"I remember never having a chance to do this," Rich Lehrer, 53, said as his son punched the ballot. "Now with the advent of the Internet, people can vote online as well. You're going to a much bigger crowd now. Now you're getting kids like [Matt] who know about computers, and I'm sure that's going to mean a lot of votes."
Indeed, Major League Baseball continues to break All-Star voting records year-over-year in sports' largest and most traditional All-Star balloting program, and this year's tally is certain to smash the record again as fans continue to decide the starters for the 77th All-Star Game, which will be played July 11 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Yankee Stadium became just the first ballpark to close out in-stadium balloting, and others will progressively follow until the final ballpark votes are cast June 24 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Each Major League club has 23 home dates on which it will conduct balloting, while Minor League clubs will have 15 home dates for balloting. Ameriquest has sponsored 20 million ballots to be distributed at the 29 U.S. Major League ballparks and 1.9 million ballots to be distributed to 117 Minor League clubs that are in-season during the balloting period. MLB International rightsholder Rogers Personal TV has sponsored in-stadium balloting at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Retail balloting was sponsored by Pepsi and Frito Lay and distributed more than 13 million additional ballots to more than 3,100 Wal-Mart stores, and that segment of the balloting process concluded on Friday. In addition, DHL for the first time placed Ameriquest-branded balloting boxes and ballots in nine Army/Air Force Commissaries and one naval base in Iraq and Afghanistan, servicing 23 different camps and approximately 100,000 troops. So it has been a monumental effort to make ballots available, and soon it will be entirely up to that Monster.com All-Star Online Ballot to get in those last picks as each in-stadium ballot concludes.
Balloting concludes on MLB.com and the 30 club sites at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 29.
The latest weekly American League voting update showed that Vlad Guerrero of the Angels is the only player not from the Yankees and Red Sox to hold a current starting spot for the Midsummer Classic, and it is important to note that the weekly voting tallies you see are online-only. Once all the in-stadium balloting is finished, those punches from voters like Matt Lehrer will lumped into the total. So people who are dissatisfied with the vote updates so far certainly have had, and continue to have, the ability to make a difference, and it's not a market-size thing because every stadium gets a huge load of ballots and everyone can vote up to 25 times per e-mail account online.
"I also vote online, but it's more satisfying doing it here," said Adam Krywinski, 23, of Glenville, N.J. "Just to sit in your seat and fill out a ballot, to hold it in your hand and punch it, is so refreshing. It's classic and it's traditional."
|Vote early, vote often|
|In-stadium balloting for the 77th All-Star Game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh is beginning to wind down. Below is a chart of balloting end dates at each of the Major League ballparks.|
|Great American Ball Park||6/18|
|Citizens Bank Park||6/18
|Minute Maid Park||6/20
|U.S. Cellular Field||6/22|
|Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||6/23
MLB.com exit poll for Krywinski: Jason Giambi at first, Robinson Cano at second, Derek Jeter at short, Alex Rodriguez at third, Jason Varitek at catcher (yes, Yankee fans sometimes vote for Red Sox), and an outfield of Guerrero, Jonny Gomes of the Devil Rays and Gary Sheffield of the Yankees ("even though he's not playing").
In the National League, Krywinski went with Carlos Delgado of the Mets at first, Craig Biggio of the Astros at second, Clint Barmes of the Rockies at short, Scott Rolen of the Cardinals at third, Johnny Estrada of the Diamondbacks behind the plate, and an outfield of J.D. Drew of the Dodgers, Adam Dunn of the Reds and Andruw Jones of the Braves.
"Have you ever heard of Chase Utley?" Matt Speciale of Latham, N.Y., said to Krywinski as they stood among a group of friends by the ballot box. "Biggio played outfield before, but Utley is more versatile."
Christopher Barto of Brooklyn, N.Y., snagged a ballot from the Ameriquest box while rushing to his seat right before the series finale against Oakland.
"Jeter is going to be my obvious choice," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's the first time I have ever voted for the All-Star Game."
Considering the mind-boggling amount of collateral print material involved, it also is a valuable opportunity for Ameriquest to be literally in the hands of so many people.
"The All-Star in-stadium balloting and sweepstakes have become key components of our branding efforts and a tremendous part of our MLB official sponsorship," said Kevin Morefield, executive vice president of strategic planning for Ameriquest. "As the proud sponsor of the American Dream, we love giving fans the opportunity to see their player choices compete in the annual Midsummer Classic."
As part of its title sponsorship of in-stadium balloting, Ameriquest also has been conducting the Ameriquest All-Star Balloting Sweepstakes. It's right there on those paper ballots that people like Matt Lehrer, Krywinski and Barto were holding in their hands Sunday. Fans may enter by filling out an entry form panel attached to the in-stadium ballots or by mail. The grand prize includes a trip for two to this All-Star Game, as well as other select MLB All-Star Week events.
All-Star teams were originally selected by the managers and the fans for the 1933 and 1934 games. From 1935 through 1946, managers selected the entire team for each league. From 1947 to 1957, fans chose the team's starters and the manager chose the pitchers and the remaining players. After some notable ballot-stuffing hijinx was discovered, the fan vote was taken away from 1958 through 1969 and managers, players, and coaches made the All-Star Team selections. In 1970, the vote again returned to the fans for the selection of the starters for each team and remains there today, bigger than ever with the Internet.
John Perrotta of Staten Island is a Mets fan who said in an e-mail to MLB.com that he punched seven ballots at Shea Stadium for David Wright this season, despite some degree of difficulty in finding the ballots from ushers at the park.
"The tradition was great when I was younger because I didn't attend games growing up much and didn't have Internet access like I do today," he said. "The way the All-Star balloting is set up now is much easier, although I do not believe the paper balloting will keep on lasting for another 20 years. I see much more online experiences."
Although he worries about the future of ballpark voting, Perrotta said he holds onto one lasting tradition.
"I have had this Mr. Met keychain ever since my Pops gave it to me 15 years ago at Shea when I was only 7," he said. "I have used that keychain since that day to punch out every All-Star ballot I fill out at Shea -- and when I fill out online balloting, I keep the keychain and rub its head for good luck, trying to use my superstitions to get my favorite players to the show. So I would have to say that is a lasting memory."
Nicolas Lewis of Pittsburgh told MLB.com that his main goal has been to get Jason Bay into the starting NL outfield and that he has the "punch-a-bunch" technique mastered. "You can't do more than three at a time and still get a clean punch, but that didn't stop me from taking care of 120 ballots in three trips."
Lewis also said he hopes it will make a big difference when the stadium ballots are added to the overall tally. "I attended the information sessions for the All-Star volunteers here in Pittsburgh this past weekend, and ballots were being filled out like mad for two days straight," he said. "I don't know how much it will help, but I have my fingers crossed."
Rosters for the All-Star Game will be unveiled at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 2. The announcement will reveal the 16 elected starters, as determined by fan balloting, and 45 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the player ballot, the two All-Star team managers -- Ozzie Guillen of the World Series champion Chicago White Sox and Phil Garner of the NL champion Houston Astros -- and Major League Baseball.
Fans will once again have the opportunity to select the final position player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Final Vote will provide fans the opportunity to cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a three-day period. Fans added Roy Oswalt (NL) and Podsednik (AL) to the rosters with that Final Vote last summer. Better make plans for this to be part of that Fourth of July holiday weekend experience this time, because your vote could be crucial; mobile voting is available.
For the fourth consecutive year, the league that wins the All-Star Game will receive home-field advantage during the World Series. The AL has won each Midsummer Classic since that provision was added prior to the 2003 World Series, and eight straight overall.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 ET that night. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.