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Helton leads trio of Rox Stars
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07/06/2003  6:00 PM ET 
Helton leads trio of Rox Stars
Wilson and Chacon named as reserves
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Todd Helton was the top vote-getter among National League first baseman. (Darren Hauck/AP)
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    Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton was elected to the All-Star Game as a National League starter for the third straight year, which means he can show the ropes to a couple of first-timers.

    Helton, heading to his fourth Midsummer Classic, will be joined by center fielder Preston Wilson and right-handed pitcher Shawn Chacon, who will not pitch because of an elbow injury.

    Wilson and Chacon were named via voting by players, coaches and managers -- a first-ever feature unveiled for this year's game in an attempt to get the best reserves and pitchers. The game will be played July 15 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

    Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was as happy as his players.

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    "Helton is a throwback to me," Hurdle said. "He could play in any decade of games they've played. He deserves to be in the All-Star Game. He plays innings hard every day.

    "Look where Preston Wilson was at this time last year and look at the strides he's made. ... Where he is this year is a tribute to his resiliency. It's the same with Chacon, the adversity he's been through to come back and do this. I mean, what are the odds?"

    This will be the first year that the result of the All-Star Game will determine home-field advantage for the World Series.

    "It's not like we haven't gone out and tried to win before," Helton said. "I haven't won an All-Star Game, so this would be a good time to win one."

    With three players selected, the Rockies return to normalcy. Last year, Helton was the team's only representative. Now Colorado will have placed multiple participants in the game eight of the last 10 years.

    Chacon, who was leading the NL in wins with 11 when he went on the disabled list with elbow stiffness, becomes the second pitcher in club history honored. Mike Hampton, now with Atlanta, represented Colorado in 2001.

    Helton, 29, has been the NL's premiere first baseman since 2000, when he challenged for a .400 batting average and won the league batting title. That one slipped by the voters, and he went to Turner Field in Atlanta as a reserve.

    But Helton is first on voters' minds now. He languished behind Houston's Jeff Bagwell in early voting, but wound up winning by more than 277,000 votes. Helton has gained recognition through the way he has played the game, not through self-promotion.

    Helton's current run, which covered most of the late voting period, was impossible to ignore. He has hit safely in 20 of his last 21 games -- a stint that included a career-best 17-game hit streak -- to pull his batting average to .338.

    Helton also has 15 home runs, and leads NL first basemen with 69 RBIs. His .580 slugging percentage and 1.01 OPS (on-base plus slugging) lead players at his position as well.

    "I'm excited to go," Helton said. "It never gets old. To be there with the best in the game, it's an honor and I look forward to it."

    Wilson, 28, has turned in a career year after arriving in Colorado in an offseason trade with Florida. He has 76 RBIs and has been locked in a competition with St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Florida's Mike Lowell for league lead in that category, and his 19 home runs -- just 11 fewer than his career high for a season -- lead the Rockies.

    Wilson did not expect to be honored.

    "I was surprised because there are a lot of guys out there having good years," Wilson said. "So I knew it was going to be tough for me to get in.

    "That's what you really appreciate. Any time you're voted (in) by your peers, it's a good feeling because it means that the people you play against and play with actually recognize what you're doing at the time."

    The additions of Wilson, Atlanta's Andruw Jones and St. Louis' Jim Edmonds give the NL three center fielders. Voters are asked to vote for merely outfielders, and corner outfielders have been dominant on the field and in the minds of voters.

    Wilson, batting .298, has given the Rockies right-handed presence in the cleanup position, between No. 3-batting Helton and Larry Walker, who saw his numbers drop early this season but has picked up lately -- although too late for All-Star consideration.

    Chacon, 25, punished last year for a 5-11 season on the mound and disagreements with manager Clint Hurdle off it, was a new pitcher from the beginning of Spring Training. He was honored for his work by getting the start in the home opener, a 2-1 victory over Arizona, and didn't slow down until the elbow injury flared last Sunday in a loss at Pittsburgh.

    The Rockies' conservative rehab schedule precludes Chacon from participating. He will throw off a mound on Monday, for the first time in eight days, and the plan is for him to pitch a minor-league rehab assignment and be in line to pitch after the break.

    But that didn't take away any of his excitement after hearing the announcement on Sunday.

    "It's still a big honor, something that I'll enjoy." said Chacon. "The first thing people think about is how far I've come since last August. For me, it's not over. The thing for me is to see how far I can go and when it's over then look back and see this is how far I've come.

    "When they told me (prior to Sunday's game), I didn't know how to feel. I was nervous."

    His 11-4 record has him tied with Atlanta's Russ Ortiz for the league lead in wins.

    Chacon has a 4.27 overall ERA, but that was elevated by two games -- one in which he gave up 12 runs in 3 2/3 innings against Kansas City (but was almost spared a loss, as Colorado mounted a furious comeback) and the game in Pittsburgh when he gave up six runs in four innings and could never get loose.

    Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Abe Winter contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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