Now McLouth will join the game's best in New York City in just over a week to represent the Pirates in the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
"I'm extremely grateful, and it's humbling to be mentioned among some of the names who will be there," McLouth said, following the Pirates' 11-6 loss in Milwaukee on Sunday. "There are obviously other people in here equally as worthy to be going, and I just feel honored to be chosen."
It was no secret that his teammates were lobbying for the 26-year-old McLouth to dent the All-Star roster. But the notoriety permeated outside the clubhouse, as well.
McLouth maintained a spot among the Top 15 outfielder vote-getters each week since totals began being released in late May. And though he wouldn't be voted in by the fans, his peers did the honor. Announced early Sunday afternoon, McLouth was one of eight position players elected to Rockies manager Clint Hurdle's National League squad through the players' vote.
"It's nice that he was voted in by the players," manager John Russell said. "It shows a lot of respect for what he's doing. He's having a great year. It's well-deserved."
McLouth becomes the second Pittsburgh player in the past five years to earn an All-Star invite through the players' ballot. Shortstop Jack Wilson did so back in 2004.
He also becomes the first true Pirates center fielder since Andy Van Slyke (1992-93) to be elected to an All-Star Game. The Bucs were represented by Freddy Sanchez last year.
Adding to the intrigue of McLouth's breakout season is the fact that the outfielder arrived in Bradenton, Fla., for Spring Training in February not knowing if he would be among the outfield's starting three. He quickly distanced himself from the competition (Nyjer Morgan), but it wouldn't be until the final week of March that McLouth learned he would be in the team's Opening Day starting lineup.
From there, McLouth spent no time easing into the role. He began the season by hitting in 19 straight games.
"Coming out of Spring Training, I was just grateful to get the center-field job and get to play every day," said McLouth, who has already exceeded his career high in at-bats only three months into the season. "There have obviously been some ups and downs, but I'm just thankful to be in there every day."
His batting average sat at .342 at the end of April, a month in which he belted six homers and drove in 21. The hot start, too, proved to be a statement of sorts for McLouth, who had spent the previous seven years in the organization trying to rid himself of the "fourth-outfielder" label.
|"I expect it's going to be a great event. [It's] something that's going to last a lifetime, memories that I'm going to remember forever."|
|-- Nate McLouth|
McLouth's .513 slugging percentage heading into Sunday's game was fourth best among Major League center fielders, while his RBI total as a center fielder is bettered by just one -- Texas' Josh Hamilton (57), who will be starting for the American League All-Star squad. With his three-run double in Sunday's game, McLouth now leads the league with 29.
While McLouth's numbers have trailed off somewhat since the beginning of June, the Pittsburgh outfielder still sits as the team leader with 56 RBIs. His 15 homers are second most on the team behind fellow outfielder Jason Bay. And though his batting average has dipped to .280, McLouth is still hitting .323 with runners in scoring position.
Fortunately, McLouth won't be having to change his All-Star break vacation plans. Unlike last season, when Sanchez already had a family vacation planned before learning he'd be representing the Pirates in San Francisco, McLouth had simply planned to have a low-key three days off if the invitation never came.
"I was just going to kind of hang out [in Pittsburgh]," he joked. "And now I'm going to hang out in New York."
The Midsummer Classic will be the last played at Yankee Stadium, which is set to close its doors at the end of the season. And though it's been an unfriendly venue to the Pirates -- who have gone 0-6 there in Interleague Play -- McLouth admitted he couldn't think of a better stage on which to continue his coming-out season.
"That's kind of a magical place when you're talking in terms of baseball," he said. "I expect it's going to be a great event. [It's] something that's going to last a lifetime, memories that I'm going to remember forever."
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, 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.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less