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Ichiro makes eighth All-Star Game

Ichiro makes eighth All-Star Game

SEATTLE -- Only a handful of players have been selected as the All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player more than once. The short list includes Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Steve Garvey, Gary Carter and Cal Ripken Jr.

But none of them were back-to-back MVPs, and that is something Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki has a chance of doing next week in a stadium that has been home to more All-Stars than any organization in Major League history.

With Yankee Stadium serving as the backdrop for the July 15 game, Ichiro makes his eighth consecutive appearance in the Midsummer Classic, and his seventh time as a starter. Ichiro's continuing star status was announced Sunday on TBS during the MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevy.

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Ichiro said he didn't follow the voting process personally, "but the Japanese media updated me every week to let me know what was going on."

He finished third in the voting with 2,012,912 votes, behind the Rangers' Josh Hamilton (3,708,709) and the Red Sox's Manny Ramirez (3,428,577), and ahead of Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero (1,881,321).

Ichiro said it's still a thrill to be named to the All-Star team, especially as a starter.

"I don't think getting used to something is the right word, but I can start to imagine what's going to happen [every year]," he said. "So it's only natural to think that way, but at the same time, going to the All-Star Game is still a huge thing."

Baseball fans from around the world ignored the Mariners' surprisingly poor season and voted Ichiro onto the American League starting lineup, along with Hamilton and Ramirez.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, 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.

Ichiro said the fact the Midsummer Classic is being played during the final season of Yankee Stadium will make this one special -- partly because he won't be there as a visiting player.

"I usually go there as an opponent and get booed by the fans," Ichiro said. "But this time, I am not going there as an opponent, so I guess part of me is a little disappointed that I don't get to get booed in my last appearance there."

Perhaps Ichiro can do what no other player has done -- have a repeat MVP performance.

Ichiro became the first Japanese-born player named as the All-Star MVP last July at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where he went 3-for-3 and hit his first inside-the-park homer, which was also a first in the 74-year history of the All-Star Game.

Ichiro, who already has established himself as one of the most singular performers in the Major Leagues with his unique hitting style, recorded the first inside-the-park homer in All-Star history on a fifth-inning drive off the charming, quirky, asymmetrical right-field wall.

With the National League leading, 1-0, one out and Brian Roberts aboard via a leadoff walk, Ichiro lashed the first pitch he saw from San Diego's Chris Young to the inner left edge of the wall inside the third of eight archways lining the right-field barrier. Instead of caroming to Griffey, the ball bounced crazily back toward right field, enabling the fleet Ichiro to round the bases and give the AL a 2-1 lead.

"It's an [All-Star Game] that I'll never forget," Ichiro said. "The past six years, I never had an All-Star Game when I really thought I gave it my all. So, I'm really happy. It was a fun All-Star Game."

Being the first to have bookend MVPs would add another entry to his long list of accomplishments.

Brothers have done it -- Sandy Alomar Jr. and Roberto Alomar in 1997 and '98 -- and so have teammates. Mays and Willie McCovey of the Giants were MVPs in 1968 and '69, respectively. And a Dodgers tandem of Don Sutton (1977) and Garvey ('78) did it as well.

But Ichiro would stand alone if he can pull it off at Yankee Stadium, where he had a .348 career batting average coming into the season.

He might also compete for the first time in the State Farm Home Run Derby.

"I can only do it if I'm asked," he said. "I'm not going to raise my hand and say, 'I'm going to do it,' but I would definitely think about it if they ask."

Jim Street 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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