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Final push puts Bonds in starting lineup

Final push puts Bonds in starting lineup

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds might not be the people's choice, but he's certainly a people's choice.

Receiving an impressive late surge of votes in online balloting, Bonds climbed aboard the starting squad for the National League All-Star team by finishing third in the voting among outfielders. Bonds will join the New York Mets' Carlos Beltran and Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. in the NL outfield. This marks Bonds' 14th All-Star selection.

"I'm at a loss for words," Bonds repeated, appearing genuinely moved by his rally at the ballot box. "I'm surprised. I thought I played good enough to make the team, but I didn't think I'd start. This is great. I just can't say thanks enough to the fans here in San Francisco."

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 5 p.m. PT. 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.

Bonds, who's five home runs short of tying Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755, was in fourth place when the final voting update was announced last Monday. He trailed Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs, 1,332,581-1,213,423. In the final vote total, Bonds had 2,325,391 to Soriano's 2,202,513.

Before that, momentum had begun to build for Bonds, who wanted a chance to participate in an All-Star Game at home, since the game is scheduled for July 10 at AT&T Park. The Giants launched a "Vote Bonds" campaign, with "advertisements" being shown on the AT&T Park scoreboard between innings, ushers wearing "Vote Bonds" stickers and online voting stations set up around the ballpark. A stretch of six home games immediately preceding last Thursday night's conclusion of online balloting also may have helped Bonds.

"The fans thought he deserved it," Giants executive vice president Larry Baer said. "The San Francisco Giants are hosting the game; it happens once every 25 to 30 years. For us to be able to host the game with our player in left field is hugely meaningful for the fans. The decibel level will be loud when he runs out there."

Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. intensified the drumbeat for Bonds by endorsing his presence on the All-Star team during a conference call to promote TBS' All-Star selection show. Giants manager Bruce Bochy also was especially vocal in his support for Bonds, noting how fitting it would be for the slugger to play before the home fans.

"I'm happy for him," Bochy said. "I think it's great for our fans and for baseball. This guy is going to go down as one of the greatest players ever, if not the greatest. To be starting here at home, that's huge."

All-Star Game Coverage

Said Bonds, "It just means more because I'm at home. This is my town. This is my house. This is the one I'll remember all the time."

Given Bonds' performance this year, maybe there shouldn't have been much doubt about his All-Star status to begin with. Bonds is batting .304 with 16 homers and 40 RBIs. He also led the NL in walks, intentional walks, on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Bonds has displayed an effective batting stroke lately, hitting .476 (10-for-21) with nine RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.

Besides pursuing Aaron's hallowed record this season, Bonds has moved up the career lists in runs scored (third, behind leader Rickey Henderson and Ty Cobb) and total bases (fourth, trailing No. 1 Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays).

A seven-time NL Most Valuable Player, Bonds will have the opportunity to add to his All-Star legacy. He won the home run contest in 1996 at Philadelphia, homered in the 1998 game at Denver's Coors Field and homered again in 2002 at Milwaukee's Miller Park.

Bonds conjured doubt regarding his entry in the home run contest, even though he has proven many times over that he can easily reach McCovey Cove, the portion of San Francisco Bay beyond AT&T Park's right-field wall.

"I don't think so. I don't have anything to prove in that," Bonds said early in his address after the Giants' 13-0 victory over Arizona. Later, he left the tiniest opening by saying, "I'm 42, almost 43. It's asking a lot for me at my age to go out there and do that. I still have to go through this week of playing at Cincinnati and St. Louis. That's going to determine [his participation in the Home Run Derby]."

Deserving candidates are left off All-Star teams every year, and that happened to be the case for Giants catcher Bengie Molina. Still awaiting his first All-Star selection, Molina has been one of the most productive catchers offensively all season, ranking among the leaders at his position in average (.289), home runs (eight) and RBIs (44) through Sunday. Los Angeles' Russell Martin (.297, nine homers, 53 RBIs) was elected to start, backed up by Atlanta's Brian McCann (.261, seven, 41).

"It's very disappointing. But I recognize and tip my hat to the guys who are going," Molina said. "I'm ready for my four days' vacation and I'll come back strong."

Said Bonds, "Bengie Molina deserves to be there. If we had played better for Matt Cain -- he'd be an All-Star too." Cain owns a 3.38 ERA but has a 2-9 record due largely to poor run support.

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.

Chris Haft 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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