By Jeff Hartsell, Post and Courier Staff:

Justin Smoak’s breakout season will include his first berth in the All-Star Game.

Smoak, who starred in baseball at Stratford High School and at South Carolina, earned the start at first base in voting for for the American League, Major League Baseball announced Sunday.

“It’s awesome. It’s an honor,” Smoak told reporters after learning the news. “It’s something as a young kid you always dreamed of — you wanted to be an all-star in the big leagues.

“I think earlier in my career, coming up in the minor leagues and getting drafted, that’s what I expected of myself. It didn’t happen that way, but I’m here now and excited to be a part of it.”

Smoak, 30, is batting .303 with 22 home runs and 52 runs batted-in for Toronto.

“He’s had a huge first half, a big turnaround coming off of last year,” Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters. “He’s been as steady as you can be. It’s pretty impressive. To be honest, you don’t see that too often. It was a battle for him last year.

“It’s one of those feel-good stories, too.”

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