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Carter just taking it all in
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07/14/2003  6:07 PM ET 
Carter just taking it all in
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"I went from not playing in 2001 to going to the All-Star Game in 2003," Lance Carter said. (Bernie Nunez/AP)
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CHICAGO -- Lance Carter isn't one to sit back and reflect on All-Star history.

"I'm not good at those memory-type questions," Carter suggested. "I remember watching it all the time, probably more recently [Sammy] Sosa putting on a show in the Home Run Derby and Torii Hunter's catch [robbing Barry Bonds of a home run] last year."

Suffice to say, the 2003 All-Star Game has already become etched as the closer's biggest achievement.

"Everything," Carter said when asked what he's looking forward to the most. "Just taking in the experience, getting to meet some of the other players and watch the best talent in baseball. There are some guys in that category not here, but it's a thrill. I never thought I'd get the opportunity to be here.

"I went from not playing in 2001 to going to the All-Star Game in 2003, with only a month in the big leagues last year. I could never have imagined it."

2003 All-Star Game

2003 All-Star Game information >

And he couldn't have imagined the hoopla and media frenzy that welcomed the 2003 All-Stars during Monday's media session. Carter didn't have the largest group of reporters -- that was reserved for the more recognizable stars including Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, New York's Jason Giambi, and the hometown White Sox -- but he tried to soak it all in.

"Crazy," described Carter, the lone Devil Rays' representative, who arrived late Sunday night, flying directly from Seattle.

"You look around and say, 'Wow' and try to take it in, but you don't realize the attention it gets."

The attention Carter has received since the rosters were announced last week, has focused on the rule that every team have an All-Star. Carter has a simple response.

"Everybody's entitled to their own opinion," Carter said matter-of-factly. "I'm here."

Carter had not yet met his manager, Anaheim's Mike Scioscia, who has repeatedly said he would have to apologize to some on his roster who might not get a chance to play if the game appears headed to extra innings.

"I came here to play," Carter said. "Whatever happens, happens."

What's happened this year is Carter blossoming as the Rays' closer, posting a 5-3 record with a 4.05 ERA and 15 saves in 21 opportunities.

Despite missing two full seasons because of Tommy John surgery, Carter stuck with his dream of playing big-league baseball. But that may have been because he couldn't decide what he wanted to do if he quit.

"I thought about retiring, shutting it down, but I didn't know what else I'd do," admits Carter. "I got to the big leagues in 1999 [with Kansas City], and that's what kept me going thinking I could get back. ... I didn't want to go out because of an injury. I wanted to at least give it a shot and Tampa Bay gave me that and I'm grateful for that."

Carter has former Rays manager and longtime friend Hal McRae to thank for his latest success. Carter called McRae during the offseason in 2000 and asked for a tryout. McRae agreed and the rest has become a storybook ending for the 28-year-old.

If he does get a chance to take the mound Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, Carter could be in a position to help determine home-field advantage in the World Series. Will that add any pressure to the situation?

"I'm going out there to win a ballgame," Carter said. "That's why I play. You want to win every time you play, whether it's for home-field advantage for the potential American League champion or a game against Seattle."

Regardless of whether he plays, Carter will now have his own All-Star memory to recall.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You never know if it's going to happen again."

Damon P. Young is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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