MINNEAPOLIS -- Since the minute he stepped on a big league field for the first time, Jose Altuve has carried himself as a man completely comfortable with his surroundings.
It started when he was 16 and "they" -- the so-called experts evaluating him -- kept saying: "You're too little. You're too short. You could never play at the big league level."
Altuve has pretty much spent every day of the last several years proving those detractors wrong. The 5-foot-5 sparkplug finished the first 93 games heading into the All-Star break as the American League's leader in hits (130) and stolen bases (41), and he's on pace to obliterate Craig Biggio's single-season club record of 210 hits, set in 1998.
If Altuve looks completely at ease doing all of this, it's because he is. The 23-year-old is confident, and just as important, he's having fun, too.
Altuve contributed to the American League's 5-3 win over the National League on Tuesday night in the All-Star Game at Target Field, which secured home-field advantage in the World Series for the winner of the AL pennant. The Astros second baseman lifted a fly ball to left field in the fifth, scoring Alexei Ramirez to cap the AL's two-run frame.
"As soon as I hit the ball, I was really happy because I knew the run was coming to home plate," Altuve said. "I did my part, played hard and I feel really good because we won the game."
He also made a couple of slick plays in the field after entering the game in the fifth as a replacement for starting second baseman Robinson Cano.
Altuve slid into the three-hole, and after some initial butterflies, he settled in to view this as just another day at the office.
"The first pitch, there were [nerves]," he said. "After that, it's the same game."
Altuve, like the rest of his AL teammates, had a front-row seat for the Derek Jeter farewell. The significance of the ovation from the crowd as the Yankees shortstop exited his 14th and final All-Star Game had quite an impact on Altuve, who was grateful for the access to this particular part of history.
"It was exciting, seeing him coming out of the game, and people didn't stop applauding him," Altuve said. "He's The Captain, one of the best players ever in the big leagues. I think he didn't deserve anything different than what he received."
After the game, Altuve said he was headed straight to Chicago, where his club will open the second half with the first of a three-game set with the White Sox on Friday.
The 2014 season appears to be shaping up to be quite the breakout year for the two-time All-Star. He has maintained a fierce work ethic, a revamped diet and an unshakeable confidence, and has turned himself into one of the true elite players in the game.
Biggio is the only Astro in history to record 200 hits in a season, but if Altuve keeps up this pace, he'll outhit his second-base predecessor by at least six hits by the time the season ends.
It's a tall order, sure, but as Altuve continues to show every day he takes the field, size really doesn't matter.