Garciaparra is among NL batting leaders with a .359 average, he has a current 17-game hitting streak and he remains among the NL leaders in on-base percentage (.426) and slugging percentage (.582). He is also the hardest player in the Major Leagues to strike out, as he has fanned just 14 times or once every 20.3 plate appearances.
But Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, Ryan Howard of the Phillies and Lance Berkman of the Astros were standing in his way at first base in the NL. The Dodgers put on an aggressive grassroots campaign to get out the vote.
"I'm really thankful to the Dodgers organization; they've been great, pulling for me," Garciaparra said. "I've been on the big screen so much, I'm tired of seeing my face. But I appreciate it greatly that the fans took the time to vote for me. I've been very blessed to have such wonderful fan support wherever I've played."
The selection is the sixth in Garciaparra's career, but the first at a new position for a new team in a different league. Garciaparra joins Dodgers starter Brad Penny on the All-Star team.
"He deserved it," said Penny. "He's a big part of the reason I'm going."
For Garciaparra, 33 later this month, the honor is vindication for one of Major League Baseball's most popular and accomplished players of the last decade. A two-time batting champion and five-time All-Star shortstop in Boston, Garciaparra had to look for work last winter when many clubs thought his best days were behind him.
A five-time American League All-Star shortstop with the Boston Red Sox, the native of Southern California accepted a one-year, incentive-laden contract and the challenge of learning a new position to play at home.
He spent the bulk of Spring Training focusing on defense and his bat appeared sluggish. When he suffered a pulled rib-cage muscle the last weekend of spring that put him on the disabled list, it looked like his injury-prone tag would stick.
But Garciaparra returned to action in mid-April with a vengeance and has never cooled off. He's been particularly clutch in late-inning situations and with runners in scoring position, picking up the slack in average and power from Jeff Kent, who started slowly, then got hurt. In short, Garciaparra has dispelled the skeptics by being everything he was at his best in Boston.
"We all know he had some pretty stiff competition at the position of first base in the National League, leading up to the All-Star break, and for him to get this chance to go and to be picked like that, it's an honor," said manager Grady Little.
Garciaparra is vying to become the first player in 104 years to win a batting title in both leagues, as Ed Delahanty (1899 Phillies, 1902 Senators) last accomplished that feat. Garciaparra earned back-to-back batting championships in 1999-2000, the last Major League player to do so. Should he maintain his .359 average through the weekend, it would be the second-highest mark for a Dodger at the All-Star Break since the club moved into Dodger Stadium in 1962. Mike Piazza's .363 mark in 1996 is first on the list and his .357 average in 1997 is third behind Garciaparra's current average. Tommy Davis ranks fourth with a .353 average in 1962.
Defensively, Garciaparra has adjusted to his new role with the same intensity and athleticism that made him a standout shortstop. After some early tutoring by Dodgers coach Eddie Murray, Garciaparra has made only one error at his new position and has saved countless runs with acrobatic saves of errant throws. Garciaparra is the first Dodgers All-Star first baseman since Murray was honored in 1991.
Garciaparra is the Dodgers' first Final Vote candidate and the first winning candidate from a West division club since the program began.
Last year's Final Vote program saw more than 14.8 million votes cast, and the winners were Scott Podsednik of the Chicago White Sox and Roy Oswalt of the Houston Astros. Last week, MLB.com announced that fans had cast more than 11 million ballots in the Monster 2006 All-Star Game Online Ballot, which concluded on June 30, with more than 141 million total votes cast in the online program.