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07/15/09 12:03 AM EST

Fellow All-Stars admire Hanley's ability

Johnson praises shortstop, loves first Classic experience

ST. LOUIS -- While growing up in the Dominican Republic, Hanley Ramirez chose Miguel Tejada as one of his childhood idols.

While Tejada is heading toward the twilight of his career, Ramirez is solidifying the belief of fans and numerous Major League scouts who have labeled him as one of the game's most exciting players.

But as they prepared to serve as the National League's only shortstops for Tuesday night's All-Star Game at Busch Stadium, Ramirez and Tejada found themselves standing side by side at their lockers and sharing equal admiration for each other's talents.

"The way he plays the game kind of reminds me of when I was a kid," Tejada said. "He's a good kid, and he's definitely one of the best."

Provided the opportunity to draw some of the attention he isn't afforded while playing for the Marlins, Ramirez went hitless in three at-bats while serving as the leadoff hitter for the NL, which saw the American League prolong its All-Star Game dominance with a 4-3 victory.

"This is baseball," Ramirez said. "It's disappointing whenever you don't win. That's why we play -- to win."

Josh Johnson, the Marlins' other All-Star selection whose appearance during Sunday's 8-1 win vs. the D-backs limited him to emergency duty during Tuesday night's game, was looking forward to the opportunity to see Ramirez do something special while playing under the bright lights of this setting.

"He deserves to get this stage," Johnson said. "He's one of the best players, and I've gotten to watch him day in and day out. He just has to keep doing what he's doing. He hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, that's for sure."

Even though he didn't feel he'd be provided the chance to display the powerful right arm that has allowed him to go 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA in his first 19 starts this season, Johnson made sure to soak in his first All-Star experience. He took some time to pick Giants All-Star Matt Cain's brain about his changeup and awed at some of the mammoth shots that Prince Fielder hit during Monday night's State Farm Home Run Derby.

"The [MLB All-Star Red Carpet] parade was just awesome," Johnson said. "That's the best experience that I've ever had. The Home Run Derby was awesome. It's just been a really, really great opportunity to meet some of the guys that I've been competing against for the last couple of years. It's pretty special."

Now, Johnson and Ramirez are hoping to help the Marlins enjoy something special during the second half of this season.

With Ramirez hitting .446 with six homers and a 1.293 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) over his past 17 games, the Marlins entered the break just four games behind the front-running Phillies in the NL East race.

"It's been fun," Johnson said. "We just have to take care of what we have to take care of as starting pitchers, and I think our offense will take care of the rest."

Along with leading the Senior Circuit with a .349 batting average, the 25-year-old Ramirez has also established himself as Florida's clubhouse leader.

"He's our go-to-guy," Johnson said. "We look to him for everything. He's our leader, and I think he's a little more outspoken this year. For a guy to be willing to go out there and be behind us like that definitely helps our whole team."

While unaware of the leadership that Ramirez provides, Nationals All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is certainly aware of the value the Marlins shortstop provides on a daily basis with his power, speed and rocket arm.

"He's one of the most exciting players in the game, if not the most," Zimmerman said. "It's kind of unfair to compare him to other people, because he's one of the most talented people that I've ever seen. It's not fun to play against him, but it's fun to watch him play."

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