And there are heartwarming storylines throughout Atlanta’s All-Star lineup. Fried, Swanson, d’Arnaud and Contreras are all first-time All-Stars.
Acuña will finally get to start in the All-Star Game after fans made him the NL’s top vote-getter last season before the superstar tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season.
He is one of the game’s most talented and popular players. His swagger matches his five tools. He is flashy and doesn’t lack personality, which is why it’s good for baseball to put him on such a big stage.
“Extremely excited,” Acuña said through interpreter Franco García. “Obviously first and foremost, I just want to thank God for this opportunity. Secondly, I just want to thank the fans and everyone who went out there to support and voted for me. I just want you to know that I’ll always be grateful for that.”
The outfielder is batting .274 with an .802 OPS. He has hit eight homers while driving in 22 runs.
A Los Angeles native, Fried’s first All-Star nod comes during a year in which the game will be held in his hometown.
Entering Sunday, Fried’s 2.52 ERA ranked sixth in the NL. His 100 strikeouts were 10th. His 1.02 WHIP was eighth.
“I’ve said that before: The guy’s elite,” Swanson said. “He’s top notch.”
Fried has surrendered two or fewer runs in 13 of 17 starts this season. Since opening day, he hasn’t given up more than four runs in a start.
The Braves have won nine straight games that Fried has started, and 13 of the last 15.
“It’s huge,” d’Arnaud said. “He’s been one of the game’s top pitchers the last three years, and for him to get his first All-Star selection – also for him, in his hometown – is special.”
In a contract year, Swanson couldn’t be playing better. You could argue he should have been voted in as a starter.
Nonetheless, his All-Star nod continues a terrific season.
“It’s obviously a tremendous honor,” Swanson said. “It’s something you definitely work for your whole life. I’m very appreciative and thankful. …I’m just blessed to be here. I’ve been given so much. Just grateful to be able to use the talents that God gave me to do good with them.”
Swanson is batting .302 with an .848 OPS. He has 14 homers and 50 RBIs.
He has always been a great defender, and that has continued. But he’s been hot at the plate for quite some time, displaying a consistency he hasn’t often shown as a hitter throughout his career. He seems to be taking the next step as a player.
It might be nice to be recognized, but Swanson has never done this for recognition.
“I’ve never done this for public recognition, never played for other people’s opinions, really,” Swanson said. “Always played to win games. That’s how I was raised. I believe what God put me on this earth to do was to compete to win and to lead. That’s really my focus.
“With that, sometimes, can come honors and awards like these, which is amazing. I’m not trying to downplay that at all. I’m extremely grateful. But at the end of the day, the winning is the most important thing.”
Three years ago, the Mets designated Travis d’Arnaud for assignment. He then found new life in his career.
He has since won a Silver Slugger Award and a World Series. Now, he’s an All-Star.
“I think what makes it special is it’s in my hometown, where I grew up learning the game of baseball,” d’Arnaud said. “It’s going to be cool. It’s special and I’m very thankful for not only the fans, but for my peers who think I’m a good player.”
D’Arnaud is an important presence for the Braves, both as a leader and catcher. He has helped fill the leadership void left by Freddie Freeman, while excelling on both sides of the chalk.
“He’s been so big for us,” Snitker said. “God, so big for us. We had two veteran catchers that did a great job for us prior to him. Getting him, it shows you how important having a veteran presence in that position is. He’s been just awesome.”
Contreras will play on the same All-Star team as his brother, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. Willson is the NL’s starting catcher, while William was elected as a designated hitter.
“It’s incredible,” Contreras said through García, the interpreter. “It really is. That’s one thing that I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about. It is a dream come true and I think it’s something that we’ve always dreamed about, but it’s crazy that it’s happening. I’m really happy, I’m excited. I can’t wait for the day. I’m counting the minutes.”
Willson and William will be the first brothers to appear in the same All-Star Game since Aaron and Bret Boone in 2003, and the first brothers to play for the same team in the game since Sandy Jr. and Roberto Alomar in 1998.
Bryce Harper was elected the NL’s starting DH. But he recently broke his thumb and won’t play. Thus, Willism is taking his spot.
The Contreras brothers will become the first brothers to start alongside one another in the Midsummer Classic since the Alomars in 1992.
William is hitting .266 with a .919 OPS. He has 11 homers and 22 RBIs.
Throughout this year, 24-year-old William has talked about idolizing his brother. Willson is his role model.
But William has made a name for himself this season. He will find himself next to Willson at the game.
It will be a special moment for the brothers and their parents.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how they’re going to be feeling, knowing how excited I am,” William said. “If I’m at a loss for words, I can’t even begin to think how they’re feeling. It’s going to be something incredible for them to be able to watch both of their kids together out there.”