Cruz is selected as Twins’ lone All-Star

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KANSAS CITY, MO. – Nelson Cruz has been to six All-Star Games already, so he's experienced just about everything at baseball's midseason party. The parades, the Home Run Derby, all the interactions with the game's biggest stars — he even took a selfie with umpire Joe West during an at-bat in Miami in 2017.

So is there anything different to do next week in Denver?

"Get a hit," Cruz said.

Ah, good point. Cruz, chosen as the Twins' lone representative for the July 13 game at Coors Field, is 0-for-7 in his previous All-Star appearances, though he did draw walks off Aroldis Chapman in 2013 and Jeremy Jeffress in 2018.

But that .000 batting average doesn't diminish the experience for Cruz, or the respect he feels by being selected. Just five months ago, he was finding it hard to generate much interest on the free-agent market for a designated hitter in his 40s; now, he's being honored as one of the best hitters in the game.

"It's a reward, you know?" said Cruz, whose .952 OPS ranks eighth in the major leagues, and who ranks 46th on MLB's all-time home run list. "It means you did good, you do something positive in the first half and you did work."

Cruz will represent his fourth team in the game, having gone as a Ranger in 2009 (though he didn't get into the game) and 2013, as an Oriole in 2014, and as a Mariner in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Only Moises Alou and Gary Sheffield, All-Stars for five different teams, have represented more.

The Twins' last-place standing likely limited them to one player in Denver, and Cruz said he felt bad for Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Taylor Rogers, who also merited consideration. But he enjoyed manager Rocco Baldelli's clubhouse speech when he announced Cruz's selection, and he's excited to be in that exclusive company again.

"They're all exciting. The first one [in St. Louis] was the one that stuck the most. I tried to soak it in," said Cruz, whose two children enjoy the hoopla even more. "Being around great players like [Derek] Jeter and Mariano [Rivera]. I remember Joe [Mauer] was there, too. I just took it in. Your first one, you don't know if you're going to be back."

MLB invited Cruz to take part in Monday's Home Run Derby, too, but he declined. He took part in 2009 and made it to the final round before losing 6-5 to Prince Fielder.

"It's a great experience, great fans, great for the game. Great for guys who haven't done that," Cruz emphasized. "You're swinging for the fence every single pitch. That can mess up your swing for two, three days, and you don't want that."

Instead, he'll be a guy that young players look forward to talking to, rather than a young guy hoping to meet players he looked up to as he rose through the ranks.

"I hadn't looked at it that way, but that's a great point. I'll [share] my experience and other things I've been able to do to stay in the game," Cruz said. "I guess

I'm going to be the old guy."

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