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Hunter excited to open door to 'his house'

Hunter excited to open door to 'his house'

ANAHEIM -- They might as well call him Mayor Hunter for the next few days.

"I'm shaking hands, saying `hi' to everybody, kissing babies," Angels center fielder and clubhouse centerpiece Torii Hunter said, beaming. "I'm doing everything I can to make everybody feel comfortable in my house. Just don't ask me any political questions, please. I stay away from those hot tamales."

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Hunter won't be in the starting lineup for the American League on Tuesday night in the All-Star Game, but he'd love to take a few cuts and make a few plays in the outfield as the AL tries to maintain its rule over the Senior Circuit.

"I want to be like Bo Jackson [in the 1989 All-Star Game in Anaheim] -- swing hard and make a memory if I can," Hunter said.

There certainly won't be a more vocal presence in manager Joe Girardi's AL dugout.

"It's pretty cool to get on the foul line and tip my cap to the fans," Hunter said, "especially now with [Jered] Weaver next to me. The fans will go crazy.

"I remember seeing that last year with Albert Pujols on TV. I was supposed to be on the team, but I was hurt and couldn't be there. I'm making up for it this year."

While Hunter is a whirling dervish, moving constantly to bring smiles and laughter to anybody and everybody, Weaver -- more laid-back by nature -- is taking it all in, savoring his first All-Star Game experience as a late addition by Girardi.

He won't be able to pitch in light of newly instituted rules prohibiting Sunday's starters from throwing two days later, but Weaver will be a presence -- even if he won't be nearly as audible as Hunter.

"I'm like a kid in a candy store," Weaver said. "There's so much talent here, it's awesome. I'm going to be all over the place. I don't have the stress of worrying about having to pitch."

Weaver initially was extremely disappointed when he was not included on the original AL roster. But all that discomfort disappeared when he learned on Sunday from an Angels staffer that he'd be selected by Girardi, even though he'd be unable to pitch.

"We'd just finished the game when I got the word," Weaver said. "It was an awesome feeling. It had been a stressful couple weeks. Am I on the team or not?"

When the Angels were in Chicago last week, word circulated that Girardi was naming Weaver as a replacement for CC Sabathia, who also would start on Sunday and be ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game.

There was confusion for several days before Girardi's intentions crystallized and Weaver -- who had worthy numbers in 2009 as well -- became an official All-Star for the first time.

"It's something you dream about as a kid," Weaver said. You think of yourself as an All-Star, and here it is. To be part of this is very special. It's a tremendous honor."

This is Hunter's fourth All-Star Game selection. He was unable to play last season with a groin injury that would require winter surgery, but he made an unforgettable debut in the Midsummer Classic in 2002.

"That was a lot of fun," Hunter said. "I was voted in as a starter. Barry Bonds steps to the plate in the first inning. I was like, `Please don't hit it to me.' Barry hit the ball so hard, and the toughest play for any center fielder is a line drive right at you. The way he hit the ball, it could take off and make you look bad.

"He hit it to me, but I thought it was out of the park. The wind knocked it down, and I went back and leaped and caught it. I took a home run away from Barry when he was the king. Ichiro [Suzuki] came over from right field and said some R-rated things in English, words I didn't realize he knew.

"Barry waited for me at the shortstop position and held me up on his shoulders. He was strong, man. He told me, `Nice catch, kid.' I'd never really talked to him before."

Introductions to All-Star games don't come any more dramatic than that.

Hunter was on his way to a career year offensively last season when he injured the groin colliding with walls at Dodger Stadium and in San Francisco. He has come back with another big season, leading manager Mike Scioscia's offense in virtually every major category.

Carrying a .298 average to the break, Hunter has a team-high 15 homers, 24 doubles and 62 RBIs. He is slugging .521 with a .385 on-base percentage, also team highs.

When he wasn't out kissing babies and shaking hands, Hunter was getting mentally pumped to perform on the grand stage of the Midsummer Classic.

"It's always a thrill being around all these great players and good friends," Hunter said. "But when it's time to play, it's time to compete. This game is important to win. We want home-field advantage for the World Series -- and I want it for the Angels.

"We haven't had a great first half, but we're only 4 1/2 behind the Rangers. There's time to get it together."

Lyle Spencer 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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