KANSAS CITY -- He's never been on the National League team before, but the All-Star experience isn't exactly new to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
Sure, he's a first-time All-Star. But a year ago, Altuve was also a part of the All-Star festivities as the second baseman for the World Team in the XM All-Star Futures Game. That game is designed to showcase the best and brightest of Major League Baseball's next crop of stars, and Altuve -- who started last season at Class A Advanced Lancaster, had been at Double-A Corpus Christi for only a few weeks and had maintained nearly a .400 average as a Minor Leaguer -- fit in well on that stage.
The Futures Game was Altuve's first exposure to the national media, which noticed him not so much for the hits he logged but instead for how short he was. A year later, he's still short -- 5-foot-5 -- and at 22, he's one of the youngest All-Stars. But he's getting the last laugh, serving as the Astros' lone All-Star representative at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City while standing tall next to his more experienced NL teammates.
Altuve watched the entire State Farm Home Run Derby on Monday night from the grass in front of the NL dugout and soaked it all up. He mingled with his Venezuelan countrymen while relaxing from the best seat in the house, marveling about his surroundings.
"It was something that I was waiting for," Altuve said. "I was really excited to be out on the grass there and watching those guys hit home runs. The last three Home Run Derbies, I just watched them from home, on TV. Now, I was sitting there. That was pretty cool for me."
In an Astros season that has taken a downturn in the last month, Altuve, nicknamed "Pocket Jesus," "El Chaparrito" and "Pequeno Gigante" by his adoring fanbase, remains a bright spot. He's maintained an average above .300 the entire season and provided a spark at the top of the lineup. He's also proven himself as a solid defender, pairing well with shortstop Jed Lowrie.
Through 86 games leading into the break, Altuve is hitting .303 with 20 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 27 RBIs. Given the position he plays, his small stature, his place at the top of the Astros' batting order and his popularity among fans, Altuve is unavoidably drawing comparisons to Craig Biggio.
Time will tell if Altuve will sustain the consistency needed to play 20 years of professional baseball, but at this point, he will focus on the here and now. And right now, he's here, in Kansas City.
Altuve was voted to the All-Star team by his peers, and tonight at 6:30 CT on FOX, he intends to show them they made the right pick.