By George Bremer The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — The pain of an All-Star Game snub in 2009 has lingered with Adam Lind.
The former Highland star had a breakout season for the Toronto Blue Jays that year, batting .305 with 35 home runs and 114 RBIs. He won a Silver Slugger Award and the Edgar Martinez Award in the postseason to recognize his contributions as a designated hitter.
But the All-Star Game that season was played in a National League park, and there was no DH included on the roster. As a result, Lind couldn't be voted in by the fans. And Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon — the skipper of the American League squad — repeatedly passed him over for position players.
Much has changed in the past four years.
The All-Star Game will be played next month in another National League ballpark — the New York Mets' Citi Field — but a new rule adopted in 2010 mandates the use of the DH each year no matter which league hosts the game.
Lind also is eligible now as a first baseman, having begun playing the position after a move from left field in 2010.
But one important thing is beginning to take on a very familiar feel. Lind's bat is starting to heat up again after three seasons of injuries and inconsistency.
The Blue Jays slugger is about 14 at-bats shy of eligibility for the AL batting crown, but his .344 average would rank second in the league after Monday's play.
Lind entered Monday with a .439 batting average in June, and he leads the majors in hitting since May 7. All eight of his homers and 21 of his 24 RBIs have come after the first month of the season — during which he hit a dismal .244 — and his strikeout ratio is at a career low.
"It's kinda scary, isn't it?," Lind's father, Al, said during a recent telephone interview. "He looks loose at the plate. He's getting the back spin on the ball, and he's hitting line drives."
Lind's hot streak neatly coincides with the birth of his second child and first son — Louie — on April 24. Toronto was on a road trip in Baltimore at the time, and Lind arrived 45 minutes late for the birth.
Nearly everything, it seems, has gone right since.
The original plan was for Lind to play exclusively as a DH this year and only against right-handed pitchers. But as his bat heated up, he forced manager John Gibbons to get creative.
When the team went on a West Coast road trip to National League parks earlier this month — taking away the DH option — Gibbons moved Edwin Encarnacion from first to third base and began playing Lind at first. Shortly thereafter, Lind returned to the clean-up spot in the batting order.
He's responded with his best stretch of offense since his 2009 heroics.
"He always seemed to be more in the game, more in tuned to it, when he's playing first, too," Al Lind said.
The move also gives his father twice the options to get Lind into the All-Star Game. He's listed as a first baseman on the online ballot at mlb.com, but Al has been giving his son write-in votes as a DH on half the ballots he casts.
Now, he's starting a grassroots movement to get Anderson baseball fans to do the same.
The city hasn't had a major league All-Star since Carl Erskine represented the Brooklyn Dodgers as a National League pitcher in 1954. And the odds are stacked against Lind.
Popular and productive Detroit slugger Prince Fielder stands in his way at first base, and the Blue Jays' relative lack of exposure south of the Canadian border does little to help Lind's cause.
But his solid numbers so far this season are a reward within themselves.
Then-Toronto manager Cito Gaston told Lind following his monster 2009 season that pitchers and defenses would adjust, and he needed to do the same.
After a few years of battling himself, Lind found a groove with former teammate and current hitting coach Chad Mottola during a brief demotion last season to Triple-A.
He's reinvented himself this season by doing less. He's hitting the ball where it's pitched, instead of trying to pull it in search of home runs.
"He had to go through his trials and tribulations after he won the Silver Slugger, trying to be a home run hitter," Al Lind said. "But he's calm now. He's poised and settled in the batter's box."
Online voting Fans can vote for the American and National League All-Stars throughout the end of the month at www.mlb.com.