07/14/08 6:47 PM EST
Marlins duo shares a close bond
All-Stars Uggla, Hanley credit each other for their success
By Willie Bans / MLB.com
Instead, Uggla flips the script and defers attention to Ramirez, acting like the latter is a perennial All-Star.
"Hanley Ramirez is in a class of his own," said Uggla, a second baseman and a reserve on the National League team. "He plays the hardest position [shortstop] on the field. He hits the ball as far as anybody. He can run as fast as anybody. He can do it all. Playing next to him every day, he just makes me that much better. He's always on base, lets me drive him in all the time."
And Uggla, who's hitting .286 with 23 home runs and 59 RBIs this season, doesn't stop there. He can give the ultimate compliment, too.
"I don't even know if I'd be here if I didn't have him in the same lineup as me," Uggla said.
Such is the relationship between Uggla and Ramirez, the NL's starting shortstop who's been brilliant so far, with 23 homers, 45 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and a .311 batting average.
They have become closer since their rookie years in 2006, when Uggla made his first All-Star Game and Ramirez won the NL Rookie of the Year. And neither forgot each other's significance at the All-Star Game press conference Monday afternoon at The Grand Hyatt in New York City.
"He's a great guy, and I love him," Ramirez said. "He always tells me, 'You're making me good,' and he's making me good, too. We've been working together for three years and we're more than just friends. We're like family now."
Uggla participates in the State Farm Home Run Derby on Monday night, and in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, the country will get a closer look at the double-play combination that's kept the Marlins (50-45) just 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Phillies in the NL East.
Still, Uggla is unsure of how much impact the All-Star Game's stature will have on the small-market Marlins.
"It's tough to say," Uggla said. "Obviously, there's a lot of exposure, a lot of media, especially with it being in New York. Obviously, from the fans voting Hanley in, he's already established himself across the nation. He's showing everybody why he's the best shortstop in the game."
Both enter the All-Star Game under different conditions. Ramirez will bat leadoff for the NL, but he's unfazed.
"I don't get nervous," he said.
Uggla will likely appear in the game after not getting an opportunity to play in 2006. Either way, 2008 will be much different for Uggla, and not just because he has another Marlins teammate on the All-Star club.
"Honestly, [the 2006 All-Star Game] was kind of a blur," Uggla said. "I was just trying to take it in. I kind of sat back in the corner a little bit and watched these guys do their thing.
"I was very starstruck and awestruck. I was thinking, 'Am I supposed to be here?'"
But this time ...
"I went out and got video cameras, regular cameras, anything you can think of, I got it," Uggla said. "So I'm going to try to take as much footage and as many pictures as I can. Just try to take it all in at the same time. This is a special All-Star Game."
With an important teammate.
Willie Bans is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.