Halladay, Hill headed to All-Star Game
Ace makes it for sixth time; infielder also voted by peers
NEW YORK -- A year ago, Aaron Hill was sidelined with a serious concussion, leaving a significant hole in the Blue Jays' lineup amidst whispers that his career might be in jeopardy. The second baseman has more than shown that he is fully recovered.
Hill has been the driving force behind Toronto's offense this season and has stood out as one of the game's elite players at his position. On Sunday, Hill's difficult comeback was rewarded with a spot on the American League All-Star team, joining ace Roy Halladay as the Blue Jays' two representatives for the Midsummer Classic on July 14.
"I've said all along, I'm just grateful to be back in a uniform again," said Hill, who will be heading to an All-Star Game for the first time in his career. "I think it helps when you don't forget how easily it can be taken away. I'm grateful for everything that's happened so far."
The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Blue Jays left fielder Adam Lind, who has been enjoying a breakout season as well, has a chance to possibly join Hill and Halladay at Busch Stadium. Lind -- left off the initial All-Star ballot due to his early-season status as a designated hitter -- has been included in the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote, giving fans a chance to pick one of five players to fill the final roster spot on each league's roster.
While Halladay was a virtual lock for his sixth All-Star appearance, Hill's path to St. Louis was not a given. The AL is stacked with talented second basemen, and a number of things needed to fall in Hill's favor in order to get him to Busch Stadium. Boston's Dustin Pedroia won the popular vote from the fans, but the players around baseball chose Hill as the reserve.
Hill received 370 votes from his peers, compared to 348 for Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is also on the Final Vote ballot. Hill said being elected by the players meant a lot.
"It's extra special -- it definitely is," Hill said. "They appreciate what you do on the field, and that's saying that they like the way you play the game. That's all I can ask for is just that they appreciate the way I play the game, and I look forward to talking to the guys when I get there.
It's not hard to see why Hill's peers decided to send him to St. Louis.
Through 82 games for the Blue Jays, Hill has hit .299 with a .339 on-base percentage and a .503 slugging percentage, while providing Gold Glove-caliber defense. He led Toronto's offense with 20 home runs -- already shattering the club record for homers by a second baseman. The previous mark of 17 was set by Roberto Alomar in 1993 and previously matched by Hill in 2007.
Among all Major League second basemen, Hill ranks first in homers, hits (107), RBIs (59) and total bases (180). Entering Sunday, Hill ranked second to only Ichiro Suzuki in hits, and his total bases was the second-highest figure in the AL. The second baseman added a two-run homer and a single in a 10-8 loss to the Yankees on Sunday afternoon.
It's the type of showing that the Blue Jays thought Hill might have turned in last season, but he suffered a serious concussion on May 29 after being struck on the side of the head during a collision with former Toronto shortstop David Eckstein. Hill missed the rest of the season, and there were questions about his condition leading into Spring Training.
"Sometimes people don't come back from concussions," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "That certainly was a worry on our part -- his, too. He's bounced back and had a good enough first half to make the All-Star team. I'm really happy and proud of him."
Hill's production this year has provided one of the comeback stories of the season. Considering what Hill went through last season -- fighting dizzy spells, headaches and sleepless nights for months -- Halladay was thrilled to learn that the second baseman was heading to the All-Star Game with him.
"I'm really excited," Halladay said. "Given what happened last year -- and I know he had a hard time with it -- to be able to not only come back but be one of the best in the game has got to be special for him. I think when you go from such a low to such a high, it's got to be a great feeling for him."
For Halladay -- also voted in by his peers -- the only question now is whether he will have a chance to start for the AL in St. Louis. The right-handed ace is 10-2 with a 2.76 ERA over 16 starts, during which he has fashioned three complete games, one shutout and logged 116 innings. That innings total ranks sixth in the Majors, even though Halladay missed two weeks in June with a right groin issue.
The All-Star Game happens to fit perfectly within Halladay's five-day routine, meaning pitching in the contest would not be an issue. If AL and Rays manager Joe Maddon gives the nod to Halladay, the pitcher said it would be a great honor.
"Getting a chance to look at it," Halladay said, "it plays out into a regular five-day thing, which makes pitching less of a concern than in the past, especially if you've pitched the day before and you've got one day. Having that, it makes it easier to pitch. If it did come up to start, it'd be a tremendous honor."
Halladay, who captured the 2003 AL Cy Young Award with the Jays, is currently tied for the Major League lead in wins, and his 1.09 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) ranked third in the AL through Saturday. Halladay has amassed 98 strikeouts against just 17 walks, and the 193 groundouts he has created is the most in the league.
Gaston said he nearly forgot to congratulate Doc on making the All-Star team, simply because Halladay was a lock to be named to the roster.
"What can you say about Doc?" Gaston said. "You kind of expect to see him in the All-Star Game. I was speaking to him this morning. I forgot to shake his hand. I went back later and said, 'I just automatically know that you're going to be there.'"
While that might be the case for Gaston, Halladay said each All-Star appearance is unexpected for him.
Halladay recalled the first time he made the AL's squad in 2002. When former Jays manager Carlos Tosca delivered the news, it was a surprise for Halladay. Even after all his success and accolades, Halladay said he feels the same every time he is honored with a selection.
"I remember Tosca telling me it'd be the first of many," Halladay said. "It was another thing that never would've crossed my mind. It seemed lucky the first time. For some reason, it feels that same way each time. You feel like you luck your way into it sometimes. It's a different feeling. It's never changed."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.