07/07/2004 9:49 PM ET
Thome named to NL All-Star team
Final Vote winner Abreu will join first baseman
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
|Phillies slugger Jim Thome always enjoys being a part of All-Star festivities. (Rusty Kennedy/AP)
PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome has been everything to the Phillies since the first day he put on the red pinstripes.
This year, he'll wear them to represent the Phillies at the 75th All-Star Game in Houston. Thome, chosen Sunday by National League manager Jack McKeon, will be making his first appearance as a National League player, and fourth overall selection. He'll be joined by teammate Bobby Abreu, who was added to the team Wednesday as the NL Final Vote winner.
"Playing first base, you realize there are lot of guys who put up great numbers," Thome said. "Anytime you get invited, it's an honor. I remember as a kid in my backyard going, 'I want to be this player or that player.' I've always looked at [the All-Star Game] as a privilege and an
honor, because you get to represent your city and your club."
Thome hasn't had that honor since 1999, while with the Indians, despite averaging 46 homers a year from 2000-03. This season, he has again provided his teammates with many memorable moments, carrying them in stretches with 27 homers and 58 RBIs. The 27 clouts lead the Majors, while the 58 RBIs rank 10th.
A dedicated family man, Thome said he welcomed the three-day break at the midway point of the season. But that doesn't mean he isn't excited about the chance to participate.
"Yeah, because you have your pride," he said. "You play the game for your pride, too. You understand some times that there are guys who deserve to go, but it's also nice to get
recognized and people think that highly of you. The All-Star Game is a fun, relaxing time."
Thome plans to spend the time relaxing with his 19-month-old daughter, Lila Grace Thome. His wife and "about 10 family members," including his parents, are also expected to come to Houston.
Because that, too, is what All-Star means to him.
"Any time you get into an All-Star, it's very fun for your family," he said. "It's fun for you, because you get to see the best players in the world."
On Saturday, Thome was named the National League Player of the Month for June, after he smacked 15 homers and drove in 31 runs. He also had an .816 slugging percentage and 80 total bases.
The 15 homers tied the franchise mark for homers in a month with Cy Williams, who turned that trick in May 1923. On June 14, Thome reached a milestone when he clubbed career homer No. 400. The next day, he became the first player to hit 20 homers this season.
"He's got the type of personality that rubs off on people the right way," said catcher Mike Lieberthal, a first-year All-Star in 1999, when Thome played for the American League. "He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet who also happens to be a great player.
"Everyone wants to be around him. His home runs aren't just home runs, either. They're home runs! My friends all talk about Jim Thome. They love his swing. They love watching him take batting practice."
Thome has one hit in five All-Star at-bats, but has walked three times and driven in a run. The hit came in 1999. More memorable than that, Thome recalled, was the 1997 game, when he got to play in front of the home fans at Jacobs Field in Cleveland.
Thome finished third in the fan balloting this year, but second to Sean Casey in the player voting.
"Jim is one of the most deserving All-Stars I've ever been around," said Phillies manager Larry Bowa.
The day before the game, Thome will have more pride at stake when he competes in the home run derby.
He remembered his dismal showing in Cleveland in 1997 when he didn't hit any homers. Things went a lot better in 1998 in Colorado, when he made it the finals, but lost to Ken Griffey Jr.
"I've had some fun times," he said. "The one in Cleveland wasn't very fun. I didn't hit any. Those are great. The fans get into it. It's a special three days. It really is."
Left-hander Eric Milton, who won his 11th game Sunday, was not named to the team. His 4.48 ERA might have been the reason he wasn't selected.
"I'll try not to think about it. I know a lot of other guys were left off," Milton said.
Ken Mandel is a
reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.