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All-Stars ready for the presidential pitch

| Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ST. LOUIS — Curtis Granderson was thrilled to make the All-Star team for the first time. Then, the Detroit center fielder discovered another treat might be in store — a chance to meet President Barack Obama.

Obama is set to throw out the ceremonial first ball at tonight's All- Star Game at Busch Stadium. He also will be join Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in the Fox broadcast booth during an unspecified inning.

"A lot of people assume I've met (Obama) because we're both from Chicago, but the closest I've gotten is watching him on TV," Granderson said Monday. "If I could get a photo with him or shake his hand, that would complete my All-Star festivities."

St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols will move behind the plate to receive Obama's toss.

"He says he wants to warm up before. So, I'm just going to tell him, 'Just lob it up there and don't try to be a perfect throw,' " Pujols said. "Obviously, it's an honor to catch the first pitch from the president, as our leader. Tomorrow, I think it's going to get to me.

"As a little boy, when I was my son's age, I would never have thought I was going to be on this stage."

Soft tossin'

San Diego closer Heath Bell was ready to take on another job during All-Star week — he wanted to pitch to Padres teammate Adrian Gonzalez in the Home Run Derby.

"I'd lob them in for him," Bell said yesterday.

Instead, Bell watched from the first-base line with his NL teammates as Gonzalez took his cuts against Padres batting practice pitcher Ray Krohn.

Texas' Josh Hamilton elevated the art of soft tossing in the Derby to a new level last year, when he brought his 71-year-old former American Legion coach.

This year, the eight Derby contestants brought a mix of new and old to pitch.

Former Derby champion Ryan Howard of the Phillies reached into his past and brought his summer ball coach.

"He's a friend of mine, and he's special to me because he helped me kind of get to where I am today as far as my development and just helping me throughout the years," Howard said.

Milwaukee's Prince Fielder brought a former minor-league hitting coach, and Texas' Nelson Cruz invited a coach from the Dominican Republic. Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena had the Rays' regular batting practice pitcher, Detroit's Brandon Inge chose the Tigers' bullpen coach and Minnesota's Joe Mauer brought his high school coach.

Albert Pujols, however, had to scramble. The St. Louis slugger had wanted Cardinals coach Dave McKay, the team's usual BP pitcher. But with McKay away in Arizona, Pujols needed a free agent to throw to him. So, he "borrowed" Pirates bullpen coach Luis Dorante.

No Bonds

He turns 45 in two weeks and is under federal indictment, but Barry Bonds still isn't ready to retire.

The career home run king last played in 2007 for San Francisco, batting .276 with 28 home runs, 66 RBs and the NL's top on-base percentage.

"I know the Giants are dying for power, and they're in it. They wouldn't have to look beyond their backyard," Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, said yesterday at the All-Star festivities. "I talk to teams all the time, but nobody has brought up his name."

Softball stars

St. Louis musician Nelly was all over the field in the celebrity softball game, hitting a long home run, making a sliding catch in left field and flattening the temporary fence in a futile chase of a homer by Andy Richter. ... St. Louis native Jenna Fischer, who stars in the TV sitcom "The Office," said her fondest Cardinals memory was reading a poem she had written as a young school girl on KMOX radio. "I feel like it was 'Roses are red, violets are blue, Cardinals something,"' Fischer said.

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