It started with those first ballots cast just as you were getting a feel for this season. It was a long, fun and often emotional process that piled together millions and millions of votes worldwide at MLB.com, at Major League and Minor League ballparks, and at retail outlets. It ended with the final flurry right here that decided tight races.
So first of all, pat yourself on the back and thanks for voting. Maybe you used a key to punch a lot of holes in those paper ballots, and maybe you used up all of your 25 allotted online votes. Take a deep breath because you deserve it.
The starting lineups you just determined, along with nearly all of the remaining American and National League rosters for the 77th All-Star Game July 11 in Pittsburgh, will be revealed on the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet, to be aired live on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The program will feature the announcement of the 16 elected starters, as determined by the fan balloting program, and 46 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the player ballot, the two All-Star managers -- Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox and Phil Garner of the Astros -- and Major League Baseball.
That was a lot of voting you just did, a lot of debate and discussion, a lot of campaigning and a lot of love for some really good players. But this is no presidential campaign where months of rhetoric are followed by one quick vote and "See ya." The fun goes on here, so keep your voting shoes on. Here is a look at all the steps between now and the time everyone leaves the park on one wonderful Tuesday night in Pittsburgh:
1. Monster 2006 All-Star Final Vote
Immediately following the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show, fans will have the opportunity to select the final player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Monster 2006 All-Star 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.
Last year, fans made Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt and White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik first-time All-Stars. As is always the case, it was last-day drama and a lot of clever grassroots campaigning among fan bases.
Messrs. Guillen and Garner will be kind enough to leave you five names from which to choose in each league, so Sunday night that fun will start again. If the player you voted for didn't make the starting lineup and wasn't selected as a reserve, then you might still have a chance to send him to Pittsburgh.
Final Vote balloting will continue until 6 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on ESPN and MLB.com shortly thereafter.
"The idea was born from the annual media debate over which excluded All-Star caliber players deserved to be at the Midsummer Classic the most," said Gregg Klayman, Director of Fantasy and Interactive games for Major League Baseball Advanced Media and the creator of the Final Vote concept in 2002. "We figured it made the most sense to let the public have the final say, especially since the All-Star Game was created for the fans.
"The success of the Monster 2006 All-Star Final Vote program has shown that baseball fans love the opportunity to be the ones who determine the true outcome to these debates."
For the second year in a row, there will be two ways for fans to participate in the Final Vote, because fans also can vote from their mobile phones. It will be especially important this time, because so many fans are gone from their computers for the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. Anyone can still participate in the Final Vote with their mobile phones. This time, however, there are two short codes to know:
One is for people in the U.S.: Text the word "VOTE" to 36197.
One is for people in Canada: Text the word "VOTE" to 28776.
You will be instantly registered to receive Final Vote ballots. Then, for just 30 cents a ballot (it was 99 cents last year), you will have the freedom to vote from wherever you are. Also, keep an eye out if you are at a ballpark where the home team has a Final Vote candidate, because you may get a more specific short code for that individual player.
There is no pre-registration for the mobile vote this year. Voting begins when the ballot is announced and available online.
2. The Player Ballot
During the final week of fan balloting, the Player Ballot was being decided behind the scenes. This separate ballot of managers, coaches and players is conducted by Major League Baseball for the purpose of selecting an additional eight position players and eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers) in each league.
This vote has paved the way for players who previously might not have gotten the chance to be recognized, particularly middle relievers and setup men like Brendan Donnelly and Shigetoshi Hasegawa (2003) and Francisco Rodriguez (2004). Last year, Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter made his first All-Star appearance thanks to the Player Ballot.
"If it comes from those guys, those are the guys that play against you, those are the guys that know," Carpenter said. "And it's an honor when they recommend or select or think that I'm worthy of going up there and pitching."
Giants manager Felipe Alou, with more than a half-century in the game, said he likes the Player Ballot because, "It gets everybody involved in the process. I like players having something to say about who goes to the game. ... The players have the inside knowledge about other players. I think players are really fair when it comes to seeing that a guy is having a good year and deserves to be in the All-Star Game."
Andruw Jones said last year that he believes this process should be the one that decides the starters, with fans deciding the reserves.
"If they're making a big deal about the home-field advantage," Jones said, "then I think they should let the coaches and players make the decision [of] who's going to start."
Apparently not enough people listened to that one. But it tells you how much it means to guys like him.
3. The MVP
For the fourth consecutive year, fans around the world will have the opportunity to participate in deciding the outcome of the Midsummer Classic when they cast their votes for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award, presented by Chevrolet, at the 77th All-Star Game via the Monster 2006 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. 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.
Beginning in the sixth inning of the Midsummer Classic, fans can cast their votes for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award online at MLB.com. The voting will continue until the MVP is announced immediately following the end of the game.
The online fan vote will count for 20 percent, with the other 80 percent coming onsite from the Baseball Writers Association of America and the announcers from the All-Star Game's three broadcast rights holders: FOX Sports, ESPN Radio and MLB International.
Immediately following the conclusion of the All-Star Game, the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player will receive the Arch Ward Trophy, which was first presented in 1962 as a tribute to the man who founded the All-Star Game in 1933.
Some recent winners of the award include Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Garret Anderson, Alfonso Soriano and last year's winner in Detroit, Miguel Tejada from the Orioles. Piazza's award came in 1996. Yes, that was the last time an NL player was named. You'll have part of the say in deciding it.
So take a moment to appreciate what just happened and what a difference you just made for the best players on the planet. Your decisions might have even impacted this year's World Series, because whichever team is good enough to win this All-Star Game will leave behind a 2006 Fall Classic home-field advantage for its league.
That was one giant leap for fan, one giant step in the All-Star selection process. And there's more to come.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.