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One derby enough for Braun
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — So far, one shot at the Home Run Derby has been plenty for Ryan Braun.

Though he leads the National League with 24 homers at the All-Star break, Braun's stock answer the last several years is he enjoys watching, thank you.

The Milwaukee Brewers slugger participated for the first and perhaps last time in 2008 at Yankee Stadium. He remembered being under the most pressure he'd ever experienced while in the batter's box, and then being wiped out at the finish.

"I don't think I've ever really been nervous when I've stepped on a baseball field other than that," Braun said. "More so than the postseason, more so than when I first got to the major leagues."

Braun, at least, made it to the semifinals in that slug-off in New York, best remembered for the show Josh Hamilton put on.

Former slugger Mark McGwire, now the Cardinals batting coach, won the event in 1992, was an annual participant and remembers having a good time. He'd like to see the amount of misses, now 10 per round, perhaps cut in half to keep things moving but otherwise thinks it's a great showcase.

In the early days, McGwire remembered, hitters had just three outs to do damage.

"I think it's one of the best parts of the All-Star game," McGwire said. "I used to really enjoy doing it. You had to let loose and say 'Hey, I'm going to have fun.'

"But some guys stress out, thinking it might ruin their swing."

Braun ticks off the reasons why not to swing. The setting is unfamiliar, there's no batting cage, cameras are stationed all over the field and a packed house has its eyes fixed on in anticipation you'll muscle up on a practice cut.

Braun was surprised a player like Matt Kemp, who led the majors with 39 homers last year but is not a dead pull hitter, agreed to participate. The event is built for long balls that hug the foul poles and Kemp hit just one homer.

Braun didn't say for certain he'll never say yes again, although the more he talked the more points he brought up in favor of not participating.

"That day I remember being exhausted mentally, and emotionally it's draining, too," Braun said. "It's just a different experience, and I just remember it took a lot out of me.

"The All-Star experience is amazing but it's nice to come back rejuvenated."


CAMEO APPEARANCE: National League All-Star manager Tony La Russa's longtime right-hand man doesn't think he'll return to the game, either.

Dave Duncan, La Russa's pitching coach for more than 30 years with the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, is on an open-ended leave of absence to be with his ailing wife and is living in southwest Missouri. He hasn't officially retired but said Tuesday he didn't anticipate coaching again.

Janine Duncan's condition has stabilized after surgery to remove a brain tumor last summer.

Derek Lilliquist was promoted from bullpen coach to pitching coach in January.

Duncan tutored several Cy Young winners, including LaMarr Hoyt, Dennis Eckersley and Chris Carpenter. With the Cardinals, he was credited with helping to resurrect the careers of Woody Williams, Jeff Suppan and Kyle Lohse.

It was La Russa's decision to start the Giants' Matt Cain over Mets 12-game winner R.A. Dickey. He and Duncan collaborated on the best spot to use Dickey, given neither of his catchers has much, if any, experience with a knuckleballer.

Duncan said the plan called for Dickey to pitch in the fifth inning, and not to be the second pitcher used.

"He will not come in second because that isn't where it makes sense to use him," La Russa said. "When you see how he's used, you'll understand."

La Russa knew he'd be questioned about his decision and noted that Dickey's first half is a "great story." But he added, "There's a whole clubhouse full of great stories. He doesn't have to start the game."


BOO BIRDS: Indians closer Chris Perez was prepared for a frigid welcome from fans in Kansas City after some actions and remarks that drew some heat earlier this season.

During a series early in the season, he mocked the "Our Time" slogan the Royals adopted for this season in an inflammatory posting on Twitter. When the teams met again in Cleveland, he drew more ire for a taunting gesture directed at the Royals' Jarrod Dyson after striking him out.

"I've been booed before. It probably won't be the last time," Perez said, "but at the same time, I'm playing for the AL. I'm trying to help the AL win."

That's why Perez hopes the boos at Kauffman Stadium aren't quite as loud as they were for the Yankees' Robinson Cano, who was pounded mercilessly during the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night.

"I love Kansas City. I love playing here. If they boo, they boo," Perez said. "I don't think anything I say is off the wall. I believe everything I say, and I think some people agree with me. And if they don't, I think people still respect that I say what I believe."


BY THE NUMBERS: Baseball is a game in which numbers matter, where statistic such as a pitcher's ERA or a player's batting average can have a dramatic impact on future contracts

Of course, people are keeping track of other numbers during the All-Star festivities.

As in, there are 80 barbeque joints in Kansas City, more per capita than any other U.S. city, according to the Kansas City Barbeque Society. And there are more than 200 fountains in the so-called "City of Fountains," five of which have been colored blue for All-Star weekend.

There are also five statues in the shape of crowns throughout the city, each of them weighing half a ton. They are part of the city's embrace of the annual Midsummer Classic.