Kathy Willens, Associated Press
Texas' Josh Hamilton has battled a number of demons during his way to the All-Star game.

The 2008 major league baseball All-Star Game offers so many good stories.

A healthy Milton Bradley getting his first selection and being named as the injury replacement starter at DH for David Ortiz.

Cliff Lee, a year removed from an injury-related demotion to Buffalo, possibly starting for the American League. He's 11-2 on a last-place team;

The Cubs' Geovany Soto chosen by the fans, the first National League rookie catcher ever picked to start.

Joe Crede, who was supposed to lose the White Sox third base job to Josh Fields after offseason back surgery, earning his first All-Star selection.

That's just four good stories, and there are plenty more.

But there is one great story.

And that's why on TBS' All-Star Game selection show Sunday, the first player interviewed by Ernie Johnson and the network's baseball analysts was Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

"I should be dead right now or in jail."

You don't hear those words uttered by many first-time All-Star selections. But Hamilton is different from most first-time All-Stars in so many ways.

He has said he has dreamed of making the All-Star Game so he can tell his story of redemption to the national media that will gather in New York for the last All-Star Game in the old park before the Yankees move across the street in 2009.

Hamilton told TBS that talking to the media about his struggles with drug addiction that kept him out of baseball for more than three years keeps him accountable.

"When I get the urge to have a drink or do something I'm not supposed to do, I think about what a hypocrite I would be to my Christianity and my sobriety," he said. "My wife told me in the midst of my addiction that God was going to let me get back to baseball.

"Being able to share my story, that's what it's all about."

Hamilton's tale goes beyond his battle with those demons. A No. 1 pick of Tampa Bay nine years ago, Hamilton did not do anything baseball related for three years when crack cocaine meant more to him than the crack of the bat. He barely spent any time in the minor leagues before being called up to the Cincinnati Reds and played just 97 games a year ago.

How many guys with fewer than 100 games under their belt before the season wind up with 3.7 million All-Star votes a year later?

Obviously, it's more than just the Rangers faithful who are pulling for this guy to make it. On Sunday, he drove in his major league leading 84th run.

Hamilton will be joined in New York by Bradley and infielders Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. No other team is sending its 1-2-3-4 hitters to the All-Star Game.

There will be those interested in hearing from Kinsler, who probably should have been voted to start over Boston's Dustin Pedroia, and from Young making his fifth trip and from Bradley making his first.

But it's the surest of bets that the story next Monday will be Hamilton in the home run derby followed a night later by Hamilton's first All-Star at-bat.

Let's hope that Rockies manager Clint Hurdle has a good imagination and gets Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez onto the mound before Hamilton is replaced in the lineup.

Then we can get a nice one at-bat evaluation of the trade general manager Jon Daniels engineered to put Hamilton in a Texas uniform.

As much as the Rangers need pitching, they wouldn't be above .500 if not for the guy in the heart of the order driving in a run on a daily basis.

And that's the great part of Hamilton's amazing tale.

The baseball part of it is just getting started.