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Sanchez ready for All-Star repeat

Sanchez ready for All-Star repeat

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The grand stage does not awe Freddy Sanchez.

Nor should it, for Sanchez has been on the grand stage before. He's a lot more comfortable there on his second go-round.

"But I don't know if you can ever get used to it, you know," he said Monday. "This is something that's a good experience."

The experience, of course, is making the National League All-Star team again. He was Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's choice to represent the Pirates at the ballgame Tuesday night in AT&T Park, and La Russa couldn't have made a much better pick.

Not that Sanchez would have lobbied one way or the other. He's quick to point out that the Pirates, a team on a roll as the first half ended, had other worthy choices, too. But he is flattered, nonetheless, that La Russa picked him.

"It's something very special," Sanchez says. "But it was very unexpected. I wasn't expecting it. I was kind of in shock when they told me. To have Tony La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager, pick you for his team is more special.

"It was kinda like, 'Wow, he wants me.'"

He says it feels good to go again, and the broad smile that Sanchez wears shows how happy he is to be on the national stage again. He belongs there.

Surveying the other stars on the podiums in the Westin St. Francis Hotel here, Sanchez looks as if he fits in well with the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Barry Bonds and Miguel Cabrera, the National League stars who sit closest to him.

Like Sanchez, none is a first-timer at this either. They are men with baseball pedigrees that any All-Star manager would like to have in his lineup. So is Sanchez. He looks forward to his second appearance.

"You kind of know what to expect a little bit more," he says. "Last year, I was just following Jason Bay around the whole time -- every day -- asking him what events I should go to, where I should be.

"This year, for the most part, I know where to go and how to get there."

All-Star Game Coverage

Yet he's quick to say he's no old pro at this All-Star stuff. He's got much to learn about it, though the more he keeps hitting, the more likely he'll have three, four or more appearances here during his career.

For someone with his meager beginnings, the 29-year-old Sanchez can appreciate the two All-Star appearances he has. Just two years ago, he was little more than a utility player with the Pirates. But an injury to a teammate got him into their starting lineup and he hasn't been out of it since.

One batting title and two All-Star selections later, Sanchez has proved he's one of the most accomplished hitters in the game. He's also one of the most versatile players, as baseball fans will likely see if an ailing Cabrera can't play Tuesday night at third base.

La Russa can slide Sanchez, a second baseman mainly, into Cabrera's spot without hurting the chances of the National League to win.

"One of the variables that went into it was, maybe, that I can play three positions," said Sanchez of the selection. "Maybe other people are watching what I do and how I go about the game, and maybe they respect that and want me to be part of it."

He's glad he's here. He's glad that he can represent the Pirates and Pittsburgh, as he did last summer with Bay when the game was in PNC Park. But he hasn't let the selection inflate his opinion of himself. That's not how Freddy Sanchez operates.

"Just 'cause this is my second time, I don't feel like I definitely belong here or anything like that," he says. "But it feels good. It's definitely still jaw-dropping."

Justice B. Hill 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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