© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Hopefully Orlando Hudson and Jose Valverde enjoy San Francisco, because it turns out they'll be spending a few more days here this year.
The pair was selected to represent the D-backs at the 2007 All-Star Game, which will be held July 10 at AT&T Park. It is the first selection for both players, and it marks the first time since 2002 that the D-backs have had more than one player chosen.
The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. MST. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Hudson was selected by a vote of the players, while Valverde was named by Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa, who will manage the National League squad.
The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers - five starters and three relievers - become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season - in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and St. Louis' Tony La Russa - then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.
"It's definitely an honor, man, to make the All-Star Game and play against all these greats, all these future Hall of Famers and be in the same locker room with them," Hudson said. "It's not just about being on the field with them, but getting a chance to chat with them, be on the same sideline and hopefully get to win a ballgame with them.
"It's part of that childhood dream. You want to win Gold Gloves, you want to win Cy Youngs, you want to make All-Star teams and become a Hall of Famer. When you accomplish those kind of accomplishments, it's definitely overwhelming."
It's no surprise that Hudson will be playing while others are taking a few days off. The 29-year-old takes pride in being in the lineup every day and refuses to discuss injuries. He severely sprained his left ankle sliding into home on Sept. 7, 2005, and it is something that bothers him off and on ever since.
Yet, this year, he has been out of the starting lineup just two times, and on one of those -- June 15 in Baltimore -- he came off the bench to hit the go-ahead homer.
D-backs manager Bob Melvin placed Hudson in the No. 3 spot in the lineup toward the end of Spring Training, and the switch-hitter thrived there as he, along with Eric Byrnes, carried the Arizona offense for the first six weeks, hitting .352 in April.
"Offensively, defensively, he's captain of the infield," Melvin said. "[Many] times we don't have to go out there and address things because he's on top of it. He was the guy who got us off to a good start swinging the bat."
As valuable as Hudson has been throughout a game, Valverde has been every bit as important at the end. Pitching for a team that has been near the top of the league in one-run games, Valverde's contributions can't be overstated.
"That was probably an easy one for them, being that he's second in the league in saves, and as many one-run games as we've played and he's been a significant part of it at the end, that was probably an easy call," Melvin said.
Where once he relied almost exclusively on a high 90s fastball, the 27-year-old now mixes in a low 90s sinker and has gotten better command of his split-finger pitch. That has allowed him to maintain his success throughout the first half of the season, where in years past he's had a lot of ups and downs.
"His command is considerably better," Melvin said. "Where he was 97 [mph], but it was somewhere on the plate and typically up. Where now, you see some balls down in the zone, he's throwing to the corners more, he's got a two-seamer that moves a little bit and just the fact that he has different weapons to get guys out gives him that much more confidence to get guys out when the velocity isn't there on a particular day."
Last July, not only was Valverde not an All-Star, he wasn't even a big leaguer as he was shipped to Triple-A after struggling mightily in the month of June.
"I feel so good," Valverde said. "Last year, I was sent down to the Minor Leagues. And this year I do a nice comeback. I'm really excited for that. I'll try to do good and pitch for my teammates."
Speaking of teammates, the excitement of having two of their own selected for the team was tempered a bit by the omission of Byrnes.
"I'm crushed by it," Hudson said. "I'm pumped at the same time, but that's the man that did everything right for us this year. Offensively, defensively, he did everything possible. Eric Byrnes did it. It's a good thing that I'm going, but it's also a bummer that I'm leaving a fellow All-Star behind."
Byrnes, a Bay Area native, was obviously disappointed, but maintained his upbeat attitude.
"I said I wasn't going to lose any sleep over it, and I'm not," Byrnes said. "Sure, I would have loved to have come back here and played. I'm from here. It would have been a dream come true, but some things you can't control. I felt that I took care of what I had to control as far as making the team, and other people just didn't view it that way and that's understandable."