BOSTON - Through consecutive last-place finishes in 2014 and 2015, the Red Sox waited for a core of homegrown players to develop at the big league level.
One changed positions twice. Another learned how to play a position he had only played for a short period of time in the minors. A third was twice demoted to the minor leagues as he struggled to hit.
But Tuesday provided some validation that the three were worth the wait, as shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and outfielder Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. were elected as starters to the American League All-Star team.
"I think,'' said manager John Farrell, "in the years to come, we'll look back on this year as the first of many for probably three of these guys.''
The annual All-Star Game will take place next Tuesday, July 12, in San Diego's Petco Park.
"I'd be lying if I said I never dreamed about it,'' said Betts, who patrol the outfield with Bradley and Mike Trout. "For it to come true is definitely a blessing. Just making the team is special, but to be a starter makes it that much more sweet. I'm just going to go have fun and enjoy it.''
"It's a special feeling,'' said Bradley of the news. "It's an honor and I'm excited. I'm looking forward to being out there with all the guys, some of the best players in the world. I think it's going to be a great experience and something I'm looking forward to.''
"I'm pretty excited,'' said Bogaerts, "and more so because we have a lot of teammates going with us. We've all been having a great year, all of us, from top to bottom of the lineup, and anyone of us could have made it with the numbers. I'm thankful I was one of those guys.''
The three represent the young core of the current Red Sox team, and can reasonably be expected to continue to improve. Bogaerts and Betts are just 23 and Bradley, the only one of the three to play at the college level, is 26.
As established as they are, each had obstacles to overcome en route to stardom.
Betts was scouted, drafted and signed as a second baseman, but with Dustin Pedroia locked in at second base and the Red Sox needing some outfield help, Betts learned how to play the position quickly in Portland and Pawtucket.
"It just shows how much work I put in,'' said Betts. "I go out and do a bunch of work in the outfield and try to be the best that I can be. I think it shows it's starting to pay off.
Bradley, meanwhile, had his own challenges. He hit under .200 in 2014, and didn't gain regular playing time until August of last season as he battled to be a more consistent offensive performer.
"I've been through a lot of adversity,'' said Bradley. "I honestly think that shows that I'm willing to go through it and put the work in and keep moving forward. You definitely can't let someone tell you that you can't do (something). You've got to go out there and work for it. Anything is possible as long as you're willing to put the work in and stay focused.''
Despite the challenges he faced, Bradley insisted that he never got discouraged. "You can't be discouraged,'' said Bradley. "Like I said earlier, I went through a lot, whether it was physically, mentally, emotionally...Those kind of things you can't forget. You either use it to your advantage or you can sulk. I didn't think (sulking) was an option for me.''
Bogaerts found himself shuttled between shortstop and third base in 2014, seemingly uncomfortable at both positions. But last year, he began to emerge as a more confident player and this year, he's blossomed into a star.
He's also elected at a position filled with some of the best young players in the American League, including Cleveland's Francisco Lindor and Houston's Carlos Correa.
"If you look at the shortstops right now in the big leagues, it's pretty packed (with talented players),'' he said. "American League, National League, it's pretty good overall and it's a huge honor to be part of it.''