Jays’ Donaldson named starter for All-Star Game

Josh Donaldson is not only humbled by and honoured to be representing the Toronto Blue Jays as a starter for the All-Star game, he also found the support from Jays fans and the entire country of Canada 'mind-blowing.'

DETROIT — Josh Donaldson’s incredible first half has earned him a trip to Cincinnati. He’ll represent the Toronto Blue Jays at the All-Star Game as the American League’s starting third baseman after collecting  14,090,188 votes, an MLB record.

“It’s a big honour to represent this team,” Donaldson said. “It’s an honour to be ticketed by the fans … Honestly I can tell you I would never expect this. I’m kind of mind blown a little bit from it.”

Donaldson trailed Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas early in the process, but Don Cherry voiced his support, Blue Jays fans voted prolifically and Donaldson overtook Moustakas. The nation-wide support impressed Donaldson, who has noticed Blue Jays fans at home and on the road.

“It’s pretty special when you think about it,” Donaldson said. “There’s some stadiums where it feels like almost a home game for us.”

Donaldson has 19 home runs, 56 RBI and an American League-leading 176 total bases to go along with a .296 batting average, a .352 on-base percentage and a .527 slugging percentage. Aside from the offence, the 2007 draft pick has made a series of impressive defensive plays at third base, including numerous bare-handed grabs and a memorable catch into the stands that prolonged Marco Estrada’s perfect game bid.

“Not only the way he hits, but his defence has been really good,” Estrada said. “He deserves it for sure. He’s been the best third baseman, probably in the entire MLB.”

He ranked sixth among all players with 4.3 wins above replacement entering play Sunday. This kind of success would have been unfathomable to Donaldson when he was a rookie catcher with the Oakland Athletics.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” he said. “Did I think I had the capability? Sure, but if we’re talking reality that’s a pretty big accomplishment and I feel very honoured for this to be my second one.”

The 29-year-old earned his first All-Star selection in 2014 as a member of the Athletics. He was voted in as a starter and participated in the Home Run Derby that was eventually won by Yoenis Cespedes.

The Blue Jays acquired Donaldson from the Athletics for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and prospect Franklin Barreto last off-season. One of the reasons that Donaldson appealed to GM Alex Anthopoulos is that he remains under team control as an arbitration eligible player through the 2018 season.

“He’s been huge,” manager John Gibbons said. “First off he’s one of the top players in the game. That’s a given. You guys see that every day. But he’s got a different kind of personality, a different kind of mentality. I’ve said before many times that we need it on this ballclub. He’s a guy that keeps pushing, pushing. Never takes an inning off.”

“The name of the game is production on the field and he’s in the topmost offensive categories and he’s played some great defence for us, so I don’t know where we’d be without him,” Gibbons continued.

Donaldson becomes the first Blue Jays third baseman and fourth Blue Jays infielder to be voted in, joining Roberto Alomar (1991-94), John Olerud (1993) and Carlos Delgado (2003).

All-Star reserves, pitchers and Final Vote candidates will be announced Monday. Jose Bautista, an All-Star in each of the last five seasons, and Russell Martin are among the Blue Jays with strong cases for inclusion on the AL All-Star roster.

Donaldson’s tenure in Toronto is really just starting, but if the next three and a half seasons look much like the first half season, the Blue Jays have a lot to look forward to.

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