Heath Bell is now 'kind of a big deal'

Heath Bell is now 'kind of a big deal'

There's an easy explanation for why Padres closer Heath Bell made the Major League Baseball All-Star team

"I just love playing baseball," Bell said. "I still have fun to this day. I'm 31 years-old and I'm still having a blast everyday coming to the ballpark. I come here as early as I can and stay as late as possible just because I have a blast doing this."

The 2009 season could not be going any better.It started when Bell reported to spring training 30 pounds lighter - thanks to a hula-hoop regimen on his Nintendo Wii Fit.

Then, he earned a spot on Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.

Now, he leads the National League with 23 saves.

The padres hoped bell would grow into the closer's role to replace all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, but few could have predicted an All-Star season.

"He came in with a lot of high expectations because of Trevor and he's handled it great from first day of spring training until now," said Padres manager Bud Black. "I'm very proud of him. He's pitched his tail off."

"He deserves it," said outfielder Chase Headley. "It was really exciting to see a guy that gets his first chance to go to the All-Star Game. He's had a tough role to step into this year and he's done a tremendous job for us and we're extremely proud of him and we're happy for him and we'll be watching."

Bell has a true underdog story. He only played one year of high school varsity baseball and he had to go to an open tryout, just to make a professional team. So he says his story could be used as inspiration for anybody.

"Yeah, definitely because I just perservered and I never gave up," Bell said. "I mean, there's numerous times that I could have given up through the minor leagues or after high school or after college, you know, I wasn't drafted. I could have said, you know it just wasn't in the cards but I just perservered and kept going and believed in myself and now I'm an All-Star in the major leagues right now."

He couldn't help but smile when he said that.Oh, and the shirt he was wearing said a lot too. It read: I'm kind of a big deal around here.

Not just a big deal, an All-Star.