Notes: Players still look up to Bonds
All-Stars cite slugger's achievements, contributions to the game
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds didn't participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby, but he was a hot topic of conversation among National League players on Monday at the media interview sessions and during the on-field workouts.
"He's an incredible player, one of the greatest," Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder said. "He's one of those players other players like to watch play because he does so much."
The 42-year-old Bonds will start the 78th All-Star Game on Tuesday night and become the oldest player ever to start an All-Star Game, breaking the previous record held by Pete Rose (41 years, two months, 32 days for the NL in 1982).
"I'm so happy for Barry," American League manager Jim Leyland said. "I said the other day, 'What's so wonderful to me, it appears to me that a lot of parts of the country evidently voted for him. I don't think San Francisco could swing that much to get him in the starting lineup.'
"It's a great tribute to a great career," Leyland continued. "I do talk to him from time to time, but I'm looking forward to having chance to spend a little time with him, he'll probably blow me off, but I'm looking forward to it anyways. I'm looking forward to it and we have a great relationship, we really do, and I just hope I get that chance to spend some time together. And I'm going to answer this question even though it hasn't been asked -- I will not intentionally walk Barry Bonds in the All-Star Game."
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said he is one of Bonds' biggest fans.
"When you think about his work on the field in the last 20 years, he's second to none," Rodriguez said. "Maybe Babe Ruth and the all-time greats. I just wish people would really enjoy his talents."
Rodriguez's teammate, Derek Jeter, agreed.
"It's not like his career is over -- he's still got a lot of baseball left," Jeter said. "His talents, his team and the fans appreciate what he's done here. It's appropriate that he's on the team, especially when the game's in San Francisco and he's knocking on the door of the home run record."
Eyeing a better finish: Should Padres closer Trevor Hoffman get into Tuesday's game, he hopes to do the one thing he couldn't do a year ago in Pittsburgh: close the door on the American League.
It was Hoffman who allowed a two-run triple to Texas' Michael Young in the ninth inning that allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score in a 3-2 American League victory.
Hoffman was asked by NL manager Phil Garner to close out the All-Star Game and give the National League its first triumph since 1996. Hoffman threw 13 pitches during the ninth inning -- all for strikes.
Hoffman's 0-2 fastball to Young "caught too much of the plate," he lamented after the game.
"[I want to] do something about it ... it'd be sad not to face the opportunity and correct some unfinished business," Hoffman said on Monday. "Fortunately, it didn't matter. St. Louis took care of business [in the World Series] ... it was a long flight home. You try and put it behind it you."
Bandwagon filling up: Having the second-best record in the National League and in possession of first place in the NL Central aren't things you often hear about the Milwaukee Brewers at the All-Star break, but it applies this season.
"I can definitely tell the city's excited," Brewers ace Ben Sheets said. "When you go places, people are a little bug-eyed. I think they're kind of shocked. We have done our part so far, hopefully it will continue."
Sheets said he's noticed more Brewers fans around the league this year than he has in the past.
"One guy said, 'Oh yeah, I'm a Brewers fan,' the same guy I saw before wearing a different team's jersey," Sheets said. "I really like the fans who've stuck with us win or lose."
That even applies to family.
"I'm a [New Orleans] Saints fan," Sheets said. "When my brother-in-law jumped off the [Saints'] bandwagon two years ago, and he wanted to get back on [when the Saints made the playoffs], but I said 'No, that train ain't stopping.'"
Fitting in: Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt said fellow All-Star Carlos Lee, who joined the Astros this year after signing a $100 million free-agent contract during the offseason, has been a good fit in Houston.
"I think Carlos fits in anywhere," Oswalt said. "He definitely makes things more lively in the clubhouse."
Lee had the fans excited during batting practice on Monday as he was one of a few NL sluggers to send several balls deep into the seats. He hit one ball well above the center-field fence.
"I'm excited to be here," Lee said. "Even though I've been an All-Star before, it's still a lot of fun to be part of all this."
Lee said he was pleased Oswalt, who made the team as a replacement for the second consecutive year, was an All-Star. Oswalt replaced injured Atlanta pitcher John Smoltz. Last year, he replaced Pedro Martinez of the New York Mets.
"Roy deserves to be here," Lee said. "He's pitched great for us."
Bidge, Big Hurt missed: Both managers said Monday they would have liked to have seen Houston's Craig Biggio, the newest member of the 3,000 hit club, and Toronto's Frank Thomas, who recently hit his 500th career home run, at the All-Star Game.
"Craig Biggio, if there was anyway to have him here, he deserves to be here," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "The problem you have, and I don't know anybody that's on our squad who would just relinquish his spot. So the only way to make that happen is for MLB to say, 'Look, we're going to have a distinguished career spot to add to the 32 you get,' because it's unfair to take somebody off for somebody who is deserving because of their lifetime achievements. It disappoints me that Craig is not here. He's an unbelievable competitor and beats himself up a lot and [I] regret that he's not here."
Leyland echoed those sentiments.
"I got myself in a Catch-22," Leyland said. "I mentioned something and I thought, 'Geez, it would be really nice for Frank Thomas to be added to the American League the year he hit his 500th year and Craig Biggio to be added to the National League the year he got his 3,000th hit.' I thought it had a great wonderful touch for it and I was going to push for it, but obviously I don't have much influence. But two weeks ago, Sammy Sosa hit his 600th home run, so where do you draw the line?"
Reunion for Young: Washington first baseman Dmitri Young has enjoyed a turnaround season this year, his first with the Nationals after a stint with the Detroit Tigers. But Young bears no grudge against the Tigers.
"[Their success] is good to see," Young said. "I'm on my own mission. I feel I'm back, but there's no ill feelings from what happened last year. Everything happens for a reason. That made me put my priorities in check and put what's important first. It's good to see those guys over there, especially a lot of guys."
After being released by the Tigers near the end of the 2006 season -- a year in which he was going through a divorce, given a one-year probation for domestic violence as well as being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes -- Young made a remarkable return to the Majors. He said the low point was being in Detroit last year for the World Series, which was where he had to be under terms of his probation.
"Looking back now, my bat probably would've been worthless," he said. "My mind wasn't clear. With everything that was going on, I just had problem after problem in front of me. And I had to deal with them. I dealt with them accordingly, got everything behind me and now I'm looking forward."
He even plans to say hello to his former teammates if he gets the chance.
"I'm going to tell Magglio [Ordonez] good job for getting his hair cut a little bit," Young said.
Third time in San Francisco: The 78th All-Star Game is the third to be played in San Francisco and the first at AT&T Park. Candlestick Park was the site of Midsummer Classics in 1961 (Game 1) and 1984, both won by the National League. The NL prevailed, 5-4, in 10 innings on July 11, 1961, and 3-1 on July 10, 1984.
Overall, this is the fifth time the Giants franchise has hosted an All-Star Game. The American League won both games hosted by the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, 9-7, on July 10, 1934, and 3-1 on July 6, 1942.
Just a bit outside: NL starter Jake Peavy's favorite baseball movie?
"Major League, the first one," Peavy said. "That one really makes you laugh, and I'm a big Charlie Sheen fan."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.