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Rays' Kazmir still apple of Mets' fans eyes

NEW YORK — Riding in open cars through Manhattan's packed Sixth Avenue for the All-Star red carpet parade Tuesday was quite an experience for the three Rays.

Especially LHP Scott Kazmir.

Mets fans can't seem to let go of the July 2004 trade that sent him to the Rays, and they let him know it.

"They were really passionate, put it that way," he said. "It was crazy. There were guys tossing their Mets caps to me saying, 'Just try it on, see what it feels like, we know you'll come back.' A couple made it (to him) and they were like, 'Just keep it, you'll be wearing it soon.' And they were all asking me when I'll become a free agent."

The players were accompanied by their families, and C Dioner Navarro and 3B Evan Longoria said they also enjoyed the ride, amazed by how many thousands of people lined up to watch.

"It was great," Navarro said. "I was surprised how many people were cheering for me. A lot of people cheering for Tampa Bay, it was fun. I saw a lot of people in Rays shirts."

Longoria will stay in New York today to be a guest on the HBO Costas Now show at 9 p.m., and to get some rest before heading back for Thursday's workout at Tropicana Field. "I need to relax one of these days," he said. He'll come back looking different, having shaved off his goatee.

The players were also busy signing autographs, and getting things signed for them. Among other souvenirs, Kazmir had a home run derby ball signed by Josh Hamilton and a Yankees ball signed by their players. "I got a lot of things," Kazmir said. "I put Navi's little kid to work."

Players were invited to a number of parties on Monday night; Kazmir was among those stopping by the Jay-Z/Alex Rodriguez party at the 40-40 club.

SALUTE TO THE BOSS: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner made the trip from his Tampa home and was honored during pregame ceremonies, driven around the field in a golf cart then "delivering" the first pitch ball to the mound. Steinbrenner, 78, wore sunglasses but appeared to be getting emotional, waving a few times to the crowd and saying "Thank you." "He's awesome, it's obviously well-deserving," Rodriguez said.

POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE: There was so much hype about this being the last year of Yankee Stadium, it was no surprise how over-the-top the pregame ceremony was.

Forty-nine Hall of Famers were trotted out in what was called the "greatest collection of baseball All-Stars ever assembled on one field" and put at their respective positions, then they introduced the starters who joined them.

Of note was Tampa's Wade Boggs, who went into the Hall as a Red Sox, playing to the crowd by wearing a Yankees cap. The largest cheer went to Yogi Berra, second to Reggie Jackson.

NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES: Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said he and his wife were threatened during the parade after a New York Daily News back page headline PAPELBUM! on a story about how he wanted to close out the game instead of Mariano Rivera. "I feel like I needed to be in a bulletproof car," he told mlb.com. "My wife is pregnant and she's getting her life threatened. It's stupid."

MISCELLANY: Giants RHP Tim Lincecum missed the game after being hospitalized earlier Tuesday for the flu and dehydration. … Fired Mets manager Willie Randolph, who was supposed to be an NL coach, was at the game as Steinbrenner's guest. … Singer Sheryl Crow, who performed the national anthem, and actor Alyssa Milano were among pregame onfield guests. … It was the eighth All-Star Game played in New York, fourth at Yankee Stadium.

Rays' Kazmir still apple of Mets' fans eyes 07/15/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2008 10:11am]

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