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Midsummer Classic has 25 newcomers

All-Star Game has 25 newcomers

The fans have voted. And now so have the managers and players. This year's All-Star squads are now set to represent the National and American Leagues in the annual Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium on July 15. Again they offer the best and brightest of Major League Baseball's veterans and talented younger set.

From Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Lance Berkman to Chase Utley, Joe Mauer, Ryan Braun and Geovany Soto, it's the finest of the old and the new. Twenty-five players are on an All-Star roster for the first time -- 11 for the NL and 14 for the AL. Seven of them are starters.

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The Cubs and Red Sox each have seven players on the squad.

"Because of our success, and I think, the popularity of the team, that has shown in the number of Red Sox that are on this team," said AL manager Terry Francona, whose Boston club has won the World Series twice in the past four years. "I don't want to sit here and apologize for that. We have won, and we have good players. Next week, to be able to represent the American League with that number of Red Sox will be very exciting. I'm very proud of that."

The Cubs' club-record-setting seven are Soto, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano.

The Red Sox's seven are Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek and J.D Drew. It will be the fifth time that the Red Sox have had at least seven players selected to the All-Star Team. The seven All-Star selections for the Cubs and Red Sox are the most for a team since seven White Sox were chosen for the 2006 game at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

The host Yankees have three players on the team: mainstays Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

Rodriguez, the third baseman for the Yankees and now a 12-time All-Star, was again the top overall vote-getter with 3,934,518. Last year, for the game in San Francisco, A-Rod out-polled all 16 elected starters with 3,890,515 votes.

"As a kid, I never missed an All-Star Game," Rodriguez said. "It's such a fun game. I really enjoy it. Right now, it has tremendous ramifications with home-field advantage in the World Series, and it's something that I take tremendous privilege in -- receiving these votes."

Utley, the six-year second baseman with the Phillies and a .299 hitter this season with 24 homers and 67 RBIs, paced the NL with 3,889,602 votes.

A record 214.7 million votes from 16.5 million ballots were cast online via MLB.com and the affiliate 30 club sites.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the last to be played in the current Yankee Stadium -- which closes at the end of this season -- will be televised nationally by FOX, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

It will be shown live in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International.

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 next Sunday's XM All-Star Futures Game.

As in recent years, the winner of the game will determine which league has home-field advantage in the World Series. The "This Time it Counts!" rule was implemented in 2003. The AL, which has won 10 games in a row (not including the 2002 tie at Milwaukee), has enjoyed that advantage every postseason since.


"It's amazing to me where I was and where I am now."
-- Rangers outfielder
Josh Hamilton

The AL will look to keep that string alive led by the contingent from the World Series champion Red Sox. Francona, along with his Red Sox coaching staff, will also have Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Yankees manager Joe Girardi on his bench.

These are the AL starters going around the diamond: Youkilis is at first base, making his first All-Star appearance; ditto for teammate Pedroia at second, Jeter is at short, making his ninth appearance; and A-Rod is at third. Mauer of the Twins is making his first start behind the plate and second appearance.

The outfield is made up of old standbys Ramirez, making his sixth start and 12th appearance; and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners, making his seventh start and eighth appearance since his arrival from Japan in 2001. Josh Hamilton, who is in his second season and first with Texas, is the newcomer, making his first start and first appearance.

"It's amazing to me where I was and where I am now," said Hamilton, who has overcome drug and alcohol problems to get to this point. "Getting back to the big leagues and being able to go to the All-Star Game is a dream come true."

Fans could choose an AL designated hitter for the game, because it's being played this year in an AL park after a two-year run in Senior Circuit yards.

Ortiz got that nod, but he won't play because he's on the disabled list with a hand injury. He'll be replaced by Milton Bradley of the Rangers.

The players selected these reserves: Bradley, catcher Varitek and outfielder Drew, first baseman Justin Morneau of the Twins, second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Michael Young of the Rangers, third baseman Joe Crede and outfielder Carlos Quentin of the White Sox and outfielder Grady Sizemore of the Indians.

Francona added infielder Carlos Guillen of the Tigers, catcher Dioner Navarro of the Rays and pitchers George Sherrill of the Orioles, Justin Duchscherer of the A's, Joe Nathan of the Twins and Joakim Soria of the Royals.

