By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The road to this year’s All-Star Game in Miami wasn’t easily found by the lone Chicago White Sox representative. Outfielder Avisail Garcia was an unlikely candidate as he entered 2017 with an underwhelming past.
“I am very happy to represent the White Sox in the All-Star game,” Garcia said Sunday upon receiving the news of the honor. “For me, this is another blessing. I have been working hard for this moment.”
Garcia’s stock had fallen to a low level after he struggled with the unfamiliar role of designated hitter in 2016. With a new lease on his baseball career entering the offseason, Garcia made a new commitment to his team and himself.
“This was about maturation for him,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We are hoping this is the beginning of something Avi can push forward and maintain some consistency throughout the rest of his career. There will be some ups and downs. For the most part, I think he is starting to understand who he is as a player.”
Patience was running thin for Garcia within the White Sox organization, with 2017 representing his last opportunity to prove himself here.
At 26, Garcia was hardly a has-been despite some lackluster development trends. The ball was in his court.
“I know I believed in myself,” Garcia said. “So I knew I would work hard to improve myself and my career. If you believe in yourself and do the work, you have the opportunity like I have now of representing the White Sox in the All -Star Game.”
Garcia always has had the talent and raw power to be a top-flight player. He made it to the big leagues with Detroit in 2012 and played in the World Series. After getting traded to Chicago in 2013, his body began to change. His outfield play slipped a bit, and his work ethic began to be questioned.
That all changed last fall.
“First of all, I lost weight,” Garcia said. “I worked very hard on my hitting. I woke up every day at 5 a.m. to go to the gym and work out. In the afternoon, I went to hit three times a week. All that work is paying off. I thank God for the opportunity. All I have to do is keep working”
The All-Star Game in Miami will be a family celebration on different levels. Garcia and his wife are expecting a new baby soon.
His whole family will be at Marlins Park to join in the fun on July 10-11.
“I always played hard in the minor leagues and going up,” Garcia said. “But now we have a manager that wants us to play hard every day. Everybody hustles. I work to improve myself, not to be like somebody (else).”
Garcia is hitting .318 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in the first half of this season.
“I was in the training room when they called us together as a team,” Garcia said about getting the good news. “When they said my name, I was really proud. Really proud. This now gives me even more motivation.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.