There is nothing like Major League Baseball's All-Star Game.
It was first played at Comiskey Park in 1933, in the same century as the National League's last victory over the American League, and along the way it has brought us such indelible memories as Ted Williams' walk-off homer, Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse at home, Reggie Jackson clearing the roof of the old Tiger Stadium, Ichiro Suzuki's inside-the-park homer at AT&T Park and Carl Crawford going over the wall to rob Brad Hawpe last year at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The 81st All-Star Game is coming to Anaheim on July 13, and now fans everywhere are being reminded that we also love the event because we play the lead role in deciding who participates. The 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com ballot Sponsored by Sprint is live, and the MLB All-Star Game balloting program -- the largest of its kind in professional sports, with a record 23 million overall ballots cast last year -- is being formally launched on Tuesday with an on-field ceremony before the Tigers-Angels game at Angel Stadium.
"The launch of All-Star balloting today in Anaheim is the first of many events that will be a part of a memorable All-Star summer for all of the passionate and loyal baseball fans who fill Angel Stadium each day," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Major League Baseball is thrilled that the 81st Midsummer Classic is coming to Anaheim, which already has two classic All-Star Games to its credit. We are looking forward to the third marvelous Midsummer Classic hosted by the Angels on July 13."
Fans can cast up to 25 ballots per e-mail address to help choose 17 starters -- eight position players for the NL and nine (including a designated hitter) for the AL. Though it has been around longer, this is the 10th year for online All-Star balloting as we know it, and history shows that you will waste no time getting started. This is where it all begins, and traditionally, fans are a big part of the story themselves by demolishing online voting records.
Will the Yankees, the reigning World Series champions, have their usual heavy representation? Will Nelson Cruz's hot start as the home run leader extend into weeks and months of serious candidacy? Will sudden sensation Jason Heyward have a chance to lead a new generation of NL players to that elusive victory? Who will be the spotlight player who inevitably gets that late bump into a starting position after the weekly voting updates are announced?
"It's good, because that's a little bit more motivation to play better," Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano said on Monday at Citi Field. Soriano's seven-year run of All-Star berths ended last year, and he hopes to return. "You play better, you put up some good numbers in the first half, you have a chance to make the All-Star Game if people vote for you."
Just ask Mets shortstop Jose Reyes what it means. In 2007, leading off for the NL, he singled, stole second, scored on Junior Griffey's hit and wound up 3-for-4 in addition to catching Willie Mays' ceremonial first pitch and getting a jacket signed by the Say-Hey Kid.
"It means a lot for me -- just to be there in the same room with so many great players," said Reyes, a selection in 2006 and '07. "It's a story you can tell your kids one day when they grow up. It's a magnificent experience just to be around players like Albert Pujols. In the second one, I was around Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez ... What else can you ask for? That's a beautiful feeling from my playing career so far. The fans like to come to the ballpark to watch every player, and they know. It's great to the ballplayer to see their opinion."
Oh, you have an opinion, all right.
In last year's election of starting position players, fans submitted 223.5 million votes and 17.8 million ballots online -- both the largest figures recorded in the nine years of online balloting at MLB.com, surpassing the previous records set in 2008. Then, as the annual coup de grace, you obliterated Final Vote records by casting 68.6 million votes at MLB.com, sending Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Brandon Inge of the Tigers -- "BranTorino" -- to St. Louis as the final players on their respective All-Star rosters.
Firestone is the new official sponsor of in-stadium balloting, another of our favorite traditions. We think about all those times the ushers distributed paper ballots through the aisles, and how we eagerly punched the little holes with any available means, often a car key. Then we would turn our attention back to the field and watch the guys whose names we just punched. That's back. More than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at the 30 Major League ballparks, each of which will have 23 home dates for balloting. Ballots also will be distributed in approximately 100 Minor League ballparks.
Every Major League club will have begun its in-stadium balloting no later than May 10. When this phase of balloting concludes on June 23, fans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots in the Final Vote exclusively online at MLB.com and club sites until 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 1. In addition, Banco BHD will sponsor All-Star balloting in the Dominican Republic, making Spanish-language ballots available online at www.bhd.com.do and at All-Star balloting terminals across more than 80 branches through July 1.
Firestone has also teamed up with MLB for the Firestone/MLB All-Star Sweepstakes. Each in-stadium ballot will include a sweepstakes entry form to be completed by fans along with their votes for the All-Star Game starters. At the completion of the balloting period, one lucky fan will be randomly selected to win a new set of Firestone tires, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to Anaheim to throw a ceremonial first pitch before the All-Star Game.
In addition, Scotts is the official sponsor of the 2010 Retail All-Star Balloting Program, which begins on May 10 exclusively at approximately 1,700 Lowe's stores across the country. As they cast their votes, fans will have the opportunity to enter to win the VIP All-Star Week Experience, courtesy of Scotts.
For the second consecutive year, the ballot also will feature the State Farm Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players from each league whom they would most like to see participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby. The 2010 State Farm Home Run Derby, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the U.S. beginning at 8 p.m. ET on July 12.
The 10 NL candidates are Adam Dunn of the Nationals, Andre Ethier of the Dodgers, 2009 winner Prince Fielder of the Brewers, Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, Derrek Lee of the Cubs, Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, Mark Reynolds of the D-backs, Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies and David Wright of the Mets.
The 10 AL candidates are Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, 2009 runner-up Cruz of the Rangers, Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays, Torii Hunter of the Angels, Joe Mauer of the Twins, Carlos Peña of the Rays, Grady Sizemore of the Indians, Suzuki of the Mariners, Mark Teixeira of the Yankees and Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox.
The 2010 All-Star teams will be unveiled on the Fourth of July during the 2010 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS. The pitchers and reserves for both squads -- totaling 25 for the NL and 24 for the AL -- will be determined through a combination of player ballot choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers -- Joe Girardi of the Yankees (AL) and Charlie Manuel of the Phillies (NL) -- in conjunction with MLB.
Immediately following the announcement of the All-Star rosters, fans will begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster through the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote sponsored by Sprint, now in its sixth year. Fans will choose from a list of five players from each league over a four-day period, and the winners will be announced after the voting concludes on July 10. Fans again will be able to make their Final Vote selections on their mobile phones, exclusive to Sprint subscribers.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will have fans again participating in the official voting for the All-Star Game Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet through the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote sponsored by Sprint. Crawford won it in 2009.
"It's cool how everyone is involved in the whole process," said Lee, who cited his start at Detroit in 2005 as his best All-Star memory. "Now, with the Internet, you're seeing voting go through the roof. Global voting for the All-Star Game is pretty cool. It just generates more excitement, brings more to the game and creates more fans. It's a great thing."
The online ballot will offer English- and Spanish-language versions as well as audio CAPTCHA functionality for visually impaired fans.
The NL has not beaten the AL since Mike Piazza led the way in 1996, and that means the NL never has had World Series home-field advantage since the 2003 implementation of the rule giving that honor to the league that wins that year's All-Star Game. Though baseball is in a pattern of each league winning the World Series in alternate years -- 2005 was the last league repeat -- it would be tough to convince a Phillies fan that their chances were worse when they had to go to Yankee Stadium for Game 6 last fall.
Will anything change in 2010? This is where you come in.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet, Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau de Sport; and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.