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Yankee trio heads to All-Star Game
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07/06/2003  6:12 PM ET 
Yankee trio heads to All-Star Game
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    NEW YORK -- The Yankees will send a trio of starters to the All-Star Game in Chicago, as Alfonso Soriano, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui were elected by the fans to start for the American League.

    The All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 15, at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

    "I think it's great, especially for Matsui," said manager Joe Torre. "Jorge and Sori had the inside track from the get-go, the way they started out. For Matsui to get people's attention that quickly, it's a hell of a credit to him."

    Matsui may be making his first All-Star appearance in the Major Leagues, but the 29-year-old Japanese rookie is no stranger to All-Star Games. From 1994 through 2002, Matsui appeared in nine consecutive All-Star Games in Japan.

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    "To be chosen as an All-Star really ranks up there for me in my career," Matsui said through his interpreter. "I'm honored to be chosen by the fans. For the fans to write my name on the ballots is a great honor."

    Matsui is the first Yankees rookie to start an All-Star Game since Tom Tresh started at shortstop for the AL in 1963. The last rookie outfielder to start in the All-Star Game for the Yankees was Joe DiMaggio in 1939.

    "I never even thought of it," said Matsui of his All-Star selection. "I didn't place any expectations on myself at all. This is the result of the day to day effort that I put in."

    Matsui joins Ichiro Suzuki and Hideo Nomo as the only rookies to start the All-Star Game since 1990, and is just the 19th rookie ever to start the Midsummer Classic.

    "It's exciting, considering how he started out," said Jason Giambi, who was not selected to the AL team, but is one of five finalists in the etopps All-Star Final Vote. "It's great for him. He's been on fire, and the fans recognize that. The new kid in town has done well. The Japanese vote probably didn't hurt him, either."

    "It will be great for him to experience the All-Star Game in his first year," Soriano said. "He should enjoy it."

    Soriano was the AL's second-leading vote-getter, trailing only Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. Soriano makes his second consecutive All-Star start, beating out Bret Boone of the Mariners by more than 350,000 votes.

    "That was a little surprising to me," Soriano said of his vote total. "It makes me happy that the fans voted for me. I always try to play hard."

    In 85 games this season, Soriano is hitting .300 with 22 home runs, 51 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. He reached the 20-20 mark in just 72 games, the fastest ever by a Yankee. Soriano said that his second All-Star experience will be different from his first, as home-field advantage in the World Series gives the game some meaning.

    "Last year, I just tried to have fun. This year, I have to play hard and try to do something for the league, and maybe my team," Soriano said. "I want to try to help the American League win the game, because if we get to the World Series, we'd have the home field."

    Rounding out the Yankees' trio is Posada, who is making his fourth straight All-Star appearance, his second consecutive start behind the plate.

    "I'm more than honored," Posada said. "I'm very happy. I can't put it into words. Every year, it gets better and better. Hopefully I can experience something out there that really sticks out. Last year, I did with my son."

    Posada's son, Jorge IV, was one of the stars of the player introductions last year in Milwaukee, as the then-2 1/2-year-old boy ran on to the field in place of his father.

    Posada, who is 1-for-6 in his All-Star career, believes that players always play hard at the All-Star Game, pointing to Torii Hunter's over-the-wall catch against Barry Bonds last year. With World Series home-field on the line, Posada is excited about the prospect of helping his league to victory.

    "Every time we put a uniform on, we play hard," Posada said. "I always play the same way, because it's the only way I know how to play. Every time I put a uni on, I give 100 percent. I don't think this will be any different."

    Giambi, who started at first base for the AL in 2000 and 2002, and was a reserve in 2001, will have to wait until Wednesday to find out if he will join his three teammates in Chicago. Giambi, Frank Thomas, Jason Varitek, Eric Byrnes and Bengie Molina are the five finalists for the last spot, which will be voted on by fans at Yankees.com and MLB.com.

    In somewhat of a surprise, no Yankees pitchers were selected for the AL team. Mike Mussina (10-5, 3.29 ERA), David Wells (10-3, 3.85 ERA) and Roger Clemens (8-6, 3.75 ERA) were each considered to be potential All-Stars, as well as closer Mariano Rivera (2-0, 15 saves, 1.72 ERA).

    "Those three guys have pitched All-Starrish, plus Rivera, though he had a disadvantage by starting as late as he did," Torre said. "I know they would have enjoyed going, but there are a lot more than the 30-something players they take who are worthy of being there."

    "We have some guys having some great years," Giambi said. "It's kind of surprising that Moose and David didn't make it."

    For those Yankees who did not make the All-Star cut, the break will provide an opportunity to spend time at home with their families and gear up for another pennant drive.

    "All three of them deserve it," said Derek Jeter of his All-Star teammates. "We'll take the three days to rest, get ready for the second half. Try to make the postseason All-Star team."

    Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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