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OPEN MIC: Gary Sheffield

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Through 's 15-year major-league career, the uniforms have certainly changed, but one thing has remained the same: no matter where he's gone, Sheffield has always hit. Currently ranked third in the National League with a .333 batting average, fifth with 69 RBI and eighth with 22 home runs, Sheffield is headed to the All-Star Game as a starting outfielder after garnering more than 1,500,000 fan votes. The Atlanta slugger is well-traveled, for sure. This will be the fourth different team he's represented (the , and are the others) in the mid-summer classic. The plot could even thicken further — at age 34 and in great physical shape, Sheffield still has a number of strong years ahead of him, and to this point, Atlanta has shown no signs that they're considering re-signing him for 2004 and beyond. Could a fifth All-Star uniform be in the works for Sheffield? Time will surely tell. For the moment, Sheffield took time out to sit down with FOXSports.com and discuss his seventh selection to baseball's grand stage of July in a special All-Star Game Open Mic: This is going to be the seventh time you've played in an All-Star Game. What does it mean to you to be picked to the National League roster? It's always an honor to go to an All-Star Game. I'm the type of person that's not really that greedy, though. I'd like to let a young player go and get that experience, to get that exposure, but being voted in, that makes it more special to me. If I wasn't voted in, I'd rather let a young player go and get that experience, but to get voted in and start has more meaning and is more fun. With that being said, what was it like when you played in your first All-Star Game, in 1992? I was with the , and that was the first year I'd ever had a big year — that's the year I won the batting title and got traded from Milwaukee. That was all special, especially having the game in San Diego in front of the San Diego fans. Having a standing ovation in front of your home crowd was something I'd never experienced. Do you think the new changes in the format of the All-Star Game, as far as it counting for home-field advantage, are good for the game? I think it's going to change the way guys approach it. Like A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) said this week, guys are normally outta there and in the shower as fast as they can. Guys will be thinking about their plans and their weekends and stuff (during the game). Now, the guys are going to have to pay attention until the last out. Being that the are almost certainly headed to the playoffs, is that an added incentive for you to play in this game? Most definitely. I'm going in to win. It's not that we didn't play to win before — every time you step on a baseball field, you play to win whether it matters or not. That's just how you're raised as a kid. You don't go on a field and just let things happen. That being said, you're going to see some guys playing hard in this game. There'll be knocking down guys at second base, breaking up double plays, things like that. It's different than the All-Star Games in the NBA, where guys won't be fouling all hard, or hitting hard in the (NFL) Pro Bowl. This is going to be a different type of ballgame. Do you think that every team should have a representative at the All-Star Game, or is that a rule that's kind of antiquated and out of date? You know, I don't believe there should be a representative from each team. I believe the guys who deserve to be there should be there. If your team doesn't want to put salary on your team and has got guys on the roster who belong in the minor league system, then those guys don't deserve to go to the All-Star Game. They haven't paid their dues. There's a lot of guys who have been in this game long enough to pay their dues. Are you surprised how many representatives (7) the will have in this game? Not at all. If you look at our lineup, we go out there and put up a lot of runs, and any time you have a lot of runs being scored, you're going to have a lot of offensive players to go with that. We have a few more pitchers who'd be capable of going, and we have a couple of guys that should be there, but we have two of them going and we should be thankful for that. All in all, if you look at our first half, this team has done a lot. A lot of guys on this team have contributed to that; there's not just one guy that made the difference. Your wife, DeLeon, is a Chicago native. What do your plans for the All-Star weekend look like? Hectic. It's already hectic going to an All-Star Game regardless, but it's especially hectic with all of the family, the friends and accommodating people. I'm going to have to do a lot of entertaining. (laughs) How many tickets are you going to have to leave at the stadium will call window? You know, I try to let my wife handle all of that stuff. I don't even want to know. I tell everyone, 'Call her, talk to her, because I have no idea.' All I know is that it's going to be a lot. Your uncle, Dwight Gooden, was the youngest All-Star in history at the age of 19. When you were watching him pitch in that 1984 All-Star Game, what went through your mind? I think that's one that he struck out the side (in the fifth inning). I was just nervous, really. I was probably more nervous than he was, seeing who he was going in there and facing, and then to strike those guys out. You saw these guys, like Alvin Davis of Seattle, and these guys don't really strike out, and then there's my uncle just striking them out. That's when we knew he was going to be one of the top pitchers in the game. I was just thinking that guys hadn't seen him the first time around, and that the next time, they'd get him. But that day, he just dominated. Speaking of young rookie phenoms, do you think the ' should have made the NL roster? Most definitely. I think to promote the game, you've got to turn the page instead of just seeing the same guys. When you see a guy with a windup like his and the results that he's getting, that brings people to the game. It brings excitement to the game. People want to see that high leg kick, especially with a lefty, just rearing back and striking people out. That's something you hardly see anymore, unless it's or , the same names you always see. And they don't have the kind of flair that a Willis brings to the table. No, they don't. When you've got new guys coming up like that, you've got to promote him. That's what the game should be about. Bryan Hoch is a contributing writer to FOXSports.com. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.
Tagged: Braves, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Dontrelle Willis

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