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07/13/11 1:40 AM EST

Getting in game caps special time for Gaby

Sanchez pops out in lone AB, but enjoys all All-Star festivities

PHOENIX -- On Monday, it finally hit Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez that he was an All-Star. It occurred during batting practice a couple of hours before the State Farm Home Run Derby began.

Sanchez got a kick out of talking to the players he played against since he entered the big leagues for good last year.

"Just hanging out and talking with them definitely hits you. And I'm here and it's fun and it's exciting," Sanchez said.

Sanchez received more excitement by playing in the All-Star game on Tuesday, as the National League defeated the American League, 5-1, at Chase Field. Sanchez entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter for designated hitter Andre Ethier, and he popped up to Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick.

"Just being able to get into the game and getting the first experience of just being out there, it's awesome," Sanchez said. "There weren't any butterflies. I was going out there and trying to have a good AB and try to put something good in play. I got jammed a little bit, but I was able to put it in play somewhere."

What made Sanchez even more proud was that he was one of three players to attend the University of Miami and represent their teams in the All-Star Game. Sanchez, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and Indians right-hander Chris Perez were teammates at Miami.

"It's crazy that we are representing the University of Miami," Sanchez said. "To me, it's a little bit more special because I grew up in Miami and lived there my entire life. I never had to leave home."

Participating in the All-Star festivities with his college teammates wasn't the only thing that Sanchez treasured.

"I'm getting a whole bunch of stuff signed -- bats, jerseys, trying to get whatever I can, because it's just an exciting moment right now," Sanchez said. "Being able to be in a group of guys who are unbelievable players, to get something from them is a memorable moment."

Sanchez hopes that the Marlins will have more memorable moments after the All-Star break. Florida is in fifth place in the NL East, but ended the first half on a five-game winning streak. Sanchez said the winning will continue if the Marlins play the game the right way.

"We won the last five games," he said. "We are going to try to carry that in the second half, continue to play hard, continue to play good baseball and see if we could make a run at it. We have the team to do it.

"I think we have a great team. We battle, we don't ever give up. I think that is one of the big things with us. It doesn't matter who we face, we are going to keep battling until we can't anymore. We have been playing good baseball, good defense and pitching in the last five games, and we have been hitting the ball well."

Sanchez has been playing well all season. He is among the team leaders in every offensive category, proving that his rookie season of 2010 wasn't a fluke. But when people think of the top first basemen in the NL, Sanchez flies under the radar. That's what happens when you have Albert Pujols and All-Star MVP Prince Fielder in the league.

"I don't worry about those kinds of things," Sanchez said. "At the end of the day, people are going to like me, people are not going to like me. You are always going to have your critics and have people like you. I have to continue playing and not worry about anything else."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.