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All-Star trip consolation for Beat fan

Trip nice consolation for Beat fan

DETROIT -- At 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Comerica Park, a young fan met a Major League Baseball All-Star, and suddenly nothing else seemed to matter.

Not even that ball that Miguel Cabrera had hit six nights earlier.

Welcome to Ryan Huttenberger's world.

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Huttenberger, a 20-year-old Rangers fan from Lake Forest, Calif., found himself actually interviewing the Florida Marlins outfielder right in the National League dugout while other NL players were taking batting practice before the All-Star Game.

The two were brought together by fate, with a little help from MLB.com.

"Miguel and I talked about the 'home run,' and I told him not to worry about it because it brought me here," Huttenberger said. "I don't know if you can call an all-expenses-paid trip to the All-Star Game being robbed."

The home run in question became a bit of a sensation last week. During the Marlins' home game last Wednesday night against Milwaukee, Cabrera hit a ball to deep right. It bounced off a railing and back into play, and Cabrera sped all the way around the bases. Replays showed that it actually should have been a home run because it hit above the yellow line, but it was a difficult judgment call and was ruled a triple plus an error.

It was especially significant in this case, because a Cabrera homer that night would have meant Huttenberger would win the $10,000 first prize in MLB.com's Beat the Streak: Home Run Edition fantasy game. It would have made it nine consecutive days that Huttenberger correctly picked a player who would homer that day.

There was an outpouring of sympathy for Huttenberger because of the circumstances. But that's baseball, and official scoring is official scoring; MLB.com pages reflect that over a 162-game schedule.

But in lieu of the grand prize, he and his uncle, Randy Ciccati of St. Cloud, Minn., were flown to Detroit and given tickets to the All-Star festivities -- along with a field pass and a Cabrera meeting for Huttenberger.

All-Star Game 2005

Huttenberger and his uncle sat in the left-field bleachers during the historic CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby on Monday night, when Bobby Abreu hit a record 24 homers in the first round and a record 41 homers in winning the event. A Pudge Rodriguez home run landed practically at their feet.

Then Huttenberger was able to mingle amongst All-Stars on the field before the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday, snapping pictures around the batting cage, posing with San Diego pitcher Jake Peavy to send a digital shot to a best friend who likes the Padres.

"This is unbelievable -- Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza are just walking right next to me," Huttenberger said on the field.

Highlights of Justin Huttenberger's home run streak:
• June 28:  Morgan Ensberg, Astros   56K  |  350K
• June 29:  Paul Konerko, White Sox   56K  |  350K
• June 30:  Mark Teixeira, Rangers   56K  |  350K
• July 1:  Andruw Jones, Braves   56K  |  350K
• July 2:  Ken Griffey, Reds   56K  |  350K
• July 3:  Travis Hafner, Indians   56K  |  350K
• July 4:  Craig Biggio, Astros   56K  |  350K
• July 5:  Albert Pujols, Cardinals   56K  |  350K
• July 6:  Miguel Cabrera, Marlins   56K  |  350K

Next came the meeting with Cabrera, who had told MLB.com a day earlier during the All-Star interview session: "He should at least be brought here, or something. I'll sign something for him. That was close."

After Cabrera saw that the contestant was now in his presence, he and his new fan spent some time in the NL dugout, where he answered Huttenberger's questions about "the play" during an impromptu interview.

"Anything's better than nothing, because when I originally saw what he did in the newspaper the next day, it said he had a triple," Huttenberger said. "I was at a church campout, and I was scrambling for Internet access because there was nothing like that. I saw he had a double and a triple in that game. I thought in my mind, 'Wow, it must have been close. Oh, well.' I still haven't seen the play."

The all-time record for most consecutive games with a home run in Major League Baseball is eight, shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. So the MLB.com contest lets users try to "break" that record by correctly picking a home run in nine consecutive games -- one player per day.

"It was going to be [Cabrera] or Jim Edmonds for that ninth game," Huttenberger said. "Edmonds pretty much owned Javier Vazquez, who he was going to be facing that night. But Vazquez could throw a shutout at any time, and Cabrera was batting something like .500 against Tomo Ohka, even though he hadn't homered against him. I went with Cabrera. Edmonds homered.

"I was disappointed when I first found out about what happened. My friend sent me a text message from California, and it said, 'Dude, they just talked about you on ESPN.' Everyone was talking about it the next day. But now coming here to the All-Star Game, having a hotel, being around players, it's way cool -- more than I originally expected."

Huttenberger is spending the summer with his uncle in Minnesota interning for his uncle's financial-services company. Even if a possible home run might have been taken away, Huttenberger knows that no one can take away what happened here in Detroit.

All's well that ends well. Huttenberger even offered some advice to others who want to try to "Beat the Streak" with long ball picks.

"I'd say it was 50 percent stats/matchups, 50 percent gut feeling," he said of his choices. "I mean, I haven't picked all big hitters. For example, I did pick Craig Biggio one day, despite his mere 10 home runs at the time. He owned Brian Lawrence, and he hits all his dingers at home and vs. right-handers. For stats, I look at everything, from home/road hitting stats, their season vs. right/left-handed pitchers, their history vs. the specific pitcher he's facing that day, the ballpark they are playing in, how hot the opposing team has been, how good the opposing team's bullpen is, how "due" the hitter is to hit a home run, how many home runs the opposing pitcher and team gives up. It seems like a lot but for 10 grand, an hour a day of that research isn't too bad, plus it's fun for me."

So there you have it. Ryan Huttenberger carved out his own little niche in Beat the Streak history. Even though he had not won an official prize, here he was in the NL All-Star dugout asking Cabrera what he thought of that night last week.

"Now," Huttenberger said, "my friends think I'm the luckiest kid on the planet."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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