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Braun leads Brewers' All-Star contingent

Braun leads Brewers' All-Star contingent

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MILWAUKEE -- Left fielder Ryan Braun has been mentioned alongside Robin Yount and Paul Molitor before, and always speaks with reverence of the greatest Milwaukee Brewers of them all. Now he's entering territory that Yount and Molitor never covered.

Braun, still just 26, has been voted an All-Star Game starter for the third consecutive season, and when he takes the field alongside his fellow National League stars on July 13 at Angel Stadium, he'll become the first Brewers player to start a third Midsummer Classic. Yount started two consecutive, in 1982 and '83, and Molitor represented the Brewers as a starter in 1980 and '88.

Braun will have company. Outfielder Corey Hart made the NL squad via the player ballot, his second All-Star nod. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo was selected by NL manager Charlie Manuel and is a first-time All-Star.

"It is amazing, it is definitely special," Braun said. "I always say that this time of year is one of the few opportunities to reflect on where you're at, or what your accomplishments are. For me, I realize how fortunate I am to be in this position, and it is amazing. I never take it for granted, and it is humbling."

Braun's spot in the starting outfield came courtesy of the fans, who voted online and in stadiums across the country. The Southern Californian led all Major League outfielders in All-Star balloting for the third straight year by collecting 2,972,525 votes.

Andre Ethier of the Dodgers and rookie Jayson Heyward of the Braves were voted to form the NL's starting outfield with Braun.

In all, fans cast 21.2 million ballots this year, the second-highest figure in history. 

Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.

The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

It's been a remarkable sudden rise for Braun, the fifth overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He belted 34 home runs in a partial 2007 season to win NL Rookie of the Year honors, and he has topped 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his two full seasons since.

In 2009, he led the NL with 203 hits and, even with a recent slide, is on pace for another productive year in 2010. Entering Sunday's series finale in St. Louis, Braun was hitting .298 with 11 home runs, 51 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He led NL outfielders at the ballot box throughout the voting process.

But his power stroke has left him of late. Since May 25, Braun has three home runs.

"This has been the most challenging year for me by far to this point," Braun said. "But I am proud of being where I am at, and there is still a lot of time left for me individually to get where I want to be and for the team to get where we want to be."

He was just as proud of his All-Star teammates.

"They are the two most deserving guys on our team, without a doubt," Braun said. "I am excited to have an opportunity to share the experience with them. 'Yo' has been incredible for us all year and Corey has been one of the best hitters in the National League."

Hart was not even on the All-Star ballot this season, or in the Brewers' Opening Day lineup -- Jim Edmonds got the nod on both counts -- but won a spot with a torrid stretch at the plate beginning in mid-May. Through Saturday, Hart was batting .287 with 18 homers and 60 RBIs.

He entered Sunday riding an 18-game hitting streak, and had 15 of his homers and 48 of his RBIs in his last 46 games.

"From the way this year started, it was more gratifying then I think I could have imagined," Hart said. "You know, being able to prove that I can still be the guy here, because I felt like they were down on me, it was nice to come back and be selected."

Hart also made the All-Star team in 2008 via MLB.com's Final Vote. He said it was "special" to be selected this time via the players ballot.

He admitted he was insulted that he was left off the All-Star ballot.

"Obviously, I love being in Milwaukee and I was hurt about how I was treated," Hart said. "You can either sulk or try and do something to change it, and I was determined to prove them wrong. I feel like they see that they might have misjudged me."

Said Brewers manager Ken Macha: "I am so happy that all his hard work paid off. And he continues to work hard."

So has Gallardo, who was rewarded in April with a five-year contract extension. He won his All-Star spot by going 8-3 with a 2.56 ERA entering Sunday's start in St. Louis, which was cut short in the bottom of the third inning by a left oblique strain. Gallardo will be evaluated by medical personnel in Milwaukee on Monday.

Gallardo was subdued after Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, but still excited about his All-Star nod.

"It is one of those things that every ballplayer wants to be a part of some time in their career, just to have that opportunity to just be there," Gallardo said. "It will be a lot fun."

Braun also appeared in All-Star Games in New York in 2008 and St. Louis in '09, but this one is essentially in his hometown. Braun grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Grenada Hills, Calif.

"I don't think you can ever get enough tickets for everybody who wants them, but you try and get as many people as possible, because it is an amazing experience and you want to enjoy it with friends and family," Braun said. "The last couple of years, I have really enjoyed it."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Michael Bleach contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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