He led Highland to a state baseball championship, now he’s an American League All-Star

In the midst of his finest season, Highland native and Minnesota Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi has received the ultimate mid-season honor.

Currently tied for second in the American League with 10 wins, Odorizzi has been named to the American League All-Star team which will take on the National League July 9 in Cleveland.

A 2008 graduate of Highland High School, Odorizzi, 29, will be making his first all-star game appearance.

“I don’t think it’s really set in too much yet. It was a goal of mine to start the year and I’m honored to be able to be named,” Odorizzi told the Pioneer Press newspaper. “There’s a lot of deserving guys in our locker room that should be coming along, too. Hopefully they get the chance between now and then. But as a starting pitcher, it takes eight other guys and a whole locker room of support to get me to this point.”

Odorizzi, who is 10-3 and a 2.73 ERA (fourth in the AL) has been the ace of the Twins staff during the first 83 games of the season. Currently with the third best record in baseball (53-30), Minnesota holds an eight-game lead in the Central Division lover the Cleveland Indians.

Odorizzi will join Jorge Polanco as the Twins representatives for the All-Star Game.

“We’re really happy for (Polanco) and for Jake and well earned. Those guys are clearly All-Stars in my eyes and everybody’s eyes here,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was a challenging day also for some other guys because I don’t think, I truly deep down know we have more than two guys that deserve to be All-Stars. We have more than two guys that had All-Star caliber years.”

A 2008 graduate of Highland High School where he led the Bulldogs to the Class 3A IHSA state championship, Odorizzi was a first round selection of the Milwaukee Brewersin the 2008 MLB Free Agent Draft.

Odorizzi spent three years in the Milwaukee organization before being traded to Kansas City in 2011. He made his MLB debut with the Royals in2012.

Odorizzi then was traded to Tampa Bay where he played for the Devil Rays from 2013-17. Odorizzi is currently in his second season with Minnesota.

In his sixth major league season, Odorizzi has a career record of 57-31 with a 3.84 ERA in 174 career starts.

“It’s special to be selected to be anything, selected by your peers, fans, whatever it may be, but I think it’s even more special to earn a title and if we want to be where we’re at the end of the year, we would have earned what we’re trying to shoot for, so that’s the message I wanted to send to everybody,” Odorizzi said. “Earning a title is a whole lot more special as a group than an individual selection for something else.”

Odorizzi is the first metro-east native to be selected in the All-Star Game since Brighton right-handed closer Jason Isringhausen represented the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.