ATLANTA -- When the Braves announced the Kevin Milwood trade to Philadelphia 18 months ago, the mention of Johnny Estrada's name was followed by the question, "and who else?"
His name now can be preceded by the term "All-Star" as the Atlanta catcher will be the team's lone representative at this year's Midsummer Classic, which will be played on July 13 at Houston's Minute Maid Park.
Because Mets catcher Mike Piazza once again received the most votes in fan balloting, he'll get the starting assignment for the National League All-Stars. The 2,296,667 votes cast for Piazza enabled him to surpass Carlton Fisk as the all-time leading vote-getter among catchers.
Estrada was honored that his selection had come because he garnered more votes in balloting done among Major League players, managers and coaches than any other NL catcher.
"That says a lot," Estrada said. "I didn't know how good I had been playing or how the other players thought about me. It's nice to be honored like that."
In his first year as a full-time starter in the Majors, Estrada's peers have quickly realized both his vast offensive and defensive potential. His 297 votes in the Player Balloting easily outdistanced the Dodgers Paul Lo Duca, who ranked second with 203 votes.
"I just came into this season wanting to be a solid Major League player," Estrada said. "It's nice to be respected like that by the other players and coaches around the league."
Braves general manager John Schuerholz and Hall of Famer Don Sutton, a longtime team announcer, were among many members of the team's personnel who approached Estrada on Sunday afternoon with this message, "Congratulations, Johnny. You deserve it."
Estrada's .484 (30-for-62) batting average with runners in scoring position leads the Majors and his 43 RBIs rank second on the team only to J.D. Drew.
"He's pretty much been our most consistent player all year, while playing a tough position where you get beat up a lot," Braves hurler Mike Hampton said. "It's definitely good for him because he deserves it."
Estrada leads NL catchers in batting average and RBIs, and his .864 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), ranks second only to Piazza.
While at Triple-A Richmond last year, Estrada produced a .328 batting average that ranked second in the International League. This year, he has proven that he has the ability to have the same kind of success on the Major League level.
"It's an honor to be mentioned as one of the best catchers in the league," Estrada said. " It hasn't completely hit me yet. I'm sure it will later tonight."
Estrada, whose most extensive Major League action previous to this season came when he appeared in 89 games for the 2001 Phillies, has been a model of consistency. He sandwiched a .357 May batting average, in between a .323 mark in April and a .333 average in June.
Johnny Estrada / C
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R
While Estrada's inclusion came without surprise, Drew's exclusion is somewhat disappointing considering his OPS (1.040) and slugging percentage (.615) rank second among NL outfielders, behind only Barry Bonds.
This marks the first time since the 1991 season that the Braves have had just one All-Star selection. They sent a team-record seven players to last year's Midsummer Classic.
"That's the way it goes," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "J.D. deserved to be on the team. But there's only so many slots available."
In his first season with the Braves, Drew has shown that, when healthy, he one of the game's finest all-around talents. In addition to his 52 RBIs, the 28-year-old right fielder also leads the Braves with 19 homers, which puts him on pace to shatter his previous career-high (27) set in 2001.
Drew has also further proved to be one of the game's finest defenders. His speed gives him great range and his strong arm has enabled him to record seven assists, which ties him for second among NL outfielders.
"It would have been a great honor," Drew said. "It takes a great year to be in the All-Star Game. But it's not like I'm just going to go out and quit playing hard now."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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