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Digging deep, Fielder wins derby

July 14, 2009|Phil Rogers and Dave Van Dyck

ST. LOUIS — Prince Fielder beat the hometown sluggers on their own turf.

With Cardinals star Albert Pujols and St. Louis native Ryan Howard eliminated early, Fielder won baseball's Home Run Derby on Monday night with a steady power display that included a jaw-dropping drive estimated at 503 feet.

The Milwaukee Brewers first baseman outslugged Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, 6-5, in the finals at Busch Stadium to take home a title that St. Louis fans surely hoped would go to one of their own.

"It's what I expected. This is Albert's stadium and Ryan is from here," Fielder said. "I was happy I was able to put on a show and I'm glad I won."

Pujols, the Cardinals' first baseman, and Howard, who grew up in the Gateway City and plays for the Philadelphia Phillies, were knocked out in the second round.

"I wish I would have put on a better show for our fans," Pujols said. "I was nervous a little bit."

This year's All-Star festivities were supposed to belong to Pujols in his home ballpark. But Fielder snatched the spotlight in the annual warmup for tonight's Midsummer Classic. He hit the clinching homer, a drive onto the grassy hill in center field, with three outs remaining.

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Star among stars

Is it significant that Joe Torre will be in the NL dugout? History says yes.

During his career, Torre has been involved in 15 All-Star games, and his teams have gone 13-1-1.

"I'm probably the best guy ever in this game," said the Dodgers' manager, who accepted Charlie Manuel's invitation to be a coach. "I've been caught on the good side of the cycles."

Torre represented the NL as a player when it was the dominant league, and he was the New York Yankees manager when the AL was the superior league. He was 8-1 as a player and 5-0-1 as manager.

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Missing star?

Orlando Hudson and Chad Billingsley say Juan Pierre should be here with them.

"Juan Pierre is our MVP," Hudson said. "There's no reason he couldn't have been on one of these [media] platforms just as easily as the rest of us. What he's done in 50 games [when Manny Ramirez was out], a lot of people don't do all season."

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Lucky break

Billingsley's first trip to the All-Star game comes after an off-season that began with a broken leg suffered while slipping on ice.

"If you're going to break a leg, November is the time to do it," he said. "I had a lot of time to work on the rehab. . . . I felt I would be all right as soon as I found out it was a just a broken bone, not ligaments and everything else."

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Old hand

This is Angels closer Brian Fuentes' fourth All-Star team. Although it's his first in the American League, he isn't as wide-eyed as he used to be.

"I've seen these guys a lot more and you build relationships and you're kind of used to seeing them, so everybody kind of chills," he said. "You just kind of take it all in, trade some stories, talk to guys you just got done facing, so that's kind of cool."

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Older hands

There are nearly two dozen first-time All-Stars, and then there are Yankees Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, each in his 10th game.

Jeter still remembers his first. "I didn't say anything. I just came and sort of looked around. There were a lot of guys who I grew up watching on TV, a lot of my idols, guys I emulated and copied their stances in Little League."

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Knuckleheads

At age 42, Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield finally made an All-Star game and immediately received congratulations from his guru, former Dodger Charlie Hough.

"I got a text from Charlie and it said, 'Yahoo.' That's Charlie," Wakefield said. "I texted back, 'Yahoo.' "

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

progers@tribune.com

dvandyck@tribune.com

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