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Wednesday, July 3, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Boy Of Summer -- Rodriguez's `Happiest Day:' Youngest All-Star Shortstop

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Lourdes Navarro got a surprise - perhaps one of the delights of her life - when she returned to her Seattle hotel room yesterday and found a voice-message from her son.

He told her that he had been named to the American League All-Star team. Not too many moms over the years have ever received that kind of message.

Her baby, Alex Rodriguez, at 20 years, 11 months, thus became the youngest shortstop on any All-Star team. He is the 14th youngest player ever selected.

"It's very emotional, especially with my mom and family visiting here," said the Mariner shortstop. " . . . It's one of the happiest days of my life, a tremendous accomplishment."

Rodriguez is one of an unprecedented five Mariners going to Tuesday's game in Philadelphia. Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. was the overall leading vote-getter, but he won't play because of a broken hamate bone in his right hand.

The other Mariners, all reserves named yesterday, are right-fielder Jay Buhner, catcher Dan Wilson and designated hitter Edgar Martinez. It's the third selection for Martinez. The three other Mariner reserves are first-timers.

For Buhner, it was an eight-year climb to the top.

"No doubt it took a lot longer than people thought it would, more than I thought it would," Buhner said. "It took a while to take the `potential' tag off. The fact that I made it when some people told me I couldn't do things makes it even more flattering."

Buhner added that the Mariners' AL West title last season, "and the way we played in the playoffs had a lot to do with having five people named."

Rodriguez said, "I can't say enough about what we did last year. If we had lost to California (in the playoff game), it might be just Junior and Jay, or Junior and Edgar, going to the game. That did so much for us I can't explain it."

Martinez was uncertain he would be named because he doesn't play a field position and the NL site precludes using the DH.

"That makes me feel good that they would still consider me," said Martinez, last season's AL batting champion.

He added that the first time he went, in 1992, "I was just happy to be around guys like Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken. But when I came back last year, I felt more confident."

Wilson said he was "thrilled to death" to be selected.

"It's nice to be mentioned with some of those guys," he said. "But you can be an All-Star one season and not the next. It's a flaky game. You just have to keeping working hard at it."

Manager Lou Piniella said five selections, "means that people are recognizing the brand of baseball in Seattle has gotten better and they are being recognized for their efforts.

"It's . . . something they'll cherish forever," said Piniella, himself an All-Star in 1972. "If they never make it again, they can say they were (an) All-Star. In these kids' cases, I'm sure they will make it again."

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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