Lee, the Brewers' left fielder and the current Major League RBI leader, was voted by his peers as a reserve for the National League squad and is headed to the 76th All-Star Game. It's the first time since 2001 that the Brewers have only one All-Star player, but manager Ned Yost will also be in attendance as a member of NL manager Tony LaRussa's coaching staff.
A native of Panama, Lee again hinted Sunday that he would also participate in the Century 21 Home Run Derby. Major League Baseball has announced that eight players from eight nations will compete, but Lee said he did not expect official word until Monday.
"I'm just going to go there and enjoy myself," he said. "If I get a chance to win [the derby], that would be awesome, too."
The 2005 All-Star Game, to be held at Detroit's Comerica Park on Tuesday, July 12 at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
"I've been three times before, so I know how much fun it is," said Yost, who participated in the 1990s as an Atlanta Braves coach. "It's well worth the time."
Lee was one of the participants voted in on the players' ballot, which was completed by Major Leaguers a few weeks ago. Does that make his bid even more special?
"It's a great recognition," Lee said. "It shows a lot of respect that the guys have got for me. To be picked by them is something else."
The Brewers acquired Lee in a Winter Meetings trade with the Chicago White Sox and he has not disappointed since enduring a move from the American League to the NL and a slow start. Lee batted just .215 in April with three home runs and 14 RBIs, but won NL Player of the Week honors for May 2-8 and took off from there, contributing nine home runs and 30 RBIs in May and 10 homers and 28 RBIs in June.
The team's offense has been maddeningly inconsistent, but Lee has carried the load.
"He's got broad enough shoulders to handle that," Yost said. "That's one of the things I like about him. He's totally immune to pressure."
In fact, Lee thrives on it.
"I like to be relied on," he said. "That's my job."
Last winter, Brewers manager Doug Melvin went searching for a right-handed power bat to plug into the middle of the lineup, something lacking in Milwaukee since the Richie Sexson trade in December 2003. Melvin found his man in Lee, who had clubbed 31 home runs in each of the last two seasons and at least 24 in each of the last five seasons.
But he came at a cost. To get Lee, Melvin parted with center fielder and leadoff man Scott Podsednik, the team's cover boy, and right-hander Luis Vizcaino, it's most reliable setup man. Yost then phoned Geoff Jenkins, a former All-Star and a Gold Glove-caliber left fielder, and asked him to move to right field.
Halfway through Lee's first season as a Brewer, the maneuvering appears to have been worth it.
"We all feel like he's going to represent the city and the organization well," Yost said. "We're proud for him."
And the home run contest?
"He's been practicing all year," Jenkins said, joking about Lee's power displays in batting practice. "He's gonna win."
First things first. Would Lee participate?
"Yeah," he said. "I won't turn them down."
While Lee and Yost enjoy the All-Star break in Detroit, Brewers center fielder Brady Clark will enjoy an actual break at home. Teammates were hopeful that Clark would get a bid after batting well over .300 in his first season as a full-time starter.
"He's worked so hard and it's always good to see good guys get rewarded," said Jenkins, who earned an All-Star bid in 2003 via MLB.com's Final Vote. "He waited for that spot, and now to be successful with it, that's awesome. Maybe he isn't the tallest, the biggest, the fastest, but he does everything. Bottom line is he helps you win ballgames. That's the best thing you can say about him."