Mauer's appeal makes him overall vote leader

Mauer's appeal makes him overall vote leader

MINNEAPOLIS -- Considering the offensive numbers that Joe Mauer put up last year en route to being named the American League MVP -- .365 batting average, 28 homers and 94 RBIs -- it's no surprise that expectations were raised.

But even though Mauer may not be putting up the same remarkable numbers so far this season, fans now recognize the Twins' catcher as one of the elite players in the game. And they showed that with the number of votes they cast for him for this year's All-Star Game, being played at Anaheim's Angel Stadium on July 13.

Mauer, who was named the starting catcher for the American League All-Star team on Sunday, was the leading vote-getter in Major League Baseball for the first time in his career, as he received a total of 5,372,606 votes. It's the third-highest vote total of all-time, trailing only the 6,079,688 cast for Ken Griffey Jr. in 1994 and the 5,397,374 for Cardinals' first baseman Albert Pujols last year.

"That's a really cool honor," Mauer said. "Just to make it to an All-Star Game is an honor, but to be the leading vote-getter and be voted in by the fans is pretty special."

Mauer beat out such perennial top vote-getters as Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter and Pujols to earn the honor. He is the first catcher to receive the most votes since Ivan Rodriguez, then with the Rangers, did so in 2000.

He also becomes only the second Twins player to be the top overall vote-getter, joining Hall of Famer Rod Carew (1975, 1977-78).

This year's All-Stars were announced on Sunday afternoon as part of the MLB All-Star Selection Show. The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Becoming the top-vote getter is another example of how Mauer's reach has extended beyond the Twin Cities, as the hometown kid has gone national.

"That's not just people voting from Twins Territory, it's all across the country," said first baseman and fellow All-Star starter Justin Morneau. "And that's a real show of how he is as a player and how he's thought of across the league and the country."

Although Mauer isn't one to seek the spotlight, he has become a mainstay in national commercials, such as the one for Sony Playstation's "MLB 10 The Show" video game, on which he graces the cover, and ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball." He was one of the athletes featured on ESPN's series "Homecoming," with host Rick Reilly, and nearly 4,000 people turned out at his high school, Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, for the taping in January to listen to Mauer talk about his life.

And he has certainly become known as being an approachable star, even being named "America's Fan-Friendliest Athlete" by ESPN the Magazine. He earned that distinction for his habit of taking the time to sit down with his mother and answering all of the letters he receives from fans.

Though Mauer has earned recognition throughout the country, there is no question where he is loved the most, and that's in his hometown, St. Paul. He delighted Twins fans during Spring Training by guaranteeing that he won't be leaving Minnesota any time soon, signing an eight-year, $184 million contract extension. It was the fourth-largest contract in Major League history, both in total value and average salary.

Despite his exposure on the airwaves, it's been his play on the field that has made him a star and earned him his third consecutive Midsummer Classic start. This is the fourth All-Star appearance of his career, as he was selected through the player's ballot back in 2006.

Mauer entered Sunday's game with the Rays, a 7-4 loss, with three home runs and 34 RBIs on the season. He missed seven games in early May with a deep bone bruise on his left heel, and said recently that he's been "banged up" for most of the first half. But even though it's been a quieter year for Mauer offensively, it's still what would be considered a very good year for many other players.

And though the All-Star selections have started to come with regularity, they don't get old for Mauer.

"It's a great event," he said. "I keep telling them that as long as they'll have me, I'll keep coming back. It's fun to be in that atmosphere with those great players, and to get in that game to see the amount of talent that's on that field is a lot of fun. It's a great honor, and I look forward to it."

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