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Player Ballot the ultimate sign of respect

Player Ballot the ultimate sign of respect

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It's all about the fan vote.

Unless, of course, you are a Major League Baseball player who needs a little extra boost from some of your friends -- and occasional enemies -- to be selected for the 81st All-Star Game on July 13 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

Then, it's all about the Player Ballot.

Just ask Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, part of that deep crop of National League first basemen who got the Midsummer Classic ticket on Sunday.

"It's a great honor, the fact that I was voted on again by the players and my peers, that's pretty special to me," Gonzalez said after the NL West leaders' walk-off victory against Houston. "It's the people that you play around. For me, at least, it means a lot more than any other way to get in. They're the ones that pay attention and, I think, really see what you can do."

Just ask Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is playing for his fourth team and is now headed to his first All-Star appearance in nearly a decade of MLB service.

"It's been a long road for me," Byrd said after being added to the NL roster. "With the players voting me, too, that's just a huge honor for me. They've seen what I've been doing this year and they've given me this opportunity to represent the Cubs."

Just ask Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, who had been around The Show even longer than Byrd before this honor presented itself. In his 13th season, Beltre is an American League reserve by virtue of a No. 1 selection on the Player Ballot. Fans voted overwhelmingly for Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria to start that position, but for players the choice was Boston's new all-around standout.

"It means a lot," said Beltre, one of six Red Sox players selected for the game. "It's nice to have those three days off, but for me as a first-timer, you want to enjoy it and see what it's like."

The Player Ballot is actually a bit of a misnomer, because it is filled out by players, managers and coaches in clubhouses throughout the game. It's more like Player Plus. Either way, it is completed by other uniformed on-field personnel, those who know the inner workings of the National Pastime and who can best appreciate the elite performers.

AL Player Ballot pitchers include starting pitchers David Price of the Rays, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester of the Red Sox, Phil Hughes of the Yankees and Cliff Lee of the Mariners; along with relievers Neftali Feliz of the Rangers, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees and Jose Valverde of the Tigers.

AL Player Ballot position players include first baseman Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers; second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catcher Victor Martinez, designated hitter David Ortiz and Beltre of the Red Sox; shortstop Elvis Andrus of the Rangers; outfielders Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and outfielder Torii Hunter of the Angels.

Pedroia and Martinez receive full honors as elected All-Stars, but because they are both injured and unavailable, they were replaced on the roster by second baseman Ian Kinsler of the Rangers and catcher John Buck of the Blue Jays, respectively. Both Kinsler and Buck finished second on the Player Ballot at their respective positions.

NL Player Ballot position players include second baseman Martin Prado and catcher Brian McCann of the Braves; shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies; third baseman Scott Rolen of the Reds; and outfielders Corey Hart of the Brewers, Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, Gonzalez and Byrd. Because Tulowitzki is on the DL and unavailable, he was replaced on the roster by Reyes, who was the next highest vote-getter among shortstops on the Player Ballot.

NL Player Ballot pitchers include starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies, Roy Halladay of the Phillies, Josh Johnson of the Marlins, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals; along with relievers Matt Capps of the Nationals, Brian Wilson of the Giants and Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers.

If the Player Ballot's first selection at a position was the same choice as the fans' starting pick, then the No. 2 player on the Player Ballot automatically was elected as a reserve. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers was another example of a player like Beltre who was bypassed by fans but who was the choice of those who filled out the Player Ballot.

Justin Morneau of the Twins, Cabrera and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees were locked in that three-way battle over the final weeks of balloting, and Cabrera was actually trending higher than both competitors toward the late stages of online-only voting. But Morneau won the fan vote, and Cabrera, a Triple Crown candidate, was left to thank his peers for sending him to Angel Stadium. Cabrera had 488 Player Ballot votes compared to Morneau's 427.

"I'm looking forward to it," Cabrera said. "I'm not starting, but that's how it is. I was hoping I was going to start, but I didn't have enough votes. ... I would've been more excited if I was in the All-Star lineup. I've been there before, playing the second half [of the game]. It's the same feeling [now]."

Chase Utley of the Phillies was the runaway choice by fans to start at second base for the National League, but when he became unavailable to play due to thumb surgery, the replacement nod went to Prado, the Player Ballot choice.

"[Braves general manager Frank Wren] told me that I was selected by the players," Prado said. "I got great support from the fans. But he told me the players gave me a majority. They voted for me. That made me feel very good."

Tulowitzki said it mattered that other players felt he was deserving enough to select him. Even though he will not play, Tulowitzki is invited to attend with full All-Star honors, as per policy any time a selected player is unavailable due to injury.

"Winning the fan vote would be an awesome honor -- especially to be a Rockie and get voted on by the fans would be neat," Tulowitzki said. "But at the same time, anytime your peers you play against see what you've done, it makes it special.

"It makes you realize they appreciate how you go about the game and how you play. I know when I fill out my ballot, it goes into what I vote on. 'How does he play the game?' 'Does he go about it the right way?' I'm not necessarily speaking about his numbers."

Another shortstop, Andrus, got the Player Ballot nod in the AL because their first choice was Jeter. Because the Yankees' captain was chosen by fans, that meant No. 2 on the Player Ballot is headed to the Big A in an AL jersey. Andrus has 22 steals, 55 runs and a whole lot of range on the left side of that Rangers infield, helping his team stay on top of the AL West for most of this season.

"[Rangers GM Jon Daniels] sent me a text and my agent called me and told me congratulations. I didn't know ... but I feel pretty good," Andrus said. "For sure, I was surprised. A lot of people, they were like, waiting for that notice. I got it today. Like I said, if I got selected I'd feel blessed, and I feel pretty happy."

For Holliday, the Player Ballot means it is going to be time to help the NL end a skid of not winning which dates back to 1996. He is going to his fourth Midsummer Classic, and his first not representing the Rockies.

"We had plans one way for the All-Star break, and then plans ... " Holliday said, referring to this possibility that materialized. "We were just going to go to our house in Austin and spend some time there."

Other players, managers and coaches wanted to see him in Anaheim. No offense to the voting public out there, but when that happens, you know what to say.

Then, it's all about the Player Ballot.

"I think when your peers ... the fans are very important, but when you get voted in by your peers, it's [special]," Holliday said.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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