Clutch Saunders maintains Final Vote lead

AL All-Star hopeful hits go-ahead RBI single in Blue Jays' win over Royals

Clutch Saunders maintains Final Vote lead

TORONTO -- The campaign to get Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders voted into this year's All-Star Game presented by MasterCard is going strong, and he remains in first place for the American League's Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote.

Cast your Esurance Final Vote for Saunders

Major League Baseball announced on Thursday afternoon that Saunders remains the leading vote-getter in the AL. Saunders went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in Toronto's 4-2 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night to strengthen his case.

All-Star Game coverage begins on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Houston's George Springer, Boston's Dustin Pedroia, Detroit's Ian Kinsler and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria round out the five AL candidates.

The strong showing is music to the ears of Toronto's social media and marketing crew. The Blue Jays found out about Saunders' spot on the Final Vote ballot late Tuesday morning, and they immediately started making plans to get fans involved and interested.

Saunders' go-ahead RBI single

"It's been kind of like a whirlwind," said manager of promotions and fan activation Michelle Seniuk. "We found out [Tuesday] at 11 a.m., even before Michael and the other guys in place had found out they made the team. So it was just getting into a room, putting a plan into place and figure out how can we blast this out on every avenue.

"Social media, broadcasts, television, radio, through our players we've reached out to our celebrity contacts. We've reached out to the NHLPA, anybody who has helped us before, especially when they rallied behind [Josh] Donaldson last year."

One of those famous names is actor Stephen Amell, who played a big role in getting Donaldson elected into last year's game. The club also has reached out to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto mayor John Tory to help spread the word.

Prior to Wednesday night's series finale, Toronto's clubhouse was fully stocked with "Send Saunders" to the All-Star Game T-shirts that all of the players were wearing, and another T-shirt giveaway is planned for Thursday's home game.

Saunders' solo home run

"The Blue Jays, they're Toronto's team, but they're also Canada's team. So we wanted something that would generate interest for all of Canada to get behind Saunders because he is one of our own," Seniuk said of the #VoteCaptainCanada campaign. "He's from British Columbia, so to vote Captain Canada, he's the one that's going to do it for us and it's perfect that he's Canadian. The whole country should vote for him."

One thing the Blue Jays won't be doing this year is striking an official alliance with another team. Organizations from the AL and National League occasionally team up to help increase the number of votes received from both sides.

#VoteCaptainCanada

"We asked a couple of teams to align with us and they turned us down," Seniuk said. "So we decided, 'You know what, Canada? We can do this.' We're going to show them what Canada is made of. We got [Steve] Delabar elected in 2013, and then last year Canada rallied behind Donaldson and got a record high number of votes to get him into the All-Star Game. I have no doubt our fans will rally behind Saunders and get him into the All-Star Game."

Fans can vote for the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote until 4 p.m. ET on Friday. The winners, as chosen exclusively by online fan voting totals, will be announced during a Final Vote-themed telecast of "MLB Now" featuring commentary from political analyst Jeff Greenfield, live on MLB Network and MLB.com from 4-5 p.m. ET. MLB Network will provide extensive coverage across all of its studio programming during the Final Vote, including interviews with the candidates, frequent updates, heat maps indicating the cities where votes are being cast for each candidate, news on player and club campaigns and a running countdown clock leading up to the announcement.

Gibbons campaigns for Saunders

Baseball fans have cast nearly 600 million online votes for Final Vote candidates since the program's inception in 2002. In addition to MLB.com and the official club websites, fans can use their mobile devices to cast votes at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, fans can text their choice to 89269. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Text "STOP" to end and "HELP" for information. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Final Vote will include social balloting, as Twitter support for the 10 candidates over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their vote totals. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET on Friday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the winners.

On Tuesday, July 12, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 87th All-Star Game, in San Diego, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.