KANSAS CITY -- Though reserved by nature, Carlos Gonzalez is still very much privy to the excitement that comes along with being a first-time All-Star.
All smiles when speaking to media on Monday from Kansas City, hours before belting four home runs in the first round of the State Farm Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium, the Rockies' lone representative also learned in the morning he would be the All-Star Game's first hitter, after National League manager Tony La Russa announced Gonzalez would be batting leadoff at designated hitter against American League starter Justin Verlander.
For that, CarGo can thank his hitting coach, Carney Lansford.
"That's one of the neat things, you get eight players selected and you get to pick your DH," La Russa said. "I relied on, tied for first, the greatest teammate you can have, Carney Lansford -- talked to him and I asked him about CarGo, and he said he can hit all over. He says last year, when they really got hot, he hit at the top of the lineup and made things happen.
"I like Justin can take some time in the first and look over there and see some real damage right off the bat. I think these guys will get his attention."
"If he picks it up early, nice and easy, then he's great," Lansford said of his left-handed-hitting student. "He recognizes rotation of pitches. If he speeds it up, that's when he chases a lot of balls out of the zone. He's been able to stay consistent, and that was the whole key, figuring out his key and his timing."
Gonzalez, 26, has seemingly been doing as much since arriving on the NL scene, after Oakland traded him alongside fellow All-Star Huston Street and pitcher Greg Smith for outfielder Matt Holliday following the 2008 season.
During his time with the Rockies, who signed Gonzalez to a seven-year, $80 million contract last year, the outfielder has hit for a .303 average with 94 home runs, most recently compiling a .330 average with a .389 on-base percentage and .578 slugging mark in the first half for an otherwise underperforming club that entered the break sitting in last place in the NL West, 13 games behind the division-leading Dodgers.
National League lineup
1. Carlos Gonzalez, COL
2. Melky Cabrera, SF
3. Ryan Braun, MIL
4. Joey Votto, CIN
5. Carlos Beltran, STL
6. Buster Posey, SF
7. Pablo Sandoval, SF
8. Dan Uggla, ATL
9. Rafael Furcal, STL
Matt Cain, SF
"I wish, collectively, we would have played better, but we've been going through a lot of tough times -- a lot of injuries, and inconsistencies with the pitchers," Gonzalez said. "But we still have another half in front of us, and the way we're pitching lately, it's showing some improvement. We stay that way, we're going to be pretty good. We're going to be able to do something."
Gonzalez, named to the NL squad through player voting, figures to continue playing a key role in his own vision, particularly from the third spot in front of a cleanup slot that has greatly missed the injured Troy Tulowitzki. Just don't ask him what type of numbers he'll carry into the offseason
"I don't think about numbers," he said. "Of course I want to finish the year strong, but what is more important for me is to just stay healthy and feel good out there. When I feel that way, I know I can do a lot of good things. This is a long season. There are a lot of things to deal with, a lot of ups and downs, so you take it day by day.
"I just want to help my team any possible way. I know it's more difficult than before. Pitchers are not pitching me the same way. They're not around the plate a lot. It's hard to hit a homer right now. I haven't seen any good pitches around the strike zone. I haven't seen any mistakes. But you've seen that I can put the ball in play, getting some hits, grinding and getting on base for my guys."
It's the difficult things that Gonzalez makes look so easy -- and the big things that he takes in with a quiet and humble demeanor.
"It is cool to be here," he said. "This is what I was waiting for. I was ready to come here and enjoy the whole thing. This is when you feel you're at an All-Star Game, being around all these guys and having the opportunity to spend time with these guys and the media. Having all those kids cheering for you, trying to get an autograph, it's very special. It's something that you enjoy and will stay in your head forever."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.