Tommy La Stella is the first Coastal Carolina alumnus to be a Major League Baseball All-Star.
La Stella was chosen as a reserve at second base for the American League team on Sunday. He was a finalist in the inaugural Google MLB All-Star Starters Election, which allowed fans to pick the starters at each position for this year’s 2019 All-Star Game on July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
The starting second base position came down to 28 hours of online voting last week from noon Wednesday to 4 p.m. Thursday.
The New Jersey native led American League second baseman in the primary voting that determined the three starting finalists, amassing more than 1.71 million votes followed by 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros with nearly 1.63 million and D.J. LeMahieu of the New York Yankees with more than 1.31 million. LeMahieu won the vote to determine the starter.
The winners at each position in the American and National leagues were unveiled on ESPN Thursday night. The pitchers and reserves in both leagues were named Sunday night.
La Stella is having a career year in his sixth MLB season and first with the Los Angeles Angels. Entering play Monday, he was hitting .304 with a career-high 16 home runs – he had just 10 homers in 396 games coming into this season – and has also posted career numbers in RBIs (44), runs (49) and total bases (140). La Stella opened a win over Cincinnati last Tuesday with an inside-the-park home run.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about, honestly,” La Stella told the Angels media relations staff about being an All-Star starter finalist. “There could’ve been some help from Chicago, which is pretty cool to think about. Whoever voted across the country, and I’m sure there are some Japanese fans who watch the game, thank you. It means a lot, not only to me but my friends and family who supported me to get to this point.”
La Stella, 30, a teammate of two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, was an eighth-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by Atlanta. After breaking into MLB in 2014 with the Braves he played from 2015-18 with the Chicago Cubs.
At CCU, he was a unanimous All-American in 2011, was named the 2011 Big South Player of the Year, a 2011 ABCA All-Region first teamer and All-Big South First Team in both 2010 and ’11.
In his two years at Coastal, La Stella hit .388 with 28 home runs, 29 doubles and 136 RBIs over 125 games played. His .650 career slugging percentage ranks first all-time in CCU history, while he also ranks third all-time in on-base percentage (.463), fifth in batting average and 11th in home runs.
Kirt Manwaring had the most successful pro career among CCU alums, with 13 years as a Major League Baseball catcher from 1987-99 that included a Gold Glove in 1993.