NL All-Star roster
OAKLAND -- Although he says he doesn't care if he makes the team or not, it's hard to believe that just getting to be one of the final five players nominated for the 32nd spot on the AL All-Star team is good enough for Eric Byrnes.
"It would mean a whole lot," Byrnes said. "Obviously, the All-Star Game is something that every kid dreams of going to and for me, it's not any different. At the same time, my dream was also to play in the Major Leagues, and just being here and doing that and focusing on winning baseball games here is more important to me.
"It'd be the coolest thing in the world, but I really don't care."
Judging by the way he plays, it's hard to believe Byrnes can have any apathy related to the game.
Byrnes, who had to work just to earn a spot on the A's roster to start the season, has seen his stature go from roster-maybe to bench player, to substitute to full-time player.
Now it could be time it's time to add another title -- All-Star.
Byrnes is a candidate for the etopps All-Star Final Vote, in which five players in each league the were nominated by 2003 All-Star Game managers Dusty Baker and Mike Scioscia in conjunction with Major League Baseball. Fans can vote here at www.oaklandathletics.com or www.MLB.com and can select one player for each league.
The title of All-Star fits a player who has been Oakland's best and most consistent hitter in 2003. Byrnes has been in the AL top 10 in batting through most of the season after taking over for an injured Jermaine Dye in the outfield in April.
A surprising turn of events for the A's and their fans, but not for Byrnes.
"I always believed in my mind that I could be this type of player at this level," Byrnes said after becoming the 16th player in A's history to hit for the cycle on June 29. "It was just a matter of getting the opportunity."
It's no surprise that Byrnes has grabbed opportunity by the horns -- after all, there are few players that work harder or love the game more than this Bay Area native.
There are few sure things in baseball, but around the A's clubhouse, there are definitely two. One is manager Ken Macha stating that he's "At the top of his game," the second is Byrnes showing up early to get extra work in.
From early in Spring Training to the day after he went for the cycle, reporters and stadium workers showing up to the yard early are guaranteed to see the hard-charging outfielder out getting in some extra hitting or working on his throws with coach Brad Fischer.
"All the credit goes to him. The amount of work he's put in defensively and offensively has really prepared him to take over this thing," Macha said of Byrnes' success. "His heart is so big and his desire to succeed so great that he did all this work to improve himself in the field and at bat and he's done what he's done."
Byrnes' heart can sometimes put him into positions that make Macha and A's trainer Larry Davis cringe. Playing Oakland's center field like a Raiders free safety, Byrnes isn't afraid to crash into a wall, the ground or his own players to get a ball.
No matter how much attention he gets, according to Byrnes, this is the way he will always play.
"Ask anyone who has watched me play in Little League, the minor leagues or winter ball in the Dominican Republic. There's no difference. I go all-out on the field the same way I do in life," Byrnes said.
I've always played that way, whether it was football, baseball or basketball. Even karate -- I was really into karate until I was about 12 -- but I'd always get disqualified for hitting people in the head. I guess I was a little too aggressive about that."
Now if Byrnes is going to show off that aggressiveness on a national stage, A's fans will have to get to work and get the vote in. The etopps All-Star Final Vote ends on Wednesday, July 9 at 3 p.m. PT.
Winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Kent Schacht is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.