Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz has joined an elite group of baseball players from the area who have been selected to participate in an All-Star Game.
The Minooka graduate joins three of his teammates on the National League team, which will meet the American Leaguers on Tuesday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Second baseman Ozzie Albies joins Foltynewicz as reserves who will be making their first appearances in an All-Star Game. First baseman Freddie Freeman and rightfielder Nick Markakis were voted onto the team as starters by the fans.
This is the third trip for Freeman and the first for Markakis, who becomes the Major Leaguer who played in the most career games before earning his first all-star appearence.
The Braves nearly had three position players in the starting lineup for the first time since 1960. But the Cubs’ Javier Baez passed Albies in the voting in the final days. Still, Atlanta will have two starters in the N.L. lineup for the first time since 2003.
Foltynewicz, who broke into the majors in 2014 with Houston and has played with the Braves for four years, becomes just the fifth player from this area to receive All-Star recognition, and this is just the seventh time that a local player has been honored.
The last individual with local ties to make an All-Star Team was Ron Coomer in 1999. The Lockport graduate and current Cubs broadcaster, who was in the major leagues from 1995 to 2003, represented the Minnesota Twins in the midseason classic 19 years ago.
Foltynewicz joins Larry Gura as just the second pitcher from the area to be selected for an All-Star Team. The Joliet East graduate, who played in the majors from 1970 to 1985, represented the Kansas City Royals in 1980.
Another Joliet Township graduate also earned All-Star recognition a few years after Gura, Joliet Central’s Jesse Barfield. The rightfielder, who played in the majors from 1981 to 1993, was selected for the 1986 game to represent the Toronto Blue Jays.
And the Braves’ 6-foot-4 righthander becomes the second area player to be a National League representative in an All-Star Game, including its first in 50 years. Lockport’s Tom Haller, a major leaguer from 1961 to 1972, made three straight All-Star Game appearances from 1966 to 1968 as a catcher representing the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Foltynewicz brought a 6-5 record into Wednesday’s home game against Toronto. He was coming off one of just two starts this season where he allowed more than two earned runs. He owned a 2.37 ERA and 11 of his 25 earned runs were scored in two of his 95 innings. He also had 114 strikeouts, while walking 40 with one shutout.
He’s on track to surpass last year’s career-best win total of 10 and is nearly two points better than his previous best ERA, which was 4.31 in 2016.
“My name was the last one to be called off,” Foltynewicz said to MLB.com. “Especially how I ended the last game, you just never know, but my heart was in my stomach and throat at the same time.”
One person who felt confident that Foltynewicz could receive this impressive honor was his coach at Minooka, longtime Indians skipper Jeff Petrovic.
“Obviously our program is really proud of Mike, and personally I’m really happy for him,” Petrovic said. “I don’t think that Mike ever doubted himself and certainly we never doubted him, so this is probably pretty validating for him to get to this point. If I was to tell you that I was shocked that this happened, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
“This is something where I always knew that he had the ability, and it was just a matter of time. Make no mistake, he’s earned everything, and has worked really hard. Now that he’s gotten to this point, I would venture to guess that this is the first of many for him.”