ATLANTA -- Do you know me? I've got 25 home runs in just my second full season of action. I'm one of 26 players making their All-Star debut. And two years ago, I was setting Pac-10 records for home runs at UCLA.
I'm Anaheim Angel third baseman Troy Glaus, among a new generation of All-Stars inhabiting Turner Field tonight.
"It wasn't too long ago I was watching this game," Glaus said Monday. "Now I'm playing in it. It's pretty cool, eh? I'm trying not to act like a wide-eyed kid out here."
Who is this guy? and Do you know me? will be asked a bunch throughout the stands. Name tags will be a requirement for tonight's game, as players without the instant name or face recognition get their national stage.
Fifteen first-time American League All-Stars and 11 for the Nationals is not a record. There were 30 newcomers in 1998, when the rosters were expanded from 28 players to 30.
If there's an upside to the superstars ravaged by injuries is that players like Glaus, like Toronto's Tony Batista, like Minnesota's Matt Lawton, like Oakland's Jason Isringhausen or Boston's Derek Lowe or Florida's Ryan Dempster get their share of attention.
"To keep this game going, you've got to have new guys in every year," A's first baseman Jason Giambi, himself an All-Star rookie.
"Eventually, the names that everyone knows are going to pass. So you need all of these young players to establish themselves in order to take the game to new heights."
To know baseball is to know Cal Ripken Jr., elected to start an All-Star game for a record 16th time. It's to know Mark McGwire, the single-season home run king. It's to know Ken Griffey Jr., and Greg Maddux, and Barry Bonds, their names instantly recognizable.
"I think the fans might be disappointed that a lot of the upper echelon superstars won't be playing," Giambi said. "These guys that you may not have heard of before are all trying to get to that echelon. We're never going to take anything away from the guys the fans cheer for. Those guys are special. I think we're all trying to join that group."
It could be a good night for program sales.
"Everyone that's here deserves to be here, whether you know who they are or not," Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez said, himself a casualty due to a concussion suffered Friday night. "It'll be good to show off baseball's overall depth. There's a lot of talent here."
Said Bonds, out due to a broken bone in his thumb: "The first time's always the best time. All these guys should enjoy their time. Even though you might not know their these guys, they can play or else they wouldn't be here. This is there get-to-know-me game."
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