Mark Mulder couldn't have picked a better setting for his first All-Star appearance.
The Oakland Athletics left-hander grew up in suburban Chicago, so his trip to US Cellular Field is a return home, too.
"It's awesome. There's really no other way for me to describe it," he said Monday. "For it to be in my hometown, with friends and family here, it makes it that much better."
Mulder can count on having a large cheering section Tuesday night. His parents still live in South Holland, Illinois, and his brothers are also in town. He also has plenty of family and friends who got tickets to the game.
"There's going to be quite a few people that are good friends of mine that are going to be at the game," said Mulder, who said he had to get 18 tickets.
Because he plays in the American League West and only gets back to Chicago once or twice during the season, Mulder is savoring the extra trip home.
"It's kind of a comfort level," he said. "I know my way around the city. My parents aren't that far away. My brothers are here. It makes it a good time."
Willie, Barry and the Babe
Barry Bonds keeps climbing the home run charts, edging closer to Willie Mays' mark and drawing more and more questions about whether he will break Hank Aaron's record.
Bonds, however, is also taking aim at the Babe.
The San Francisco slugger leads the majors with 30 homers at the All-Star break, putting him just 17 shy of matching his godfather -- Mays -- for third on the career list.
"Willie's number is always the one that I've strived for," Bonds said Monday.
"And if it does happen, the only number I care about is Babe Ruth's. Because as a left-handed hitter, I wiped him out. That's it. And in the baseball world, Babe Ruth's everything, right? I got his slugging percentage and I'll take his home runs and that's it. Don't talk about him no more."
Ruth hit 714 home runs. Aaron finished with 755, but Bonds said "755 isn't the number that's always caught my eye."
At 38, Bonds' drive to reach Aaron has been slowed a bit by his high walk total. With each year, the daily grind of playing left field might take its toll, too.
"The toughest thing about getting older is playing defense. That is where you get hurt. Guys can hit from a wheelchair," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Bonds' former manager. "I always thought someday Barry might be a first baseman or a DH."
Around the bases
A video tribute to Larry Doby is planned shortly before the All-Star game. Doby, who in 1947 became the first black player in the American League, later played for the White Sox, managed them, coached them and worked in their front office.
Doby died June 18. ... With Barry Bonds being shifted from the outfield to DH, St. Louis' Jim Edmonds will start in center field against AL right-hander Esteban Loaiza. National League manager Dusty Baker said that if a lefty had started, Andruw Jones would have opened in center ... Phillies owner Bill Giles fondly recalled the days when his father, Warren, was president of the NL and the league went 18-5 in All-Star games.
"He really wanted to win the World Series every year, win the All-Star game, draw more people than the American League. And at every All-Star game, he would go in the clubhouse and give the players a real pep talk about beating the other league.
Even during the World Series, when we were flying charter flights in those days with executives from each league, he wanted the National League plane to take off first and land first."