Braun, Fielder receive All-Star nods
Sluggers earn second Midsummer Classic appearances
CHICAGO -- The ultimate goal, of course, is to win a World Series ring. But Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun espoused another last week."My goal is to never have an All-Star break," Braun said with a smirk. So far, he's 2-for-2.
Braun was voted by fans to start the All-Star Game for the second successive season, joining Hall of Famer Robin Yount as the only Brewers players so honored. Braun will be joined in St. Louis for the 80th Midsummer Classic on July 14 by second-time All-Star Prince Fielder, an NL reserve.The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game. Together, Braun and Fielder, the Brewers' Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, have driven in 134 runs this season. No teammates have been more productive. "It's a rewarding feeling, knowing that all the hard work, all the effort, everything I put into this game is being recognized by the fans," said Braun, who was the top vote-getter among NL outfielders, as he was last year. "By no means am I taking it for granted. It means a lot to me, and it's also special to share it with Prince. He's been such a help in my career, obviously providing unbelievable protection. It's special to go to an All-Star Game with him." Fielder, who started the 2007 game in San Francisco, was one of National League manager Charlie Manuel's selections this time. He is one of four first basemen on the NL roster. "The only one left out was probably Derrek [Lee, of the Cubs]," Fielder said. "It's cool. I'm excited to go. My kids get to go with me and have a good time, so I'm looking forward to it." Fielder wasn't worried about playing time. The Cardinals' Albert Pujols was voted as the starter and will likely play a good portion of the game since it's at his home ballpark. Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres made the cut via the players' ballot, and that carries some weight. And Ryan Howard of the Phillies is one of Manuel's own players. "It doesn't matter, as long as you get to go and enjoy everything," Fielder said. "That's all that matters to me." Braun got the nod via the fan ballot. He received 4,138,559 votes, finishing ahead of fellow outfield starters Raul Ibanez of the Phillies and Carlos Beltran of the Mets. Both Ibanez and Beltran have battled injuries in recent weeks, and Major League Baseball's official release said Beltran would be replaced in the starting lineup by the Rockies' Brad Hawpe, who led the players' ballot. If Ibanez is healthy enough to play, the NL would be left without a true starting center fielder. Braun volunteered for duty. "I'm the youngest. I've got the least mileage," he said. "I could definitely play center field." Braun has been piling up awards since breaking into the Majors in late May 2007. He won NL Rookie of the Year honors that year despite spending most of the first two months at Triple-A, then followed up in 2008 with a third-place finish in NL MVP balloting. Now he's a two-time All-Star, and with a hit and a run scored in Sunday's 8-2 loss to the Cubs, Braun is hitting .326. Fielder received 2,119,947 votes, second among NL first basemen to Pujols. Fielder hit a fourth-inning solo home run in Sunday's loss to the Cubs and ranks second in the Majors with 76 RBIs. He's also hitting .313 with a team-best 22 home runs. "Prince has been the second-best player in all of baseball in the first half," Braun said. "Albert deserves all the accolades he's gotten, but Prince has had a phenomenal year." Both Brewers All-Stars are candidates for Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby. Fielder participated in 2007, and this year finished third in a poll sponsored by State Farm Insurance that allowed fans to pick who they would like to see participate in the Derby. Pujols finished first, followed by Howard and then Fielder. If asked, Fielder said he would swing for the fences again. "If they wanted me to, I would do it," Fielder said. "That's what the fans want." Braun took part last summer at Yankee Stadium and reached the event's semifinals. But he developed some back problems last August that have been a bother from time to time this year. "I would probably wait to see if I was even invited before I thought about it," Braun said. "I would want to see where I'm at, physically, before I committed. Having that extra day of rest would obviously be nice.
"But it was a lot of fun last year, I really enjoyed it. If I'm fortunate enough to be invited, I'll cross that bridge then."
Both Braun and Fielder lamented that teammates Trevor Hoffman and Yovani Gallardo missed the cut. Gallardo has the sixth-best ERA among qualifying NL starters (2.75) and is tied for fifth in the league with 114 strikeouts. Hoffman, a six-time All-Star, didn't allow a run until his 18th appearance and is tied for eighth in the NL with 18 saves, despite missing most of April with a rib-cage injury.
"I couldn't be happier for Ryan and Prince. It's always a tough decision to fill out a team of players from around the league," Hoffman said. "I would have been very blessed if I had the opportunity to go. It's not an easy process to choose a team. ... I obviously would have liked to have gone, but it isn't in the cards this year. It's an inexact science."
Said Gallardo: "Of course, it was something I was thinking about. I felt like I threw the ball pretty well in the first half, but there's nothing you can do about that. Hopefully, there's a lot more opportunities for me."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.