Steven Wright, who transformed himself from a power pitcher while at the University of Hawaii into a standout knuckleballer with the Boston Red Sox, is the first Rainbow player to be named to a Major League Baseball All-Star Game roster.
The teams for the 87th All-Star Game to be played next week Tuesday at Petco Park in San Diego were announced on Tuesday.
Wright, a second-round selection in 2006 after pitching three seasons at UH, was selected by American League manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals. Through 16 starts, the right-hander has a 9-5 record and a 2.42 earned-run average — fifth-best among AL starters and tops among Boston starters. He has pitched 108 innings, second-most on the team, with 87 strikeouts while holding the opposition to under .217 hitting.
Wright pitched for UH from 2004 to 2006, earning a record of 18-6 in 24 starts. In 55 appearances with UH, Wright finished with an ERA of 3.12 and 228 strikeouts.
He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians with the 56th overall pick and traded to the Red Sox in 2012. Wright boasted a 90-mph fastball but transitioned to a knuckleball pitcher in 2011.
Wright joins Sid Fernandez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League and Kurt Suzuki as the only players who played for Hawaii schools to be named to the All-Star Game.
Fernandez, who pitched for Kaiser, played in the 1986 and 1987 All-Star Games. The New York Mets lefty struck out the side in 1986 and earned a save in the NL’s 2-0 win in 1987. Victorino, who played for St. Anthony, made the team in 2009 and 2011 as an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was 1-for-2 in 2009, but injured his thumb and did not play in 2011. League, a right-hander for the Seattle Mariners who pitched for Saint Louis School, tossed one inning, gave up a run and struck out one in the 2011 game. Suzuki, who played for Baldwin, had a putout in the 2014 game while a catcher for the Minnesota Twins.
At 31, Wright is a first-time All-Star.
“I feel like I’m still the same guy,” he said.
Wright will have a lot of company in San Diego.
The Red Sox have six All-Stars, including four starters. Designated hitter David Ortiz, who is retiring at the end of the season, became a 10-time All-Star and is joined in the lineup by a trio of first-timers: shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Closer Craig Kimbrel joins Wright on the All-Star pitching staff.
“Four days of rest and chilling is good, but this All-Star Game, I’m going to try to enjoy it the most,” said the 40-year-old Ortiz, who helped the Red Sox win three titles, including their first in 86 years in 2004.
“We’ve got a number of starters, and I think that’s more of a validation around the country for the votes that they’ve generated, not just by our fans,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told NESN.com before Tuesday’s game against the Texas Rangers. “Whether they’re young players or a veteran as David is, this is a great combination of players that we’re going to send to San Diego.”
While Boston dominated the AL selections, the Chicago Cubs dominated the NL.
The Cubs became the first team since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine to have five players voted as All-Star starters, and seven Chicago players in all were picked.
Chicago’s entire infield was voted in — first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell and third baseman Kris Bryant — along with center fielder Dexter Fowler, who hopes to recover from a hamstring strain that has sidelined him since June 18. The only other team to start four infielders was the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’ll be really cool starting the game and throwing to those guys in San Diego,” said Rizzo, who played for the Padres before they traded him to the Cubs in 2012.
Rizzo led NL players with 3.2 million votes, and Zobrist won the closest race by finishing 88 votes ahead of Washington’s Daniel Murphy. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester were selected for the National League pitching staff.
Chicago got off to a 47-20 start but has slumped for the past few weeks. The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908, but have the second-most All-Stars in their history behind eight in 2008.
“Make sure you slow it down and enjoy every second of it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon recalled telling his All-Stars.
The game will feature 11 first-time starters, the most since 2005. In a sign of the sport’s generational change, 12 of the 17 elected starters are 26 or younger.
“It should be a little more special,” said Bryant, who attended the University of San Diego for three years.
Five Orioles were picked for the AL roster. Third baseman Manny Machado, catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Mark Trumbo are among the reserves, and Brad Brach and Zach Britton are on the pitching staff.
The AL has won the game three straight times and is 10-3 since the All-Star winner has determined home-field advantage in the World Series.