While it figured that Ichiro would make the 2006 All-Star team — if not on hit production, then on popularity — Jose Lopez was no such lock.
But there he was, named to the American League team Sunday as a replacement for the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano at second base among the reserves voted on by players.
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove held a pregame meeting to tell the team of the All-Stars.
"He said Ichiro's name, and my heart sank," said Lopez, who was an All-Star in the California League in 2002 and the Texas League in 2003. "Then he said I was on, and I got tears in my eyes — I was so shocked, so happy."
Boston's Mark Loretta was voted by fans to start for the AL. Cano, who is injured, finished first in the player vote, followed by Lopez, who was sixth in the fan vote.
"Lopey deserves it," said Bret Boone, a former Mariner and three-time All-Star at second base. "At age 22-23, he's putting up some really good numbers. I wish I had put those numbers up at that age. Good for him."
Lopez called it "such a proud moment for me."
"I remember when [general manager] Bill Bavasi asked me to stick around this winter and work with the coaches, so I 'could have a shot to make the All-Star team.' I never thought it would be so. I'd like to thank [hitting coach] Jeff Pentland and [third-base coach] Carlos Garcia and Rocket [strength coach Allen Wirtala] for helping me reach this."
Ichiro was also immensely satisfied to have made the team as a starter through the fans' vote, placing third behind Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero.
"I was upset when I did not make the starting team last year," said Ichiro, who was named to the team as a reserve in 2005. "To make the All-Star team is a goal I have for myself for the first half of every season. To be voted on again is honorable for me."
The 10th man
Raul Ibanez may have started something after Saturday's emotional comeback from five runs down when he referred to Safeco Field fans as "our 10th man."
"You know how basketball has its sixth man, football has the 12th man," the outfielder said. "You know what I mean. ... Our fans are like that to us — our extra player, our 10th man."
Hargrove said Seattle's play in June — going 18-8, capped by the just-ended 7-2 interleague trip — generated energy "that we threw at the fans, and in turn they throw it back at you."
"Players will tell you they don't hear fans, and they're lying like a dog. You hear cheers and jeers. It has an effect. It doesn't affect the way you play, or you try not to let that happen, but it does affect your energy. It's amazing."
The manager complimented Seattle fans for being "always good fans. They've suffered through some bad baseball in recent seasons, and they're still good fans."
Hargrove first learned about Seattle fans coming here with teams from Cleveland and Baltimore.
"You find that fans are into the game here," he said. "You can always tell if that's so. You go some places, and it's a dead stadium. Or you can be in parks where there's always a low roar, so you know it's alive and into the game."
The Mariners will hold a mandatory workout on July 13 before flying to Toronto after the All-Star break.
Hargrove said a few players had been granted permission to miss the hour-long practice.
While most of the players who asked permission live on the East Coast and will go straight to Toronto from home, one will be headed the other way — to the Far East.
Kenji Johjima will be going home to Japan to see his new son for the first time. Wife Maki gave birth on Friday to the couple's third child, who joins 4-year-old son Yuta and 2-year-old daughter Miu.