A pregame visit with Yankees players on Tuesday had kids from the New York City-based Committee for Hispanic Children and Families smiling from ear to ear.

The Major League Baseball Players Trust's "Buses for Baseball" program brought the group of more than 40 kids to Yankee Stadium where they met Joba Chamberlain, Dan Geise, LaTroy Hawkins, Chad Moeller, Sidney Ponson, Edwar Ramirez, Darrel Rasner, Dave Robertson and Billy Traber.

"The Players Trust helps us players give back to our communities," Hawkins said. "The Trust and 'Buses for Baseball' is a gateway for all players to meet children, brighten their day and make them feel special."

Chamberlain said, "I wasn't able to experience a live game until I was 15 years-old, so I think 'Buses for Baseball' is a great way to get kids to come to the stadium and get interested in baseball."

After the players spent time getting to know the kids and signing some autographs, the group stayed to watch the hometown Yankees defeat the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, 5-0.

"The entire day has been so exiting. It is a dream come true to meet the players face-to-face," 13-year-old Keidy Green said.

Green, like many of the children from the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, was attending her first Major League baseball game.

The Players Trust's "Buses for Baseball" operates in every metropolitan area and has provided more than 7,000 children an opportunity to see a big-league game.

Span is a fan, too: Rookie outfielder Denard Span not only got his first opportunity to play at Fenway Park when the Twins visited Boston this week, he also took the tour.

"A guy in there was telling me the history of the stadium -- all the guys who played here, lots of stories," Span told The St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Being here, it makes it seem like I'm in the big leagues now. For so many years, I've seen this stadium on TV, and to finally be here and see it in person, it's sort of surreal."

Rodriguez sets Major League record with 35th save: Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 35th save to become the first pitcher in Major League history to have 35 saves before the All-Star break. Bobby Thigpen has the full-season record of 57 saves.

"It means a lot. Honestly, it does," Rodriguez told The Los Angeles Times. "When you think of 40 [saves], you think of a whole season pretty much. And I've almost done that in half the season."

Navarro in for memorable weekend in the Bronx: Dioner Navarro, who was originally signed by the New York Yankees as a 16-year-old out of his native Venezuela, says that playing in the 2008 All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium will be special for just that reason.

"I started my career with the Yankees, and going back there as an All-Star now, it means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot for my family, too," Navarro, now the Rays' catcher, told The Tampa Tribune. "My wife and my wife's family -- they're all from the Bronx -- so it's going to be a full house for me that day, and hopefully, we'll get to enjoy it."

Sherrill honored to represent team for first time: Closer George Sherrill of the Orioles will be among the first-time players at this year's All-Star Game.

"Hopefully, I can represent these guys in here and the organization well," Sherrill, who had 27 saves through Tuesday, told The Baltimore Sun. "To be going there for the last [year] at Yankee Stadium, I'm just in a really fortunate position. It's a tremendous honor."

McLouth humbled by selection: Nate McLouth will be representing the Pirates in the 2008 All-Star Game after being voted on to the team by his peers. With the game to be played in Yankee Stadium, McLouth says there's an extra little bit of excitement.

"That's kind of a magical place in terms of baseball," McLouth told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I expect it's going to be a great event. Obviously, I'm grateful. It's kind of humbling to be mentioned with some of the other names. I'm honored to be chosen."

Wright awaits fan vote for final NL spot: David Wright, who started for the NL in the past two All-Star games, can still make this year's team in fan voting for the last roster spot.

"It's been something special the last couple of years," Wright told The New York Daily News. "If I'm there, great. If not, regroup and try to make a run the second half. There are plenty of deserving guys out there. It's not something I'm going to go get upset about. It's something I have absolutely no control over. If you have any gripes, go out there and play better. It's that simple. But our focus is going out here and taking this series. Obviously, it would be quite an honor. If not, I'll get some rest and get 'em the second half."

Myers brings swagger in recent outing: Brett Myers tossed 7 1/3 innings, struck out six, gave up just three runs and picked up the win earlier this week while pitching for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs.

"I definitely saw some swagger, some presence," IronPigs pitching coach Rod Nichols told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

DeJesus energized by new workout schedule: David DeJesus is getting results from his changed workout routine. He now lifts in the morning -- instead of just a few hours before game time -- at the suggestion of coach Luis Silverio.

"I get up now, eat my breakfast and go to the gym," DeJesus, told The Kansas City Star. "I think that's the key. I'm going to the gym earlier in the day and then taking a nap to recover. When the game starts, I feel lighter out there. I feel like I've got more energy. I feel stronger out there. I'm feeling as strong out there as I've felt throughout any year of my career."

Halladay ready to soak up fifth All-Star Game: Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay was selected for his fifth All-Star Game.

"It's always an honor," Halladay told The Toronto Sun. "Being a part of the first one was probably the neatest thing. It's a lot of fun taking my kids on the field. You never expect it, so you never take it for granted."

Ortiz faces live pitching: David Ortiz, working his way back after suffering a partially torn sheath tendon in his left wrist at the end of May, took some swings in the batting cage at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and followed that up by facing live pitching on Monday.

"When I start swinging, I get a little sore, and then when I keep going, I start feeling better and better," Ortiz told MLB.com. "It's just like in this type of particular injury, that's the way it goes."

Tavarez ready to settle into Braves' bullpen: The Braves signed veteran reliever Julian Tavarez. This marks the 10th team Tavarez has played for in his Major League career.

"Three baseball teams already [this season]," Tavarez, who began the season with Boston, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Hopefully this is it. I don't want to jump around anymore."

Nolasco impressive in front of family, friends: In front of 80 family members and friends, Ricky Nolasco won for the ninth time in his last 10 decisions on Monday night. Nolasco, who pitched eight innings of one-run ball in Florida's win over San Diego, seemed ready to end the Marlins' Major League record of consecutive games without a complete game, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

"I felt fine," Nolasco told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I was ready to go back out, but I understand the game."

Nolasco joined Chris Hammond (1993), Ryan Dempster (2001) and Dontrelle Willis (2005) as the only Marlins pitchers to reach the 10-win mark before the All-Star break.

Velez to take new approach at the plate: After batting .310 in 171 at-bats at Triple-A Fresno, Eugenio Velez finds himself back in San Francisco, where manager Bruce Bochy plans to use him as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement.

"My Triple-A coach told me, 'You keep swinging the bat, and everything is going to be fine,'" Velez told The San Francisco Chronicle. "'When you go to the plate, don't think. If you see something white, swing at it.'"

Offseason conditioning the recipe for Huff's success: Aubrey Huff, who had 18 home runs and 56 RBIs through Tuesday, attributes his success to offseason conditioning.

"I think I've found an offseason routine that works for me, finally," Huff told The Baltimore Sun. "I've tried everything from hitting extra, working out harder, doing all kinds of stuff. And it turns out what I needed was less. Less is more for me."

Damon puts team first: After almost 14 seasons, Johnny Damon has been placed on the 15-day DL for the first time. The Yankees star injured his left shoulder running into the left-field wall against Boston on Friday.

"It's disappointing, but I knew the team needed to get another body up there because I couldn't promise when I would be ready, and they could've kept giving me a couple days, but the team would still be in a bind," Damon told Newsday.

-- Red Line Editorial