If there's one player Red Sox fans will feel happiest for and most proud of this Tuesday, it will be Tim Wakefield.
The 17-year veteran was one of six Red Sox players selected to represent the club at this year's mid-summer classic, joining Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, and Jonathan Papelbon.
With the notable exception of Wakefield, none of them is older than 30. Yet the elder statesman is the only first-timer among them.
The 42-year-old Wakefield became the oldest player to make his first All-Star team since Satchel Paige. Perhaps the greatest Negro League pitcher of all time, Paige went to his first Major League All-Star Game in 1952 at the age of 46.
Jamie Moyer (40 in 2003) and Connie Marrero (40 in 1951) are the only other players to become All-Stars for the first time at age 40 or older.
For Wakefield it is a career achievement, and one he's longed dreamed of.
"When you go and play professional baseball, you always want to make an All-Star team," said Wakefield. "I've had opportunities, but have just never gotten the chance."
Though Wakefield wasn't voted in by his peers, AL All-Star manager Joe Maddon of the Rays personally selected the knuckleballer. And after 17 years in the majors, the veteran pitcher is grateful.
"Obviously, when I see Maddon, I'll thank him deeply for the opportunity to represent not only the Red Sox but the American League at the All-Star Game. I'm very excited about it," said Wakefield of the honor.
The All Star selection is just the latest in what's been a season of milestone's for Wakefield, who has now made the most career starts of any Red Sox pitcher (384) as well as the most career starts at Fenway (191).
Never having won more than 17 games in any season (which he's done twice), Wakefield enters the break tied for the Major League lead with 11 wins, to go along with just 3 losses, Before the year is through, Wakefield could cap his highlight season by reaching 20 victories.
Wakefield has undoubtedly benefitted from solid offensive support, with the Red Sox averaging more than six runs a game when he has taken the mound.
And while his 4.31 ERA and 61/37 K/BB ratio aren't typical All Star material, Wakefield's 12 quality starts are just one shy of Josh Beckett's for the staff lead. And they're good enough for 15th in the AL.
The wily veteran has been consistent all season long, failing to pitch into the 6th inning just three times in 17 starts, and giving up more than three earned runs in just six of those starts.
The All Star selection is a crowning jewel in a long career that has already seen two World Series victories. And before the season is over, Wakefield may have won his 200th career game, pitched his 3000th career inning, and collected his 2000th career strikeout.
Not bad for a guy who has long been viewed as an end of the rotation starter, and a one-pitch, one-trick pony. Needless to say, that one pitch has clearly served him well.
As always, there will be many story lines on Tuesday evening. But seeing a 42-year-old make his first All Star appearance will surely be the feel-good story of the game, and one of the most compelling of the season – not just for Red Sox fans, but for all fans of baseball.
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