The AL pitching staff is as follows: Duchscherer is joined by fellow starters Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, Cliff Lee of the Indians, Scott Kazmir of the Rays, and Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana of the Angels. Sherrill, Soria and Nathan are joined by fellow relievers Rivera, Papelbon and Frankie Rodriguez of the Angels.

With that roster, the NL will have its hands full trying to take back the Midsummer Classic. But if anyone knows the importance of securing home-field advantage in the World Series, it's the man at the helm of this year's NL squad.

"This is not a celebrity golf tournament anymore, where everybody gets together, shakes hands and has a lot of giggles," said Clint Hurdle, manager of the defending NL champion Rockies and the skipper of this year's NL team. "We're going to have fun the day before, and we're going to have fun during the workout. Come game time, we're going to have fun, but we need to play, and we need to win a game because of the significant value it adds to the World Series. Four games vs. three, it's the biggest thing out there to get out on that initial foot."

Chicago manager Lou Piniella is one of Hurdle's coaches. Piniella is a former Yankees player, manager and general manager. The other NL coach is Padres manager Bud Black.

"I'm excited. I'm flattered I was asked," Black said. "To be part of that event is special. Yankee Stadium is a great place, and this is the last go-around. To be part of that in a place where I always enjoyed going as a player and a coach. It's going to be a great three days."

No other NL team has more than two players on the squad, including the Rockies, who have outfielder Matt Holliday and pitcher Aaron Cook on the roster. Soto, Soriano and Fukudome were all elected to the team by the fans.

Soto and Fukudome are the first rookie starters for either league since the Yankees' Hideki Matsui did it for the AL team in 2003. Soto is the first rookie catcher ever on the NL team, and first rookie backstop to start in an All-Star Game since Cleveland's Sandy Alomar Jr. opened for the AL in 1990. Fukudome is the first rookie outfielder in the NL starting lineup since Frank Robinson in 1956.

"Let's hope we win," said Wood, whose NL Central-leading team finished action on Sunday with the best record in the circuit at 53-36. "We could have a chance to benefit from that maybe this year. It would be an important game. It's nice to have your teammates there for sure."

The starters around the horn in the NL are Berkman of the Astros at first, making his second start and fifth appearance; Utley at second, making his third consecutive start in as many appearances; Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins at short, making his first appearance; and Jones of the Braves at third, making his fifth start and sixth appearance.

Soto, in his first full season after shining as a callup last September, is behind the plate.

Soriano, making his fifth start and seventh appearance, joins teammate Fukudome, the do-everything rookie from Japan, and Braun of the Brewers, in the outfield. Soriano, who is currently on the disabled list with a broken finger, has just begun taking batting practice and is doubtful for the game.

"The swing, it doesn't feel like it's supposed to," said Soriano, adding that his hand still felt weak after taking BP. "I think it will take time, maybe a week, to feel good again. I'll be ready to play in the second half."

The players elected these reserves: catcher Russell Martin of the Dodgers, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, second baseman Dan Uggla of the Marlins, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, shortstop Miguel Tejada of the Astros, and outfielders Holliday, Nate McLouth of the Pirates and Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals.

Hurdle selected shortstop Cristian Guzman of the Nationals, catcher Brian McCann of the Braves, first baseman Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, plus pitchers Zambrano, Dan Haren of the D-backs and Billy Wagner of the Mets.

The NL pitching staff is as follows: Zambrano and Haren are joined by fellow starters Dempster, Brandon Webb of the D-backs, Edinson Volquez of the Reds, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Ben Sheets of the Brewers. Wagner is joined by Wood, relievers Brad Lidge of the Phillies and Brian Wilson of the Giants.

As in the AL, the players made all the other pitching selections.

Now in its seventh year, the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Chevy, continues until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday and is unlimited. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.

Here are the Final Vote candidates for both squads:

In the NL: third baseman David Wright of the Mets and outfielders Pat Burrell of the Phillies, Corey Hart of the Brewers, Carlos Lee of the Astros and Aaron Rowand of the Giants.

In the AL: first baseman Jason Giambi of the Yankees, third baseman Evan Longoria of the Rays, second baseman Brian Roberts of the Orioles and outfielders Jose Guillen of the Royals and Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans also can text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to have the All-Star Final Vote candidates sent to their phones. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 88555. Standard text messaging rates apply -- please check with your mobile carrier for details.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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