Hometown hero Albert Pujols leads the parade of stars as the overall leading vote-getter, racking up 5,397,374 votes, the second-highest total in Major League Baseball history. But the Cardinals first baseman was just one star in a universe of them when the National League and American League All-Star teams were announced Sunday on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Pepsi.
With rosters bumped up to 33 per team this year, Pujols will be joined by three other star first basemen on the NL squad. They will attempt to halt a 12-game unbeaten streak by the AL, which is led by 10-time All-Star Derek Jeter, the top vote-getter in the AL.
"I've said it time and time again, but it never gets old," said Jeter, whose 10 appearances match teammate Mariano Rivera for the most among this year's honorees. "It's something that every player wants to be a part of. If they tell you they don't, I think they're lying to you. There's a lot of great players out there, so it's great to be going."
The 80th 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 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.
Starters were determined by fan balloting, with 16 players on each roster being determined by player balloting -- eight pitchers (five starters, three relievers) and eight reserves per league. The remainder of the selections were made by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel of the NL and Rays manager Joe Maddon of the AL -- eight per league, including the 13th pitcher added when rosters were expanded to 33 on Wednesday.
The NL side will have a definite St. Louis feel to it, with Pujols being joined by catcher Yadier Molina in the starting lineup and reliever Ryan Franklin on the NL roster.
"It feels great to be there, representing the organization and the city that you play in," Pujols said. "Last year was a great experience in New York, looking back and seeing the standing ovations for Jeter and [Alex Rodriguez]. I'm pretty sure when they call all our three names, it's going to be the same thing. It's just great for the fans. I think MLB did a great job [choosing] St. Louis, and I think it's going to be really exciting."
Joining Pujols on the NL squad are three first basemen who could start this year, as well -- San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder. That gives the host NL squad a logjam of power at first, with Gonzalez winning out on the player ballot and Howard and Fielder both getting the nod from Manuel.
"I chose Ryan Howard because I feel he deserves to go," Manuel said. "And also I feel like he's our player -- my player. I feel like our players are the reason why I'm managing in the All-Star Game in the first place. We won the World Series. My players put me there."
The AL squad includes 10 first-timers, including standout pitchers Zack Greinke of the Royals and Edwin Jackson of the Tigers, who were among five chosen by their peers. Maddon selected the other five, including the lone representatives for Baltimore -- outfielder Adam Jones -- and Oakland -- pitcher Andrew Bailey.
"Pitching was very difficult, because I thought there were a lot of really worthy candidates after the people that had been elected," Maddon said. "But then some of that was pared down by team's not having representatives. So then we had to go to certain teams. So I'd say that there's a couple of pitchers that I'd say are really deserving of being on the team. But at this point, there's just no room. If there's any kind of injury situation, some of these names might pop up. But I thought pitching was really hard."
The AL's starting lineup will include Jeter at shortstop, sharing an all-AL East infield with the Yankees' Mark Teixeira at first, the Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia at second and the Rays' Evan Longoria at third. The Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki, the Rangers' Josh Hamilton and the Red Sox's Jason Bay will start in the outfield. Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer makes the start behind the plate.
Pitchers and reserves on the AL squad include a pair of AL East closers in 10-time All-Star Mariano Rivera of the Yankees and Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox, and five of the starters voted in by fans were matched on the player ballot. The players thought Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill, Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau were deserving choices at their positions.
The NL's starting lineup features an infield crew of Pujols at first, Chase Utley of the Phillies at second, Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins at short and David Wright of the Mets at third. The outfield features the Phillies' Raul Ibanez, the oldest position player to make his All-Star starting debut, along with the Brewers' Ryan Braun and the Mets' Carlos Beltran -- although Beltran is injured and if unable to perform would be replaced by Colorado's Brad Hawpe, by virtue of his standing on the player ballot. The Cardinals' Yadier Molina earned the nod behind the plate.
The NL's pitching staff features reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum of the Giants, two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana of the Mets and single-season saves record-holder Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets. The player ballot matched the fan balloting other than at catcher, where the players gave Atlanta's Brian McCann the nod.
The Red Sox, owners of the AL's best record entering Monday, boast the most All-Stars with six, followed by the Rays with four and the Yankees, Tigers and Twins with three each.
"To go there with five of your teammates is also a definite positive," said Papelbon, to be joined in St. Louis by starting position players Pedroia and Bay, along with starting pitchers Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield. "You feel like you're going to the All-Star Game at full force. I feel like we deserve that and everyone else going, I feel like they deserve it."
In the NL, the Mets have the most players on the squad with four, while the Dodgers, Cardinals and defending World Series-champion Phillies all have three each.
Five teams have two starters each -- the Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Yankees and Red Sox. The A's, Orioles, Indians, White Sox and Royals were limited to one representative in the AL, while the Braves, Cubs, Pirates and Nationals each had only one player on the NL squad.
Utley and Ramirez will be the first NL double-play combination to start back-to-back All-Star Games since Craig Biggio and Barry Larkin in 1994-95. The Jeter-Pedroia combo, meanwhile, marks the first AL repeat since Alfonso Soriano was the second baseman for the Yankees and Rodriguez was the shortstop for the Rangers, in 2002-03.
Also, Jeter's now the oldest AL shortstop elected to start an All-Star Game since 1971, when 37-year-old Luis Aparicio, then with the Red Sox, started in Detroit's Tiger Stadium.
While some players like Pujols and Jeter have made the Midsummer Classic an annual happening, getting there for the first time can be that much more fun. And among the 23 first-timers -- including 13 in the NL -- perhaps no one will have more fun being a rookie than Ibanez, who at age 37 is the oldest position player ever to make his All-Star debut.
A 14-year veteran, Ibanez was worthy of consideration several seasons in the AL with the Mariners and Royals, but it took his first foray into the NL to get to the Midsummer Classic.
"It's definitely a great feeling," Ibanez said. "I feel very blessed to have been voted in. The fact that I was playing on this club with all the great players, that definitely helped me to be a part of this."