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It's final: Podsednik last AL All-Star

Podsednik slides into Midsummer Classic

CHICAGO -- Jerry Reinsdorf said that he voted often on Wednesday for Scott Podsednik, pointing out that it was easy to click his player's name online whenever he was talking on the phone.

Jermaine Dye and Aaron Rowand, Podsednik's teammates, proudly admitted after Wednesday's 7-2 victory that they cast as many votes for the fleet-footed left fielder as humanly possible. In fact, from the top of the White Sox's organizational flow chart, starting with chairman Reinsdorf, right on down to the part-time workers for the South Siders, everyone involved brought out the vote for Podsednik.

Their intense three-day effort paid huge dividends, as Podsednik was declared the American League's Ameriquest Final Vote winner with an astonishing 3.965 million votes cast. Houston's Roy Oswalt was the National League winner, with a total of 2.652 million votes.

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While many in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday had an inkling that Podsednik would beat out the Yankees' Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui, Minnesota's Torii Hunter and Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, the news did not become official until the top of the third inning. Public address announcer Gene Honda made the announcement, while congratulations were flashed on the left field scoreboard.

The crowd rose in unison to give Podsednik a standing ovation, as Podsednik pumped his fist and tipped his hat a number of times to the fans. Rowand walked over and extended his congratulations prior to the start of the inning, and the rest of his teammates did the same when Podsednik returned to the dugout.

Podsednik had no idea of his new All-Star status until he raced out to his position.

"I got jittery," said Podsednik of his initial reaction and then his reaction to a standing ovation when he hit in the bottom of the third. "To hear the ovation from the crowd.... I understand that the support I got from the fans of Chicago and this organization and my teammates, my friends and family, this is what made it possible. I have a lot of thanks and a lot of thank you's to extend."

"That's a great feeling," added manager Ozzie Guillen of the news for Podsednik and the ensuing reaction. "I think what happened today at the ballpark was great. A lot of people were excited about this kid making it. It shows me what kind of players we have, and what kind of fans we have."

The 24,773 fans could have very well been giving themselves an ovation at the same time, as could have the fans watching on television at home. But the White Sox 'Vote for Scott' campaign, spearheaded by vice president of communications Scott Reifert, within the organization, and All-Star pitcher Mark Buehrle, within the team, evolved into a successful grassroots effort that would have made H. Ross Perot proud.

It all began on Monday, when Podsednik signed autographs for 90 minutes for the White Sox fans, as one of Guillen's sons held up a sign reading 'Vote for Scott' in the background. The campaign increased in scope to Buehrle making an announcement after Monday's victory, and before the fireworks show at U.S. Cellular, for the crowd to get online and vote for Podsednik.

"That blew my mind the other night, when [Buehrle] grabbed the microphone," said Reinsdorf with a smile.

Buehrle repeated that announcement prior to Tuesday's victory over the Devil Rays, and the campaign also included shirts and buttons with the Vote for Scott message. Podsednik did everything but kiss a few babies in order to increase his support.

"I think this is a real fun thing, good for the overall spirit," Reinsdorf continued. "It's good for our fans. Everybody has got into this. It's really good to see everyone pulling together to help one of our guys.

"When Scott [Reifert] said let's do it, I thought, 'OK, let's do it.' I didn't think it would get the legs it did."

Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, a tried-and-true White Sox fan, had to be proud of the way his team got out the vote. There was no word, as of Wednesday, as to whether Daley had contacted Reifert and the White Sox for help with his next mayoral campaign.

Not everyone seemed to get the same enjoyment out of the campaign as the winning player himself and the White Sox. Crawford, in town with the Devil Rays for the three-game series, was one of those mild dissenters.

"I don't know how it's going to go by with the players, him campaigning like that," Crawford said. "It's a little bush league, but I guess whatever it takes to win."

Crawford initially echoed the sentiment that most originally felt, in that Podsednik didn't have much of a chance to win this vote. Sure, he leads the Majors with 41 stolen bases, but he has yet to hit a home run and has only 17 RBIs. By Podsednik's own recent admission, those sort of statistics aren't what people are looking for when selecting All-Stars.

But Podsednik deserved the honor, simply for what his presence at the top of the White Sox order has meant to the team's overall turn around.

"I really don't have the vocabulary to describe what these last three days have been like for me," Podsednik said. "With the success we are having as a team and to now have the chance to play in an All-Star Game with three of my teammates, it's going to be a special couple of days."

Podsednik toiled for eight years in the Minors, before getting his first Major League at-bat with the Mariners in 2001. He has not tried to hide his feelings concerning his overwhelming desire to make the trip to Detroit.

The icing on the cake for the 29-year-old comes in the form of a $25,000 bonus, in addition to a $75,000 bump in his 2006 salary, from $1.9 million to 1.975, for making the 2005 All-Star team.

His addition brings the total number of White Sox All-Stars to four, with Buehrle, Paul Konerko and Jon Garland all voted in by their peers. It will be the second trip for Konerko and Buehrle, and the first for Garland.

Konerko believes that Podsednik, Jeter, Matsui, Hunter and Crawford were all worthy candidates on the AL Final Vote ballot. But if fans had to cast a tough vote between the group, then the nod should go to the player who has meant the most to baseball's most successful team.

It didn't hurt that Podsednik had the White Sox political machine behind him. Only in Chicago could this improbable election come to fruition, where Podsednik himself voted early and often.

"I clicked the enter button quite a few times. I'm not going to lie," Podsednik said. "[My girlfriend] Lisa [Dergan] and I took turns."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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