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Piazza relishes 11th All-Star start

Piazza relishes 11th All-Star start

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DETROIT -- When Mike Piazza's career is complete, he'll fondly remember how loyal the fans have been to him. He knows that most of his recent statistics don't merit all of the honors they've bestowed upon him.

Thus with the reality of likely becoming a free agent in the offseason, Mike Piazza gladly accepted his starting assignment in Tuesday night's All-Star Game at Comerica Park, and at the same time, realized there's a good chance it will be his last.

"I always look at what I have, instead of what I don't have. I've been so fortunate to have come to this event for 11 years now," Piazza said. "So I can't say that I have really any regrets at this point. It's just been all positive, really."

If this was Piazza's final All-Star Game, it will be one he will remember more for the experience than the results. The veteran catcher struck out in the second inning against Mark Buehrle and grounded out to end the fourth against Johan Santana.

Joining Piazza at this year's Midsummer Classic was teammate Carlos Beltran, who served as the National League's starting center fielder and recorded a hit in three at-bats. Pedro Martinez was another Mets player selected to participate, but he declined the invitation.

Beltran, who was playing in his second consecutive All-Star Game and first as a starter, recorded his hit via a two-out third-inning infield single. He advanced to third base on a errant pickoff attempt. But he was left stranded when Bartolo Colon got Albert Pujols to end the inning with a harmless fly out to center.

When Piazza was selected to participate in last year's All-Star Game, he thought that it had been his last. But the fans once again showed their support for him and elected him to be the NL's starting catcher again this year. His 12 All-Star Game selections are more than any other Major League catcher has ever received.

Back behind the plate this year, the fans once again showed their support for him and elected him to be the NL's starting catcher. His 12 All-Star Game selections are the most any Major League catcher has received.

"It's something I've always enjoyed," Piazza said. "I've been so fortunate to have been involved in a lot of these."

Piazza, who owns a .313 career batting average, hit .266 last year and will enter the second half of this season hitting .260. The 36 year-old catcher is on the downside of his career, and most of the speculation is that this will be his final season in a Mets uniform.

Most believe he would be best suited to end his career as a designated hitter. In that role, he likely wouldn't find the same support fans have shown him with their All-Star ballots in the past.

"I just realize that when I'm here, there's a lot of other guys that wish they were here," Piazza said. "You never lose track of that. It is an honor. I've played with a lot of guys who have wished that they had gone to at least one of them. It shows how fortunate I've been."

All-Star Game 2005

Piazza's All-Star debut came in 1993, when he ended that Midsummer Classic by striking out against Duane Ward. One year later, as the NL's starting catcher in Pittsburgh, he registered a third-inning single against David Cone to give him his first All-Star hit.

The only time he hasn't participated in an All-Star Game came in 2000, when he was nursing a concussion that came courtesy of a Roger Clemens fastball.

The last time the National League won an All-Star Game was in 1996, when Piazza earned MVP honors. Making that day even more special for the Norristown, Pa., native was that it came in Philadelphia, where many of his friends and family members could attend.

Mark Bowman 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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