OMAHA, Nebraska -- At age 32, Louisville infielder Irving Falu will be playing in his first Triple-A All-Star Game Wednesday night. And it seems appropriate that it will happen in Omaha, even though he'll be playing for the International League.
Falu is in his eighth Triple-A season. He spent more than five of those seasons becoming a fan favorite with the Omaha Storm Chasers, formerly known as the Royals.
When his name gets mentioned over the PA system at Werner Park on Wednesday night, fans will greet him the way they always do, by chanting "Faluuuuuuuuuuuu" out of respect and appreciation.
The feeling is, and remains mutual.
"The fans here in Omaha are unbelievable," Falu said Tuesday afternoon after batting practice. "I haven't played here for a couple of seasons, but I still love it here. It's my second home."
Storm Chasers president and general manager, Martie Cordaro pinpointed why Omaha loves Falu.
"Irving always has a smile," Cordaro said. "And baseball players -- I wouldn't say they are in bad moods, but they travel and play a lot, so they are tired. And sometimes they don't really want to be here, because they want to be in the big leagues. Irving has never acted like that.
"He's also a darn good baseball player who can play a lot of positions. And he's kind of old-school. He can steal a base. He can hit and run. He can bunt. And he can sacrifice."
Cordaro did state the obvious, that Falu isn't considered to be a top prospect.
"But he's an underdog and people love to root for underdogs," Cordaro said. "And if there's a kid somewhere, he'll stop and sign an autograph. I think that's really cool because all we can do is try to pass this game on to the youth, and Irving is a player who does that."
Falu, who stands fifth in the IL with a .309 average, was part of the 2011 and '13 teams in Omaha that won the Pacific Coast League championship. And if you look at the Omaha record book, you'll see his name throughout it.
He played in the third-most games all-time (578), stands second in hits (631), third in runs (309), 10th in doubles (84) and fourth in steals (89).
But the 2011 season stands out most in his mind. Not because of anything he did on the field, though.
"The best year of my life was '11 because of who I played with that season," Falu said. "Salvador [Perez] is my dear brother. I love him, for real. Lorenzo [Cain] is my buddy. [Mike] Moustakas, [Eric] Hosmer, Lorenzo [Cain], Christian Colon, Jirsch (the affectionate nickname for former Omaha manager, Mike Jirschele), Tommy Gregg (his former hitting coach in Omaha). ... Everybody here, we were like a family."
When the Royals claimed the American League pennant last year, earning their first trip to the World Series since 1985, Falu traded texts with his former teammates throughout because he was so happy for them.
He's also had a taste of the big leagues himself -- first with Kansas City in 2012 and '13, then with Milwaukee and San Diego in '14. Now he's hoping to get back there with the Reds.
If he does, fans in Omaha will be his loudest supporters.
Lee Warren is a contributor to MiLB.com.