When you hear the word "All-Star" your first thought probably isn't "adversity."
It's probably "standout season", or perhaps "hard worker" or maybe even the "best of the best." While all are certainly fair descriptions of the Indianapolis Indians' 2013 stellar cast of All-Stars, none may be truer than adversity.
The theme was echoed by the Tribe's three International League All-Star selections who will be making the trip to Reno, Nevada for Wednesday's Midsummer Classic, including the contest's starting catcher, Tony Sanchez, ace left-hander Kris Johnson and right-handed closer Vic Black.
The theme was echoed, yes, but not in the sense most might think.
"A lot of things have happened in the past, a lot of adversity I've had to overcome," said Sanchez, the Pittsburgh Pirate's No. 4 overall selection in the 2009 MLB Draft. "To finally see your name on an All-Star roster, it feels great."
One of the most magnetizing players in both the locker room and on the field, Sanchez is in the midst of arguably his best season to date. The backstop has hovered around a .300 batting average all year, while setting a new career-high with nine home runs and also tying his career-best with 26 doubles through just a little over two-thirds of the campaign. Though Sanchez is still in his first full season at the Triple-A level, he's already impressed enough to earn a promotion to Pittsburgh, where he smacked a two-bagger in his first at-bat of his Major League debut.
Yes, he's earned his All-Star selection.
"It's a breath of fresh air to finally show people that I can hit AND catch to be that two-way guy that I was drafted as," Sanchez said. "With everything that's happened this year, with the call-up and now the All-Star appearance, it's just a testament to the work put into the offseason, during the season and keeping the right state of mind."
Adversity meets perseverance.
The same can be said for the southpaw Johnson, who was also a first-round selection, 40th overall, as a sandwich pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2006. The left-hander moved from Short-Season ball to Triple-A in roughly two years, but spent the 2011 campaign with an Independent Club in Kansas City. Johnson then signed with the Pirates before last season, and after a relatively decent stint in Indianapolis that year, returned to the Indians in 2013 where has since posted the second-best ERA (2.66) in the entire league and moved within one win of matching his career-best nine victories.
Well-deserving would be an understatement.
"It's nice for the work I've put in, the steps I've taken forward, to get a chance to represent the Pirates and the International League," Johnson said. "It's nice to see the results coming out through hard and tough times."
Adversity meets the will to win.
For Black, the lights-out closer was on a hot streak of converting eight straight saves when he was placed on the disabled list and missed over a month of the season. Yet his earlier statistics, plus two more saves through four games without an earned run since his return to action, have stood out as enough to add Black to 2013 Midsummer roster. Deservedly so, as the closer has also struck out 48 batters in 34.0 innings, more often than not in a save situation while the game is on the line.
As humble as they come, Black's selection is easily justified.
"First and foremost, it's just an honor to be either selected or elected as an All-Star," said Black, Pittsburgh's 49th overall selection from the 2009 draft. "This is something we take pride in, as both individuals and as Pittsburgh Pirates."
Adversity meets the comeback.
The Indians three All-Star selections - or four technically with current Pirates infielder Josh Harrison originally named the IL's starting shortstop - is indicative of both the team's success, and the player's vested interest in leading the Tribe to that success. And although the road hasn't always been easy, maybe it's the obstacles along the way that have led Indianapolis' All-Star selections to their current level of achievement.
The hard work seems to have paid off.
"To be an All-Star this year in the IL and be able to represent this team and this organization, it's definitely something I'm extremely happy about," Black said.
Likewise, his fellow Tribe hurler shared the same joy when asked about the sound of the phrase, "Kris Johnson, All-Star"
"It's nice to hear those words," Johnson said.
Here's a few more they've earned:
"See you in Reno -