Of the 25 men on the San Francisco Giants’ Opening Day roster, 10 had previously been named to an All-Star team.
One of the 15 who had not yet checked the box was first baseman Brandon Belt. Not anymore.
Belt was not voted in as a starter by fans, or selected by his competitors. Instead, the 28-year-old Texan received the final nod by a “Final Vote” on social media. With an overwhelming 10.4 million votes, baseball fans spoke loudly for the “Baby Giraffe” to take part in the All-Star proceedings just 2-1/2 miles away from the world famous San Diego Zoo.
The sixth-year major leaguer told SFBay that winning the tightest fan vote decision ever is “absolutely” special:
“It means a lot, because of how much work the Giants organization put into campaigning for me. It was really just an all-around effort, and I’m honored. That’s the cool thing to be voted in by the fans.”
Four-time All-Star Buster Posey pointed to the significance of the selection, telling SFBay that there isn’t always a next time:
“You never know if you’re going to make an All-Star Game, or if you’re going to make it back. I think he’s definitely soaking it up.”
Belt, who was drafted by the Giants in the fifth round of the 2009 Amateur Draft, is among the NL’s top 20 in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.302/.407/.521) while leading the NL in doubles (27).
And, although his power numbers are not up to par with the game’s top first basemen — 10 home runs and 47 RBIs — he has played his normal dynamite defense, after leading all NL first-sackers with a .997 fielding percentage a year ago.
His teammate, four-time All-Star Madison Bumgarner said that seeing the left-handed slugger take part in the event will serve as a source of joy:
“Seeing Belt in his first one, that’s what I’m really excited about — seeing him go through all the steps of his first time.”
In pushing toward the Final Vote selection, Belt put on a show during the voting. Over the final week of the first half, he posted a .412/.545/.706 slash. This nearly two months after becoming the second Giant since 1900 to collect three or more hits including a home run in three consecutive games (May 15-17) — Barry Bonds enjoyed such a stretch in 2000.
Despite his worthy resume, and long-standing self belief, Belt has yet to completely allow the honor of the selection to soak in:
“It’s pretty indescribable. It’s one of those things I always thought was possible, but it’s hard to believe that I’m actually here.”
With his selection, the Giants now brag one of the most prestigious home-grown infields in the history of the game. Along with Posey and the 2015 All-Stars shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Joe Panik, only third baseman Matt Duffy has yet to participate in a Midsummer Classic.