Ken Griffey Jr. doesn’t plan on missing the All-Star Game this year.
“I’m happy because this time I get to play,” Griffey said Monday after he was elected to the A.L. All-Star team for the eighth consecutive year and topped the voting for the second straight time. “Oh, I shouldn’t say that because I have seven more games left.”
The Seattle Mariners outfielder, who missed the past two All-Star Games because of injuries, got 3,514,340 votes in the final total released Monday - nearly a million more than any other A.L. player. He also was the leading vote-getter last year and in 1994.
Once again, Griffey, who was slowed last week by a hamstring injury but has returned to the lineup, showed why he may be the most popular player in baseball.
“I’m not surprised. He’s the best player in the game, and he relates to the fans and the kids better than anyone,” said Tino Martinez of the New York Yankees, a former Mariner, elected to start at first base.
Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken, elected to play in his 15th All-Star game, was second in the voting with 2,571,985.
Completing the starting lineup for the A.L. team are Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez (1,666,384), Tino Martinez (866,722), Baltimore second baseman Roberto Alomar (1,657,418), Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez (1,854,758), Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez (1,213,429), Cleveland outfielder David Justice (1,840,716) and Baltimore outfielder Brady Anderson (1,197,617).
Final N.L. totals will be released today. Reserves for the July 8 game at Jacobs Field in Cleveland will be announced Wednesday.
A.L. manager Joe Torre already was thinking about filling out his roster.
“The toughest position for me is going to be first base, and I think that’s the case every year,” the Yankees manager said. “How do you choose that without leaving the other positions short?”
Seattle could wind up with four players in the starting lineup. The A.L.’s starting pitcher is expected to be either Toronto’s Roger Clemens or the Mariners’ Randy Johnson.
Ripken will be starting at third base for the first time following 14 seasons at shortstop.
“It’s a little bit different, just like the season’s a little different being at third,” said Ripken, the top vote-getter in 1995. “There’s a certain level of excitement playing at third, certain challenges of making bunt plays and diving. I’m sure it’ll feel a little weird, just like the first game over there, but I’ve had quite a few games under my belt there and I feel comfortable.”
Alomar, despite last year’s spitting incident at an umpire, will be making his eighth straight appearance.
“It’s real nice to be voted in by the fans again,” Alomar said. “I feel real happy this year to be part of the All-Star Game. It’s like a dream for any player to be voted in.”
Ivan Rodriguez will be making his sixth straight All-Star appearance, Edgar Martinez his fourth, Anderson and Justice will be playing for the third time, and Tino Martinez and Alex Rodriguez will be playing in their second All-Star Games.
Closest voting was at first base, where Martinez beat Cleveland’s Jim Thome by 19,306 votes. The other margins were at least 100,000.
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