Braves right fielder Nick Markakis will walk through the clubhouse doors at Nationals Park next month and into a world he surely has dreamed about at least a time or two. Those who've taken that walk say the emotions range from powerful to just short of overwhelming.
From Tony Gwynn to Derek Jeter to Cal Ripken, players remember the sights and sounds of their first All-Star Game. No matter how many they're chosen for, there's no thrill quite like the first one.
Would this latest brick in the wall signal that Markakis has truly arrived as a Major League player? Nope. Of course not. He long ago established himself as one of baseball's consummate professionals and consistent producers. Two Gold Gloves and a career .780 OPS entering this season are a testament to plenty.
That he never sought the spotlight -- and that's an understatement -- only makes the honor of his first All-Star Game at 34 even sweeter. The Braves have been one of baseball's feel-good stories this season, and Markakis is having his best season.
Baseball's Midsummer Classic has produced 33 first-time All-Stars the last five seasons, but Markakis is unique because of his age and experience. But there'll be lots of other first-timers in Washington.
Let's consider 10 who are deserving:
He began this season having played 12 seasons and 1,839 games with a career .288 batting average. He has upped his game in all sorts of ways, as he sits at or near the top of the National League in both hits and batting average.
2. Eugenio Suarez, Reds 3B
Unlike two other NL third basemen, Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant, Suarez isn't a lock to even make the squad. But he deserves it. Only Arenado has better numbers across the board among those at his position.
3. Scooter Gennett, Reds 2B
That he's 28 years old and began this season with a .283 batting average in 597 career games only makes this terrific season a better story. He leads NL second basemen in an array of offensive categories, including batting average (by a wide margin)
4. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox LF
Get used to seeing this guy in All-Star Games. This will be the first of many. At 23, he has been labeled a future star since the Red Sox made him the seventh pick of the 2015 Draft. He made his debut as a 22-year-old in 2016 and has rarely looked overmatched. Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are the American League's two best outfielders, but Benintendi is right there with Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez in the next group.
5. Trevor Bauer, Indians RHP
He, too, was a can't-miss prospect from the moment the Diamondbacks made him the third overall pick of the 2011 Draft. His path to stardom hasn't been a straight line, as he was traded from Arizona to Cleveland, and has struggled with controlling his stuff, which is among the best in the game. In his sixth season with the Indians, he's having a breakthrough season as part of what may be baseball's best rotation.
6. Aaron Nola, Phillies RHP
The Phillies drafted him in 2014 and had him in the big leagues the next season. He has gotten progressively better, and this season has emerged as a true ace and part of why the Phillies have been one of baseball's most surprising teams.
7. Josh Hader, Brewers RHP
He made his Major League debut 12 months ago, despite being traded by the Orioles in 2013 and the Astros in 2015 in Trade Deadline acquisitions. Given a chance to pitch at the back of the Milwaukee bullpen, his numbers look like they're out of a video game.
8. James Paxton, Mariners LHP
He has been arguably one of baseball's top five starting pitchers since the 2017 All-Star break, having polished a cutter to go with his 96-mph fastball. He has allowed more than two earned runs in a start only once since late April. He has a 1.75 ERA in his last eight starts and has helped lead the Mariners into contention in the AL West.
9. Mike Foltynewicz, Braves RHP
At 26, he has emerged as a top-of-the-rotation presence. He has made 13 starts and allowed more than two earned runs once. He has pitched at least five innings 12 times and gone at least six in three of his last four. He's fifth among NL starters with a 2.31 ERA and sixth with 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
10. Andrelton Simmons, Angels SS
He makes the difficult plays look so routine that his brilliance is easy to overlook. His name is dotted along the AL leaderboard in a variety of categories, but he isn't a slam dunk for his first All-Star Game because he's playing a position that also has Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa bidding for All-Star selections.