The Royals, for the first time in a decade, are sending more than one player to the All-Star Game and, underscoring their ongoing build-from-within approach, both are homegrown products.
Left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvy Perez were selected by the peers — other players — to serve as backups on the American League club for the July 16 game at Citi Field in New York.
“Awesome, just awesome,” Gordon said. “The last couple of years, (manager) Ned (Yost) would only announce one guy. When he announced me, I was ecstatic.
“But when he said, `He’s not going alone.’ I was blown away. To have Salvy come with me is truly an honor.”
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Gordon and Perez learned of their selection just a few minutes after Saturday’s 4-3 victory over Oakland at Kauffman Stadium, but the news was not released until the official announcement on the Fox network.
“I’m so happy right now,” Perez said. “And to get to go with Alex, it’s going to be so fun.”
It is the first selection for both players, although Gordon was one of five Final Vote participants in 2011. The Final Vote determines the last player on each roster through online balloting.
“When you’ve got two All-Stars,” Yost said, “it’s not just the obligatory one pick any more. That’s special. Two, both of these guys were voted on by their peers, which is special.”
This marks the first time since 2003 — when first baseman Mike Sweeney and closer Mike MacDougal were selected — that the Royals placed more played on the AL squad.
The Royals have not had a player voted into the starting lineup since outfielder Jermaine Dye in 2000. Designated hitter Billy Butler was the Royals’ sole representative last year for game at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s emotional when it happens,” Butler said. “It’s a milestone. It’s something that never leaves you. I’ll always be considered an All-Star. Just like (Gordon and Perez). They’ll always be considered an All-Star.
“It doesn’t matter if it happens nine times or one time. You’re an All-Star, and it’s pretty cool to have it next to your name.”
For Gordon, the honor came, perhaps fittingly, just a few hours after he returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a possible concussion suffered in Wednesday’s 6-5 victory over Cleveland.
“I was like a little kid today,” he said, “going back into the lineup.”
Gordon, 29, has been the Royals’ most consistent player throughout the season. He is batting .290 with eight homers and 46 RBIs while playing in 81 of the club’s 84 games.
Perez, 23, is batting .302 with four homers and 36 RBIs in 70 games but generally draws higher marks for his defense and pitch-calling skills. He leads the club in the WAR (wins above replacement player) metric.
“I think people are starting to take notice,” Gordon said, “not only in his hitting, but also his all-round game and how he helps our team every day.”
Perez’s selection comes just 186 games into his big-league career and just over a year after his return from major knee surgery, which limited him to 76 games in 2012.
“I didn’t think it would happen this soon,” he said. “But you know what I tell you guys, I always play hard every day. I try to do my best for my team.
“But right now, it’s still hard for me to believe I’m going to the All-Star Game.”
The Royals selected Gordon, then a third baseman, with the second overall pick in the 2005 draft after he swept all major national awards as the collegiate player of the year while a junior at Nebraska.
He was picked as the consensus minor-league player of the year in 2006 at Class AA Wichita before breaking camp in 2007 with the Royals.
After struggling through four seasons, which included numerous injuries, Gordon blossomed in 2011 in his first full season as an outfielder. He won a Gold Glove for defensive excellence in 2011 and 2012.
“I’ve had my ups and downs,” he said, “so this is pretty cool. If you’d have asked me this three years ago, I would have said, `No chance.’ Ned always says it’s something no one can ever take away from you.”
Perez is a Venezuelan native who signed with the Royals as a 16-year-old in 2006. He quickly established his catch-and-throw skills, but his bat didn’t show real potential until 2010 at Hi-A Wilmington.
The Royals promoted Perez to the majors on Aug. 10, 2011, and he marked his debut by picking off two runners at Tampa Bay.
Perez closed that season by hitting .331 in 39 games and so impressed the Royals that they signed him the following spring to a five-year contract for $7 million. The deal includes three additional club option years.
Less than three weeks later, Perez suffered torn cartilage in his left knee when his cleats caught in the dirt while he shifted in the bullpen to catch a Jonathan Sanchez warm-up pitch.
The injury sidelined Perez until June 22, but he returned with an 11-game hitting steak and finished the season with 11 homers, 39 RBIs and a .301 average in 76 games.
“Two very deserving guys,” Yost said. “Two homegrown guys. It’s special. … It’s kind of a gauge of where you’re going as an organization.”