All-Star veterans pumped for Classic
Bonds and Griffey headline a list of seasoned All-Stars
SAN FRANCISCO -- They'll be arriving from every corner of the baseball globe. This season's crop of All-Stars will soon flock to San Francisco, where buildings throughout downtown are dotted with banners in preparation of the upcoming festivities.
For the National League's most-tenured All-Star, a long trip to the ballpark won't be required. In fact, San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds will have the luxury of sticking with his usual locker at AT&T Park. In what could potentially be his final appearance in the Midsummer Classic, Barry Bonds gets to head a handful of baseball's All-Star staples in his team's hometown.
"It just means more because I'm at home," said Bonds, who was voted into the NL's starting lineup in fan balloting. "This is my town. This is my house. This is the one I'll remember all the time."
It'll also be a memorable occasion because Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr., who was the NL's leading vote-getter, will also be in the starting lineup. Bonds will be making his 14th All-Star appearance, while the 37-year-old Griffey has suited up for his league's elite squad 13 times.
"One guy is going to be a lot bigger than everybody because it's his hometown," Griffey said about Bonds. "He gets to have all the fun stuff, the press conferences and all that stuff. I just get to show up and play."
The pair of All-Star veterans are also united by their quest toward home run immortality. Bonds, who has 17 homers this year, currently sits five homers shy of passing Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755 career blasts. With just 15 more homers, Griffey, who has 22 long balls for the Reds, will join Bonds as one of just six players to reach 600 long balls in a career.
Bonds and Griffey have combined to trot around the bases 1,336 times in the big leagues, but if either left-hander is going to launch a pitch into McCovey Cove during All-Star week, it'll have to happen during Tuesday's game. Both sluggers declined to participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday.
Griffey has received the most votes in the Majors five different times in his career, and he's led his league in balloting in eight seasons. Overall, the outfielder has tallied 44,397,033 All-Star votes since joining the league in 1989, representing the most votes in the history of the fan balloting system.
"That just means I'm old. I started young," Griffey said. "That's a whole lot of people saying, 'Thank you.'"
Aside from Bonds and Griffey, Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez tops the list of the other All-Star old-timers. Rodriguez, who helped lead the Tigers to the American League pennant last season, will be making his 14th appearance, his 12th as a starter, after garnering roughly 2.3 million votes.
Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez -- baseball's leader with 29 home runs -- were each named to the AL All-Star squad for the 11th time. Rodriguez, whose appearance in the game is uncertain due to a recent left hamstring injury, was named on 3,890,515 ballots, representing the most votes for any player this year.
"It's refreshing and great to see, and very humbling for me to be the No. 1 vote-getter in all of Major League Baseball," Rodriguez said. "As a kid, I never missed an All-Star Game; it's such a fun game. I really enjoy it. Right now, it has tremendous ramifications with home-field advantage in the World Series, and it's something that I take tremendous privilege of receiving these votes."
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who were also voted in as AL starters, were each selected for the eighth time. Dating back to his playing days in Japan, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki will be making his 14th All-Star appearance -- an experience he always looks forward to.
"This is my seventh year as an All-Star consecutively," he said. "When I played in Japan, I played in seven consecutive All-Star Games, as well. So it has been a goal of mine to do the same here, and to be able to accomplish that makes me very happy. It never gets old hat."
After Bonds and Griffey, Atlanta's John Smoltz is the most experienced All-Star, picking up his eighth selection. Smoltz was forced to pull out of the contest due to injury, leaving Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman and Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano as the remaining elders at six All-Star Games each.
"Every year, I hear a lot of people who say they're tired from being in so many, but I don't look at it like that," Pujols said. "I look at it as an honor. It's a reward that, at the end of your career, you look back and say, 'Wow!'"
As many stars as there will be at AT&T Park, most of the attention is sure to be centered around Bonds, who barely cracked the starting lineup. He was in fourth place behind Soriano when the final voting update was revealed on June 25th. The fans then helped Bonds surge past the Cubs outfielder in the final week.
"I'm at a loss for words," Bonds said. "I'm surprised. I thought I played good enough to make the team, but I didn't think I'd start. This is great. I just can't say thanks enough to the fans here in San Francisco."
He'll get the opportunity to do so again on Tuesday.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Reporters Jim Street, Matthew Leach, Chris Haft, Mark Sheldon and Bryan Hoch contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.