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07/06/08 10:31 PM ET

Pujols, Ludwick named NL All-Stars

Outfielder honored for first time in six big league seasons

ST. LOUIS -- Nearly a decade after he was labeled a can't-miss prospect, Ryan Ludwick has made another huge stride in validating that tag. Ludwick, along with superstar Albert Pujols, was named to the National League All-Star team on Sunday. It is his first All-Star selection.

Ludwick was one of three outfielders voted in by National League players. He is one of six outfielders on the squad that will represent the Senior Circuit on July 15 at Yankee Stadium.

"It's unreal," said Ludwick, who will celebrate his 30th birthday two days before the Midsummer Classic. "I'm still kind of shocked at the whole thing. I've been through a lot."

Pujols, making his sixth straight All-Star appearance and the seventh of his eight-year career, was one of seven players named to the team by manager Clint Hurdle, who helms the reigning league champion Rockies. Pujols departed Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters on Sunday.

"I picked Pujols because I don't see how you can play an All-Star Game and him not be on the National League team," Hurdle said. "That is my personal opinion."

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

As recently as 2006, Ludwick spent the entire season at Triple-A Toledo in the Tigers organization. He signed with the Cardinals as a Minor League free agent prior to the 2007 season, and began '07 at Triple-A Memphis. But a hot start at Memphis got him back to the big leagues, and Ludwick has thrived for the Cardinals ever since.

"It's a great story," manager Tony La Russa said. "It shows a lot of guys are paying attention. He inspired lot of people. He deserves it too."

Ludwick got off to a torrid start in 2008, carrying a slugging percentage of better than .700 into late May. He has cooled off somewhat lately, but remains one of the most productive outfielders in the league. Ludwick is hitting .290 with a .367 on-base percentage, a .577 slugging percentage, 17 home runs and 58 RBIs.

"Tony called me in his office and congratulated me," Ludwick said, "and told me it's a long way from the [Triple-A] All-Star Game."

Drafted in the second round in 1999, Ludwick was a top prospect in the A's organization and remained highly regarded after trades to Texas and Cleveland. But a string of injuries derailed his march to the Majors, and it wasn't until '07 that he played as many as 50 games in a big league season.

"I couldn't be happier for the guy," said outfielder Skip Schumaker. "He's worked his tail off to be not only in the Major Leagues, but to be a guy who does damage at the plate, and a guy that people ought to be worried about at the plate.

"[He's had] injury after injury, and [he's] finally getting his chance and doing something with it. He's made the most of every opportunity he's gotten since he was called up last year. I couldn't be more happy for the guy."

Pujols is a four-time All-Star starter, but this marks the second straight year he has not won the fan vote. He started in the outfield in 2003, at first base in 2004 and 2006, and as the designated hitter in 2005. Last year he was named to the squad but, in a controversial decision by La Russa, did not appear in the game. It is conceivable that Pujols could still be named the NL's designated hitter for this year's contest.

Pujols is batting .350 with a .471 on-base percentage, a .624 slugging percentage, 18 home runs, 48 RBIs and more than twice as many walks as strikeouts.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.