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Quiet getaway becomes All-Star adventure

DETROIT -- Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg had it all mapped out for All-Star week. He was planning to catch a flight out of Houston on Sunday afternoon with his wife, Christi, and they were going to spend three days in Lake Tahoe at the waterfront cabin where they had their wedding in 2000.

"It's great," Ensberg said. "There's no TV, so I sit there and read and decompress in the same place where I got married."

The game plan changed at 4 p.m. Sunday, when Ensberg, just a mile from the Houston airport in his car, received a call from Astros general manager Tim Purpura telling him his dream vacation would have to wait. Another, wholly separate dream scenario had intervened.

"Congratulations," Purpura told him. "You're an All-Star."

After several days lugging around the designation of "most outrageous All-Star snub,'' Ensberg got a reprieve and a last-minute itinerary change to Detroit. It happened when St. Louis' Scott Rolen, chosen by fans to start at third base for the National League, pulled out of the All-Star Game on the advice of Cardinals medical personnel who told him he might be best served resting his sore right shoulder.

Ensberg was the obvious Plan B. He leads all big-league third basemen with 24 homers and ranks second to the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez at the position with 65 RBI and a combined on-base slugging percentage of .983. Ensberg has also emerged as a leader for a young Houston team that's won 28 of its last 40 games to pass the .500 mark and go from afterthought to upstart wild-card contender.

Credentials weren't a problem for Ensberg. The problem was, he might have been the least prepared All-Star in the history of the event.

"I was going to Lake Tahoe in a pair of flip-flops, and I packed a bunch of board shorts," Ensberg said. "I don't even know if I brought a shirt.

"When Tim gave me the news I was like, 'How am I going to get to Detroit? I don't even have any of my baseball stuff.' So I had to turn around and head back to the park and get it. It's been non-stop ever since," he said.

Ensberg, one of the more cerebral and articulate ballplayers you'll meet, had planned to read the bestseller "Freakonomics" during his three days of down time. He'll have to scratch those plans. But at least he can take solace in knowing the cabin in Lake Tahoe won't go unused.

Padres reliever Scott Linebrink and his wife, Kelly, are close friends with the Ensbergs, and they're proceeding with Lake Tahoe vacation plans even though Morgan and Christi will be in Detroit.

"Scott called me and he was like, 'Hey, we're still going,'" Ensberg said. "They're probably there right now barbecuing and hanging out."

When it was pointed out that the Linebrinks won't be able to watch the All-Star Game -- since there's no television in the cabin -- Ensberg predicted that won't be a problem.

"You look out, and all you can see is crystal clear water and the mountains," Ensberg said. "I'm sure they'll find a way."

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider. His book "License To Deal" has been published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.