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For Ensberg, a whirlwind All-Star trip

For Ensberg, a whirlwind All-Star trip

DETROIT -- About two hours after the Houston Astros finished a three-game sweep over the Dodgers on Sunday, Morgan and Christi Ensberg were in a cab on their way to the airport, set to begin their short vacation in Lake Tahoe. The Ensbergs were looking forward to the trip to their favorite vacation spot, which also happens to be where they got married in September of 2000.

They were about a mile from the airport when Morgan's cell phone rang. It was Astros general manager Tim Purpura.

"Congratulations," Purpura said. "You're an All-Star."

"I was kind of like, what?" Ensberg said. "'Tim, what are you talking about?' It was really a surprise. I had no idea what to think."

That's probably a good thing, because he didn't have much time to think. The first order of business was to turn the car around and head to Minute Maid Park, where Morgan could pick up his baseball equipment. Then he had to call former teammate Scott Linebrink and his wife, who were planning to join the Ensbergs in Tahoe. Then he needed to make travel arrangements to get to Detroit.

So Ensberg was likely truthful when he said the real appreciation for making his first All-Star team would come at a later time. He had only a short time to let the good news sink in, considering Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen didn't make the decision until Sunday to rest his weary left shoulder during the break, instead of going to Detroit as an NL starter.

That Ensberg made it to Detroit is a fitting conclusion to a week-long soap opera surrounding the third baseman and his All-Star snub. Statistically, he's one of the top third basemen in the league this year. But on paper, the voters had other ideas. The fans voted in Rolen, and the players and manager voted for the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez.

Twenty-four homers sure doesn't get you as far as it used to. There was quite an outcry in Houston as fans and media lamented the omission of the Astros' leading RBI man.

"I think it makes you feel good that people were upset about it," Ensberg said. "But I understand how the system works. I've said Scott Rolen is the best third baseman in the league. He got in, and he was chosen as the All-Star, and that's the way the system works.

All-Star Game 2005

"I knew that of either Aramis or myself or Troy Glaus -- it was probably going to be one guy and two guys were going to be sitting back."

Until very recently, Ensberg figured he would be one sitting back. He's thrilled to be in Detroit, but perhaps not as much as his teammates who are also here for the first time.

"For me, it was really important that he was here," Astros closer Brad Lidge said. "This game wasn't going to be complete without him. It's my first one, so I don't know a whole lot about it, but all I know is he should be here, and I'm glad he is."

"He deserves it as much as anybody," Roy Oswalt said. "He's been carrying our team on the offensive side all year. He's picked up what we lost from the big guys. He deserves to be here."

Understandably, the Astros' All-Stars have been thinking about more pressing issues lately. No one could have imagined the club would finish the first half with a winning record, considering not long ago they were 15-30, a season-high 15 games under .500.

But a frenetic last-minute push jettisoned them from fifth place in the NL Central to second, behind only the Cardinals.

No so surprisingly, Ensberg's offensive tear arrived right about the same time as the winning trend. Not one to tout personal accomplishments, Ensberg's satisfaction about his All-Star status stems mostly from the notion that his performance contributed to several Astros wins.

"I'm very excited, I'm very happy," he said. "But the focus has been on, first of all, that we were doing so poorly early on. You're trying to get your team out of the cellar. Our team's been so concerned with doing the little things and getting those wins.

"I don't think too much on the individual accolades. But, over time, I will look back and say, 'That was a really special time.'"

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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