The hardest part was keeping things under wraps.
Word that Brock Holt had been tapped to represent the Red Sox in next week’s All-Star game got to Sox manager John Farrell not long after the Sox’s come-from-behind win over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
The clubhouse was still full of media, but the official announcement of All-Star reserves wasn’t due out until Monday night.
As discreetly as he could, Farrell called Holt into his office.
“He had to kind of hold his excitement back too because we had a lot of media in the clubhouse at the time,” Holt said.
The first thing Farrell told Holt was congratulations.
The Sox have a clubhouse littered with All-Stars — from Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz to Hanley Ramirez and Mike Napoli.
But Holt will be a first-timer, and more than that, his path was a unique one.
A year ago, Holt wasn’t even on the Sox’ Opening Day roster.
It wasn’t for lack of ability. Farrell was impressed with Holt in spring training, but with Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore, and Shane Victorino already in the outfield, finding room for Holt was difficult.
“They told me they liked me a lot and I’d have a chance to make the team that year,” Holt said. “Obviously it didn’t work out.”
But Holt found a way to make it work by working anywhere the team needed him to. When the Sox called him up in mid-April to fill in at third base while Will Middlebrooks dealt with a calf injury, Holt made a superutility role for himself by not just playing third but playing wherever he could.
By the end of the season, Holt played every position except pitcher and catcher over the course of 106 games and it allowed him to hit .281 with four homers and 29 RBIs.
Farrell always knew how valuable Holt’s versatility was, but the All-Star nod this season only validated it.
“He just called me in and said congratulations you’re going to go to Cincinnati for the All-Star Game and he said he was proud of me and what I was able to do,” Holt said.
There was still a matter of keeping it a secret for 24 hours until Major League Baseball made the announcement official. Holt told his wife and parents, who happened to be in town. But when he made his entrance into Jillian’s & Lucky Strike Lanes to support the third annual Buchholz Bowl fund-raiser for his teammate Clay Buchholz, he played things coyly with the media.
“It’s been hard not to say anything, to keep it inside,” Holt said.
But once word was official, the well wishes poured in.
Dustin Pedroia was the first to shoot Holt a text. Buchholz came up to Holt to give him a hug.
“They’re just as happy for me, probably, as I am,” Holt said.
Holt had gone the past three months without the thought of the All-Star Game crossing his mind.
In his first start of the season on April 11, when he was plugged into center field to give Mookie Betts a day off after an 19-inning marathon against the Yankees, he went 4 for 5 in the leadoff spot.
The next day, he got into the game late at second base. Two days later he was at shortstop. The day after that he was playing third. Three days later he was back in center field.
Initially, it was out of necessity. Then, it became Holt’s niche. Then, it made him an All-Star.
“It’s crazy, man,” Holt said. “Honestly, never expected to be playing outfield in the major leagues or first base in the major leagues or even third base because I’d never played it until I came to the Red Sox.”
Even if he’s been shuffled around the field, Farrell’s had to find a spot for him in the lineup. his .295 average, .383 on-base percentage, and 30 runs scored have been a stimulus package at the top of the order for a team trying to climb out of last place.
The apex of Holt’s season came last month when he hit for the cycle against the Braves. He became the first Red Sox player to hit for the cycle since John Valentin in 1996.
There’s an outside chance Xander Bogaerts will join him at the Great American Ballpark. He’s one of five AL players chosen for the Final Vote, which allows fans to determine the final roster spot.
“That would be huge,” Holt said. “I know Xander. He’s been one of our most consistent players on both sides of the ball all year. He’s been unbelievable both offensively and defensively all year.’’
Either way, Holt said, he’ll be ready for anything, the same as always.
“I’m going to go and prepare like anywhere else,” Holt said. “I’m going to take my outfielder’s glove, take my infielder’s glove and go from there.”
. . .
Holt isn’t the only unlikely All-Star. Less than three months after making his major league debut, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is an All-Star, one of two rookies selected along with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson.
But there was no room on the roster for Alex Rodriguez, enjoying a renaissance in his return to the Yankees following a season-long drug suspension.
Baseball also announced that Albert Pujols of the Angels will start at first base for the AL in place of Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who injured a calf muscle Friday. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen will start in the NL outfield instead of Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who broke his hand on June 26.
He’s open to participating in the Home Run Derby.
‘‘It’s all happened so quick. I’ve just been having so much fun with this, my baseball career,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘Right now, it’s a pretty special feeling for me.’’
Washington outfielder Bryce Harper, a three-time All-Star at age 22, is the youngest on either team, but he’s passing on the Home Run Derby because his father isn’t available to pitch to him following shoulder surgery.