TORONTO – Michael Saunders‘ comeback season has earned him a trip to the All-Star Game. The Toronto Blue Jays‘ left fielder obtained the final spot on the American League All-Star team after fans voted for him 17.7 million times.
“I’m very humbled by it,” Saunders said. “Everyone knows that Canada takes care of their own. I’m Canadian through and through. Just to feel that support, the best way to describe it — everyone’s been asking me — is I feel loved. To see the support that (fans) gave me is very humbling.”
The Victoria, B.C., native received plenty of support from a social media campaign featuring the #VoteCaptainCanada hashtag and beat George Springer of the Astros, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, Ian Kinsler of the Tigers and Evan Longoria of the Rays for the final roster spot.
San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt won the fan vote in the National League to earn the final spot on the NL roster.
After missing nearly all of the 2015 season because of a knee injury, Saunders has returned to put together his best season yet. The 29-year-old has 16 home runs and 25 doubles with a .298/.372/.559 batting line as Toronto’s everyday left fielder. In the process he’s reminded onlookers why the Blue Jays acquired him prior to the 2015 season.
“I felt like it was kind of a redemption year for me,” Saunders said Tuesday. “Not that it gave me that extra drive to work that much harder or anything like that, but playing for the Blue Jays was a dream of mine growing up, missing all of last year was really hard on me, more so mentally and emotionally than it was physically. I really wanted to prove to myself and prove to the organization and to the fanbase why they traded for me in the first place.”
Saunders was nearly traded a second time before the 2016 season, when the Blue Jays contemplated a deal that would have brought Jay Bruce to Toronto while sending Saunders to Anaheim. Half a season later, he’s glad the trade never happened.
“I think sometimes people forget that (players) are human beings and people as well,” he said. “We’re not just chess pieces on a board. At the same time you have to understand it’s a business as well and stuff like that happens. Ultimately I’m glad I’m still a Blue Jay. I wanted to be here, especially missing all of last year.”
The Blue Jays now have four All-Stars for the sixth time in franchise history and the first time since 2013, when Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil represented Toronto at the mid-summer classic. The Blue Jays have had at least four All-Stars in 1985, 1993, 1994, 2006, 2013 and, now, 2016.