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Dynamic duo highly motivated
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07/12/2004 4:59 PM ET
Dynamic duo highly motivated
Thome, Abreu want to make family, countrymen proud
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Bobby Abreu is one of six Venezuelans in this year's Midsummer Classic. (Daria Debuono/MLB.com)
HOUSTON -- Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome have different reasons to dedicate their appearances this year in the All-Star Game.

Abreu said he'll be at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night as a first-time All-Star trying to make his fellow Venezuelan countrymen proud. For Thome, his heart is just as close to home. The Phillies slugger, who leads the Major Leagues with 28 homers, said his fourth All-Star appearance is special because his mother, Joyce, is in remission from lung cancer.

"What I take out of this is the happiness you bring to your family," said Thome, who added 61 RBIs and a .289 average to his MLB-leading clouts. "My mother battled cancer a little bit over the winter. You don't know how long you're going to have your parents. This All-Star Game for me is special because you give back a little bit of happiness to the people who are closest to you."

Thome's mother was able to avoid surgery, but she spent months enduring debilitating chemotherapy, and was healthy enough Monday to travel with his father to Houston for the game and Thome's participation in the Home Run Derby.

Thome was selected as a reserve this year, while Abreu was picked by the fans via MLB.com as the 32nd player on the NL squad. Together, they have combined during the first half for 46 homers and 121 runs batted in. The first baseman and right fielder are two good reasons why the Phillies are leading a tight NL East race in which the top four teams are separated by just two games.

"So far, so good," said Abreu, who after a very slow start is hitting .306 with 18 homers and 60 RBIs. "We finished a strong first half. Now we need to just repeat it in the second half so we can go to the playoffs."

Abreu is one of six residents of Venezuela playing in the game, along with Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano and Marlins right fielder Miguel Cabrera for the NL, and Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez, Tigers infielder Carlos Guillen and Indians catcher Victor Martinez for the American League.

2004 All-Star Game

"This means a lot to me to be part of that group," said Abreu, who is in his seventh season, the last six with the Phillies. "Those guys all deserve to be here. For our country, it means a lot. This is the first time that this happened so it's very important to be among them, to have six guys representing our country."

Thome played in three previous All-Star Games and two home run-hitting contests as a member of the Cleveland Indians. In All-Star play, he's 1-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. The lefty-swinging slugger signed as a free agent with the Phillies prior to the 2003 season, which ended with his 47 homers leading the NL.

Thome has had little luck in home run-hitting contests, although he thinks participating is an important part of the All-Star week show.

"I think it's great. It gives the week a unique twist," Thome said. "You're talking about the best players in the world going up against each other. It's for the fans more than anything. They want to see guys on top of the home run race hit home runs. If you get into a good groove with your batting practice pitcher, it's fun to watch.

"The one I was in in Colorado (1998) was great. The one in Cleveland (1997) wasn't because I never hit one. But this is all for fun, all to have fun with the fans."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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