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Crawford selected to AL All-Star squad

Crawford selected to AL All-Star squad

CLEVELAND -- Anticipating not making the All-Star team, Carl Crawford already had purchased an airplane ticket to Houston for the break and didn't pack a suit for the Devil Rays' current road trip.

So, yes, the Rays left fielder was quite surprised when manager Joe Maddon took him aside and told him he had been selected as the team's lone representative for this year's All-Star Game.

"Oh yeah, I'm very surprised, just because I didn't think I was the one who was going to get picked," Crawford said. "It definitely feels good. You're among the elite among your peers, so it definitely feels good to be added to the All-Star team. It's always a great thing."

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The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

The Rays had several legitimate candidates to make this year's team, such as starter James Shields, reliever Al Reyes, shortstop Brendan Harris, first baseman Carlos Pena and even second baseman B.J. Upton, though he has been out since June 9 with a strained left quadriceps.

"I'm very pleased with [Crawford being selected]," Maddon said. "Out of all of our guys -- and we had several guys who were deserving in a sense, but they're only choosing one from us right now -- I'm happy that it is Carl. His track record of success also indicates that he should go, too. He's having a good year. He's probably not having his best year to this point, but he's having a really good year, and I think what he's done over the course of time merits his going to the All-Star Game representing us."

Crawford, who has felt slighted in the past when he did not make the team, felt for his teammates.

"Carlos, Shieldsy and B.J., all those guys are having good years, you know, but I was the lucky one," Crawford said. "I guess those guys have to keep banging, and maybe they'll get a chance to go next year. I definitely know how they feel. I know what they're going through. That's for sure."

Crawford laughed when asked how much of being an All-Star selection had to do with luck.

"This year, all of it," Crawford said. "I definitely feel like all of it this year. I mean, I'll take it, though. I don't feel like I don't deserve it or anything like that, but I'll take it."

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Crawford will be making his second trip to the Midsummer Classic, after going in 2004, but the second time around doesn't alter his feelings.

"Whenever you get picked to go, there's excitement," Crawford said. "It's just a different kind of excitement. But there's always something new. That's why you don't hear guys complaining about going every year. I think it's a fun time every time."

Crawford is hitting .288 with six home runs and 49 RBIs.

Based on his speed and athleticism, Crawford might be the most exciting player in baseball. He is the American League's reigning stolen-base king after stealing 58 in 2006, and he has won three stolen-base titles in his career. His 20 steals this season rank fourth in the AL, which could be attributed to some extent to his moving to third in the lineup.

Crawford's 247 career stolen bases are the ninth most since 1900 before the age of 26. Since his debut July 20, 2002, only Juan Pierre has more steals in the Major Leagues.

But Crawford is far more than just a speed merchant. He has an impeccable work ethic and has shown improvement every season in the big leagues. Crawford's yearly improvement can even be quantified with statistics.

He became just the second player all-time to increase his home run total and batting average over five straight seasons, joining Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who did it with the Cardinals from 1918-22. If he turns the trick this season, Crawford will become the first player to improve his average and home runs over a six-year span.

In addition, Crawford, aka, "Three Dog," is baseball's triples king.

He does not lead the AL in triples right now -- Detroit's Curtis Granderson has 14, while Crawford has eight -- but rest assured Crawford will be right up there at the end of the season.

Crawford has 73 career triples, the ninth most by any player before the age of 26 since 1900. Since the start of the 2003 season, Crawford's 67 triples are 19 more than any other Major Leaguer. Jose Reyes of the Mets is next with 48.

Crawford's addition will provide a definite boost to the AL squad, according to his manager.

"They're trying to win the game as the American League," Maddon said. "And Carl's the kind of guy who can come off the bench and do a whole bunch of things for you. If you're putting that team together, he's a pretty attractive player."

The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers -- five starters and three relievers -- become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season -- in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and St. Louis' Tony La Russa -- then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.

Bill Chastain 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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