"Driving down from Los Angeles, that's when it hit me," Byrd said. "I'm an All-Star."
If there were questions whether the Cubs made a good move signing Byrd, he answered them right away. Byrd made a positive first impression on the Cubs by batting .348 in April with nine doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs. He followed that with a .333 average in June, hitting nine doubles. So far in July, he's 14-for-38 with two doubles and five RBIs.
While handling center field every day, he has been the most versatile Cubs player in the lineup. So far, he's batted everywhere but seventh and eighth, with most of his at-bats coming in the fourth and fifth spots. He can run, which works well at the top of the order, and he's been the Cubs' best hitter, which fits well into the middle of the lineup.
"He's a flexible kid who can hit [No.] 1-6 in the lineup," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
Byrd won over Cubs fans quickly, hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat against Atlanta's Derek Lowe in the April 5 Opening Day contest.
Compare that to Opening Day 2007, when Byrd was at home after being designated for assignment at the end of Spring Training by the Rangers, who chose to keep infielder Matt Kata as the 25th man. Byrd eventually was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he hit .358 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 44 games before the Rangers recalled him in May.
"Once they called him up and he started getting going, I was really impressed with him and his work ethic and his energy," said Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who was with the Rangers during Byrd's three seasons with them. "He never gave up. He said he was always working. It's been a joy to see him progress. It just shows a lot about him and his makeup as a man."
Byrd not only emerged as a front-line player with the Rangers, but also as one of their vocal leaders in the clubhouse and he brought those qualities with him to Chicago.
"Marlon is a smart player, he's a good teacher," rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin said. "It's like the little things -- he's always working. You see him get real mad if he doesn't take a good swing, even if the outcome is good. He's always wanting to go up there and hit the ball hard and have a good approach and have everything perfect."
There is also his relentless energy.
"He gives me more energy and more motivation to come to the ballpark and play hard because I see him play and I like how he plays," Chicago's Alfonso Soriano said. "He deserves [to be an All-Star] because of the way he plays. I think he's the best player on the team. He comes every day to play hard and I'm very happy for him."
The Cubs, despite Byrd's efforts, are 39-50 at the break, sitting in fourth place in the National League Central, 9 1/2 games behind the Reds. Byrd, positive and upbeat, is not giving up."We have the ability to get on a roll," Byrd said. "There is a huge gap between us and the teams we're chasing but we have the ability to catch. We've just got to catch fire and to do that, we have to go out and start playing well."