games during a career that includes 2,165 hits. No other player in MLB history had played more than 1,866 games (Ron Fairley in 1973) before gaining a first All-Star selection.
“It is what it is,” Markakis said. “Whether it came during my first year or this late in my career, it’s going to be an exciting time. It’s something I’ve never experienced. But I’ve got Freddie to lean a shoulder on. It’s going to be a great experience and I’m looking forward to it.”
There was some hope the Braves would have three position players in the NL’s starting lineup for the first time since 1960, when Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Del Crandall and Joe Adcock were all starters. But Albies was passed during the final days of balloting by Cubs second baseman Javier Baez. Freeman and Markakis will be the first Braves duo in the NL’s lineup since Javy Lopez and Gary Sheffield in 2003.
“It means the world,” said Freeman, who was selected as an All-Star reserve in 2013 and ’14. “You obviously don’t play for the recognition. You play to win the games. But when you sit back and see how many fans actually voted for you, it’s kind of remarkable. Every time that balloting came out every week, you just stepped back, shook your head and said, ‘Wow.'”
Braves manager Brian Snitker informed the players during a clubhouse meeting held a few hours before Sunday afternoon’s loss to the Brewers.
“My name was the last one to be called off,” Foltynewicz said. “Especially how I ended the last game, you just never know, but my heart was in my stomach and throat at the same time.”
The always-stoic Albies chose not to admit he felt nervous before hearing his name called.
“When the names kept coming off, it was just exciting,” Albies said. “Everybody keeps telling you [you’ll make it], but you never know until that moment.”
“I’m just playing the game,” Albies said. “It means a lot to me that I’ve been selected. It feels amazing.”
Always armed with tremendous potential, Foltynewicz has displayed it while proving to be one of the Majors’ top starting pitchers this year. The 26-year-old right-hander has produced a 2.37 ERA over 17 starts. He has allowed 25 earned runs over 95 innings. Eleven of those runs have been tallied within two innings.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Foltynewicz said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”