Church looking for first All-Star bid

Church looking for first All-Star bid

NEW YORK -- For those still uneasy about the trade that sent Lastings Milledge to the Nationals in exchange for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church, consider this: Church not only made it onto this year's All-Star ballot, but he might even make it onto the team. He has performed -- or so the statistics say -- as well as any right fielder in baseball.

He'll have stiff competition on the ballot, of course, as will the rest of his Mets teammates. Every last one of them. Indeed, all eight Mets regulars -- including Moises Alou, who missed the first three weeks of this season recovering from hernia surgery, but excluding Angel Pagan, who had the greatest number of starts in his place -- earned spots on this year's All-Star ballot, which Major League Baseball released on Tuesday.

The 79th Midsummer Classic on July 15 will be the fourth held at Yankee Stadium and the eighth in New York City. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, 1960 and 1977; the Polo Grounds held the game in 1934 and 1942; Ebbets Field was the site in 1949; and Shea Stadium hosted the 1964 Midsummer Classic.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Wednesday, July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Balloting at Shea Stadium will begin Wednesday and continue through June 25.

Starting rosters will be announced during the 2008 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on Sunday, July 6. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com.

And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com.

The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.

Considering Church's struggles in his early days as a Met -- he hit .236 in Spring Training, and fared even worse against left-handers -- a place on the All-Star ballot might have been one of the last things on his mind. Yet Church had legitimate excuses, missing time in Spring Training first due to a mild concussion, then due to the birth of his first child.

"It's a process," he said at the time, defending his hitting all spring long. "I just have to stick to it and not get frustrated and hope it starts to click when the games count."

He did, and perhaps better than the Mets could have imagined. Now four weeks into the season, Church has nudged his team-leading average up to .322, with 16 RBIs and 20 runs scored. Only Chris Young of the Diamondbacks has scored more runs among National League outfielders, and until Church's 0-for-4 performance on Sunday, only Pat Burrell of the Phillies and Xavier Nady of the Pirates had compiled higher averages.

Batting against left-handers -- his greatest reported weakness coming into the season -- Church has produced at a .364 clip. Both of his home runs have come against lefties.

Still, although no other Met has matched Church's production this April, some of his teammates might have an easier run to the All-Star Game. David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, all All-Stars a year ago, should contend for roster spots yet again.

Wright has been the most successful of that trio to date, hitting .292 with four home runs, four stolen bases and 21 RBIs. Coming off his most successful season as a pro, he remains as close to a lock to make the team as anyone in the NL.

Beltran and Reyes, both perennial All-Stars themselves, haven't enjoyed their typical successes so far this year. Beltran has batted only .224, with two home runs and 13 RBIs. And Reyes, coming off a disappointing and widely criticized September, hasn't come close to rebounding. He's hitting only .237 with 12 runs scored and five stolen bases -- four of them within the past nine days. Yet with as much talent as any leadoff man in the league -- and enough popularity to match -- Reyes could easily still make the team.

And as Beltran noted earlier this month, "no one else makes us better like he does."

Beltran is the voice of wisdom as far as All-Star Games go, having participated in each of the last four. Only Alou, whose injury should prevent him from contending for a spot, has been to more, though he went to the most recent of his five All-Star Games back in 2005.

Also on this year's ballot for the Mets are Schneider, Luis Castillo and Carlos Delgado, who hasn't been to the All-Star Game since he was with the Blue Jays back in 2003.

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