Brandon Belt said he was tentatively planning to spend the All-Star break back home in Texas. That has been his routine the past few years, spending time with friends and family he hasn’t seen for months and watching the All-Star Game.
“I have dreamed about being there a time or two,“ Belt said of the Midsummer Classic. “And it’s finally a dream come true.”
Belt, the Giants’ first baseman, is heading to San Diego after he won the fan vote for the final spot on this year’s National League team. Results released Friday showed that Belt received 10.4 million votes, edging Pirates outfielder Starling Marte and three other candidates. It is Belt’s first All-Star selection in his sixth major-league season.
The “Final Vote” process, in which fans could cast unlimited ballots, led teams and fans to flood social media the past few days to support their preferred player. Belt said he’d heard the N.L. race would be close – Marte led at times – but he did not follow the voting too closely until right before results were announced Friday afternoon.
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“I was pretty nervous there toward the end,” Belt said. “Lost my appetite a little bit, had some stomach rumblings.”
As a result, Belt didn’t finish the burger he’d ordered for lunch at a Lafayette restaurant (“And deviled eggs,” he added, “that didn’t help either”). On his way home, Belt said, he and his wife started getting congratulatory texts from friends and family. One of the first came from the wife of fellow All-Star Madison Bumgarner.
“Extremely excited, obviously,” Belt said. “It’s hard to put into words. I just can’t believe that I’m an All-Star this year. It’s pretty cool, especially if you step back and think about how many fans voted and how many times they voted, how many messages of how their thumbs were numb. It’s pretty overwhelming to think about.”
Belt did his own part to earn an All-Star nod. He enters the final series of the first half on Friday batting .300 with 10 home runs, 46 RBIs and a league-leading 27 doubles. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .917 is almost 100 points higher than his career average and ranks 12th among N.L. position players and third among first basemen behind Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs and Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks.
Both those players are All-Stars – Rizzo voted a starter by fans and Goldschmidt voted in by players – and Padres first baseman Wil Myers was named to the team by manager Terry Collins as San Diego’s lone representative, which creates a logjam at the position. The final vote allowed Belt to join Giants teammates Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Buster Posey on the N.L. team.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It was good to see him make the club. I know he’s just ecstatic, as he should be. We’re very, very proud of him.”
Bochy joked that Belt “owes me – I actually put a couple (of) votes in myself.”
Belt said he was very aware of the outpouring of support that he received from fans and teammates on social media during the voting process. Outfielder Hunter Pence posted a video on Twitter urging fans to vote. Belt said he saw a lot of tweets from fans “saying their fingers were going to fall off” from voting so much.
“And ones drawing pictures of giraffes,” he said. “Those were pretty cool.”
Belt had apparently also perused the interactive map that Major League Baseball posted on its website, showing the voting totals by county. In Belt’s home county of Angelina, Texas, he received a solid 96.9 percent of the vote.
Support was more tepid in nearby Nacogdoches County, where Belt was born. He pulled just 51.6 percent of the vote.
“Extremely disappointed in Nacogdoches County,” Belt deadpanned. “Honestly I thought I meant more to you than that.”
It still beat Belt’s showing in Canada, where he was last among the five N.L. candidates at 11.6 percent.
“Canada hates me,” Belt said. “I love Canada. I don’t know what the deal is. But they do not like me, and I’m not sure what happened. I love Shania Twain.”
On a more serious note, Belt was asked if being named an All-Star provided him with a measure of validation. Belt could be an oddly polarizing figure among Giants fans early in his career. He was fast-tracked through the minors, playing only one full season before debuting with the Giants in 2011. He initially resisted a repositioning of his hands in his batting stance that led to a minor breakthrough when he eventually embraced it.
Earlier this season, Belt talked about adopting a more patient and selective approach at the plate that he credited with increasing his walk rate and cutting down his strikeouts. Entering Friday, had walked 49 times – just seven from his career high – and struck out 64 times after setting a career high with 147 last season.
It’s one adjustment that has led Belt to his best season so far as a major-leaguer – and his first All-Star nod.
“I’ve put in a lot of work, and the coaching staff and even teammates have put in a lot of work with me,” Belt said. “This is for them as much as it is for me. There’s a lot of people working hard to make you be successful. I just appreciate the organization having a lot of faith in me, appreciate the coaches and teammates having a lot of faith in me. It is kind of nice to have this right now.”