Amongst all the Canos, Hamiltons, and Beltrans of the world playing in the 2012 All-Star Game today in Kansas City, one name will stick out: Bryan LaHair. He may not be a household name amongst all baseball fans, but his story is something out of a fairy tale. It only took nine years, about 1000 games, and over 4000 plate appearances in the minors, but the Cubs first baseman/outfielder is being given a chance to showcase his talents in the Mid-Summer Classic. LaHair was selected as a reserve by National League All-Stars manager Tony La Russa, who also selected Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro to represent the Cubbies. LaHair is one of just a number of players who will be making their first appearance in the All-Star Game, but few have taken the same path as the 29 year old rookie.
Coming into this season LaHair was not even to consensus starting first baseman, as many called for Anthony Rizzo’s bat in the lineup. Rizzo is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball. Dale Sveum, however, chose to give LaHair a chance to play in the majors everyday, waiting until this past month to bring up Rizzo. LaHair has silenced all of the naysayers this season, posting a .284 average with 13 home runs and 28 runs batted in. Most recently, LaHair has made way for Rizzo, selflessly switching positions to make room for the young prospect whom many seem as the future of the Chicago organization. LaHair has switched to right field for the time being, but it remains to be seen if he will assimilate into his new position with ease. What does not need to be seen, however, is whether or not LaHair can hack it in the majors.
The left-handed slugger was taken by the Seattle Mariners in 2002 in the 39th Round out of Saint Petersburg College. From there, it took LaHair four seasons to be promoted from Single-A, eventually making it to Triple-A in 2006. He briefly appeared in the majors for the Mariners in 2008 before being released before the 2010 season. During that offseason the Cubs scooped up LaHair, signing him to a minor league deal. He made quite the splash in his two seasons at Triple-A Iowa, racking up 200 runs batted in while blasting 63 home runs.
Only time will tell if this is the first of many All-Star selections for the rookie, or if the 2012 season will simply be a fluke season for LaHair. Still, his selection gives more hope to a fan base that is currently suffering through watching a team with the worst record in baseball. If LaHair can adjust to his new position, as well as impart some wisdom from nearly a decade of playing in the minors onto Rizzo, the Cubs could be looking at a terrific duo in the lineup for years to come.
This career minor leaguer turned All-Star really does show that you never know what is going to happen in baseball. “Can’t Miss” prospects in baseball have fizzled out in the minors without ever being promoted to the big league club, and then there are players like Bryan LaHair.