Tuesday night’s MLB All Star Game at Citi Field in New York will feature major league baseball’s best-known stars, but there are three players who are not household names and have traveled a long way to reach this career milestone.
Three years ago, Steve Delabar was a substitute teacher and assistant baseball coach at John Hardin High School in of Elizabethtown, Ky. Drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2003, Delabar spent five unsuccessful years pitching for the club’s Class A team—the lowest level of the minor leagues. Then the Padres gave up on him. Desperate to keep his dream of a major league baseball career afloat, Delabar pitched for two independent league teams until, in 2009, he fractured his right elbow while delivering a pitch. Doctors inserted a steel plate and nine screws in his arm, and Delabar gave up.
He returned to his hometown high school in Kentucky to teach and coach. In 2011, Delabar began testing a newly developed throwing program. He was hoping he could successfully teach it to his players. But he discovered it allowed him to throw faster than he could before—so did a scout who offered him a minor league contract. Within four months, Delabar was in the major leagues. On Tuesday, the 29-year-old will be in New York to pitch for the American League, after receiving 9.6 million votes from fans across the nation in the MLB Final Vote competition.
Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, with 21 home runs and a National League-best 77 runs batted in, is also headed to the All-Star Game. Doubted by scouts at almost every level, Goldschmidt struggled to find a college interested in his talents and labored to prove his worth in Arizona’s minor league system. In 2010, the Diamondbacks attempted to sign another first baseman because of uncertainty regarding Goldschmidt’s development. Now, in his second year in the big leagues, Goldschmidt is proving he is one of the best players in the league. “He’s just an old school ballplayer who happens to be one of the nicest guys you’ll meet,” said Arizona hitting coach Don Baylor.
Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro is the only representative from the worst team in baseball going to the All-Star Game. Castro has battled major injuries, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), to put together his first solid major league season—he leads all American League catchers with 34 extra-base-hits. Castro would play “home run derby” as a kid with his friends, pretending to be some of the most popular All-Stars of the time. “It was something I was always hearing about growing up and watching all the All-Star Games. It’s a pretty surreal thing to even be in the conversation.”