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Wide-eyed Estrada sad it's over
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07/14/2004  1:10 AM ET
Wide-eyed Estrada sad it's over
First All-Star experience memorable for Braves catcher
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Johnny Estrada caught four innings after coming in for NL starter Mike Piazza to begin the top of the fifth inning. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
HOUSTON -- Johnny Estrada was so fond of his first All-Star Game experience that he seemed more than a little like Ernie Banks, saying: "Let's play two."

"Oh, man, it was awesome," Estrada said Tuesday night. "It was almost like you wish it was a doubleheader. Stay out there and keep playing. It would have been nice to win, but it was tough to come back after they put together that first inning."

For the record, the Atlanta Braves catcher caught four innings and went hitless in two trips to the plate in the 75th All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park.

With any luck, he would have left this game as a .500 All-Star Game hitter. After striking out in the fifth against Javier Vazquez of the New York Yankees, he faced Tom Gordon, also of the Yankees, in the eighth. Estrada stung the ball, but it deflected off Gordon's glove to second baseman Ronnie Belliard and Estrada was thrown out at first.

   Johnny Estrada  /   C
Born: 06/27/76
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

"They got a good deflection out to the second baseman and I'm not the fastest guy," Estrada said with a smile. "Bad break right there. It would have been nice to get a hit.

"I've faced Vazquez before. Actually, I hit my first Major League home run off of him when he was with the Expos. But those guys are tough, man, especially the last one."

Estrada's work in the 2004 regular season indicates that he fully belongs on the National League All-Star team. But the awe that he felt as a first-time All-Star will not be wearing off any time soon.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "They do it up real nice here and they make you feel very special. It's just an awesome experience and I'm going to work real hard to try to come back to another one.

2004 All-Star Game

"If I came to five more, I'd still be in awe, I think. I just don't consider myself that type of player, to be sitting next to Barry Bonds. I don't look at myself like that. It's a weird feeling."

But it's also an All-Star feeling, one that Johnny Estrada earned with the Atlanta Braves in 2004.

Michael Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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