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Paul Goldschmidt, anonymous superstar

Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against

Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the Mets at Citi Field on Saturday, July 11, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

On Thursday afternoon, Paul Goldschmidt took a stroll through Central Park.

He walked with his wife. He enjoyed the fresh air. He relaxed in the shade.

"It's really cool that you're in the middle of a city with so many buildings, so many people, and then, out of nowhere, is this really nice park," Goldschmidt told Newsday on Friday before his Diamondbacks opened a three-game series with the Mets. "It was nice to hang out there and just relax."

But it must be hard to relax while getting approached by so many baseball fans, right?

"Not a single one came up to me," the star first baseman said. "When I'm around town, nobody knows me."

Goldschmidt is arguably the best player in Major League Baseball, and yet he walked around New York City in total anonymity.

OK, so Arizona is a long way from New York. And yes, when baseball players are out of uniform, they blend into the crowd.

But with the numbers Goldschmidt is putting up -- a .341/.457/.605 slash line, 20 homers and 69 RBIs even after going 0-for-4 against Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell in the Mets' 4-2 victory on Saturday -- he has reached a level that should bring national recognition.

So New York, meet the man they call "America's First Baseman."

The nickname was bestowed upon him in 2013 by his teammates, who printed it on T-shirts and gave one to Goldschmidt. He appreciated the gesture, but to him, it was like an ugly sweater a kid receives from a grandparent during the holidays. He was never going to take it off the hanger.

"They put one in my locker and they knew I'd never wear it," he said. "They have fun with it. The D-backs promoted it. But I'm not out there calling myself that or anything."

Even with his success, the 27-year-old is too humble to do that. Entering play Saturday, he led the National League in hitting, RBIs, runs (59) and walks (68). His 20 homers were the fifth most in the league. Meaning, with a slight power surge, he could be in contention to become the second player since 1967 to win the Triple Crown.

"That's something I don't think about," he said. "I focus on the things I can control. I try to be ready to go every night, and win or lose, do my best. Then show up the next day and do it again."

When he shows up and strides to the plate, he looks every bit the power hitter that he is. But even at 6-3 and 225 pounds, he has deceptive speed and has been successful on 16 of 20 stolen-base attempts this season.

Goldschmidt could reach 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases, which has been done only 11 times in major-league history. He'd be only the second first baseman to post a 40/30 season, joining Jeff Bagwell, who did so in 1997 and 1999.

"I know I've had success, but this is a game of what have you done for me lately," said Goldschmidt, who finished second in the 2013 MVP voting after hitting .302 with 36 home runs and 125 RBIs. "If you think you've got it figured out, baseball is a pretty humbling game. It will knock you down really quickly. My attitude is, if you're not getting better, somebody else is."

But few, if any, have been better this season than Goldschmidt, who was drafted out of Texas State University in the eighth round in 2009.

Goldschmidt may not get recognized on the streets, but fans certainly have noticed what he has done on the field. He was voted a starter for the All-Star Game for the second straight season, tallying 9,119,375 votes -- fourth most in the National League.

"It's a huge honor to have all those fans voting for me," he said, "whether they're D-backs fans or just baseball fans."

That being said, is "America's First Baseman" surprised that he doesn't get approached more by fans while walking around the towns of America?

"Nah, there's probably only a handful of guys that get recognized outside of uniform," he said. "So most of the time I can just go about my business."

Including strolls through Central Park.

New York Sports