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07/13/10 10:39 PM ET

Pregame events make All-Star goosebumps

Everyday heroes, Steinbrenner, players honored before game

ANAHEIM -- Lisa Klein said she "had a little breakdown," and that was understandable. You may have seen her wiping a few tears away during the People All-Stars Among Us celebration before Major League Baseball's 81st All-Star Game. If you are like a lot of people, you probably could relate a little bit.

"Are you OK?" Derek Jeter asked her as the All-Stars mingled and shook hands with the 30 people recognized as everyday heroes on the field before the first pitch Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.

At least that's who she thought it was.

"He was a Yankee -- the cute one," she said.

The All-Star pregame festivities were a moving experience in every way. From the moment of silence and video tribute to legendary Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away on a day devoted to baseball excellence, to the always-powerful player introductions, to the second annual celebration of ordinary people who do extraordinary things, it was a time to remember.

"It was such an honor to be down there, to showcase all our nonprofits and just inspire others that they can be All-Stars in the community," said Klein, the Athletics' representative who in 2007 established Loved Twice, a nonprofit that collects "gently used" baby clothing and donates them to newborns in need. Over the past three years, Loved Twice distributed more than 20,000 pounds of clothes to over 3,000 Oakland-area newborns, who have directly benefited from her work.

Innings later, she was sitting in Suite 77 with 29 other All-Stars Among Us, all having the time of their lives, all networking. Klein is starting a Facebook page so they can all continue to help each other after benefiting from the 1.7 million fan votes that made this occasion a reality.

Maybe you noticed Bob Bardwell sitting in his wheelchair at home plate as Alex Rodriguez shook his hand and said, "You are my hero." Bardwell, representing the Twins, founded a nonprofit youth ranch, Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, in Stewartville, Minn., which hosts 23,000 people each year. He also founded The National Wheelchair Sports and Recreation Camp, attended by 1,000 campers over the last 22 years. The motivational speaker has also completed 100 wheelchair marathons.

"I was involved in a construction accident 37 years ago, leaving me paralyzed from the waist down," he said. "And on very rare occasions in life, I get goosebumps from the waist down. You figure that one out. The joy of this, you can't really put it into words. It's the memory of a lifetime. We certainly are honored by Major League Baseball for what they've done here.

"For me, it gives me a chance to go back home and spread more of my mission. My mission is called, 'Spreading Joy, Changing Lives.' That's what I do in life: be encouraging to people. I always say that pain, style and disappointment is inevitable, but misery is optional. This is just a big boost to all of us to go back home to our community and inspire other people."

The special tribute to the All-Stars Among Us was delivered by an A-list of celebrities, including Ben Affleck, Sheryl Crow, Harrison Ford, Salma Hayek, Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron. At the end of the video, Roberts said, "Congratulations to the 2010 People All-Stars Among Us," and a spontaneous ovation roared throughout the sun-drenched ballpark.

Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president for business, said the pregame festivities further differentiated this All-Star Game -- one like no other.

"I know it sounds trite, but we're humbled by these people," he said of the All-Stars Among Us. "The fact that they got the level of recognition and appreciation they did, that's gratifying to us. We try to put on a pageant and make it look nice, but at the very end of the day, it's about recognizing these folks, and pushing the notion that everybody can contribute if they want to."

Rod Carew got onto the elevator with Amber Riley and signed a baseball for her. The Hall of Famer had just thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at the ballpark where he spent much of his career. The star of the Emmy-nominated TV show "Glee" had just belted out the Star-Spangled Banner. The Canadian Tenors -- Clifton Murray, Victor Micallef, Remigio Pereira and Fraser Walters -- performed Canada's national anthem.

"It was nerve-wracking and it was exciting all at the same time," Riley said. "It's really crazy. You can't really hear the crowd that much because I have the plug in my ear, but it was fun."

As for Carew, it has been a joyful week serving as Major League Baseball's honorary spokesperson for the All-Star Week, which began Friday. He rode in the lead parade vehicle earlier in the day during the sixth annual Red Carpet Show presented by Chevy, and he spent subsequent hours talking baseball with All-Stars, before throwing the first pitch. Carew said he was especially moved by the All-Stars Among Us celebration.

"It's a great celebration," he said. "They've done a great job. People are going to have a great night."

Another of the highlights in this ballpark during pregame: Jered Weaver and Torii Hunter introduced to the crowd dominated by Angels fans. Weaver was unavailable to pitch because he started on Sunday, but American League manager Joe Girardi had added him as a roster replacement, in the move that preceded the roster additions of pitchers Justin Verlander and Andrew Bailey.

Colbie Caillat was also on the entertainment list for the night, scheduled to perform "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.

The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game is being televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau de Sport, and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio is providing exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also are providing comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.