TORONTO -- Michael Saunders is one step closer to securing a spot at this year's All-Star Game presented by MasterCard in San Diego, but the Blue Jays' slugger is going to need one last push to get there. The fact that he went 2-for-4 with three runs scored in Toronto's 5-4 victory over the Tigers on Thursday night can only help.
Saunders was still ranked first when Major League Baseball released its update for the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote in the American League on Friday morning. The veteran outfielder is vying for a spot against Houston's George Springer, Boston's Dustin Pedroia, Detroit's Ian Kinsler and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria.
The work from Toronto's fan base and marketing crew is far from over. Voting remains open until 4 p.m. ET on Friday afternoon, which means Saunders will need to maintain his current lead to earn the final spot on the AL team.
"The All-Star Game, I think that right there, not only in baseball but in all sports, represents the top caliber of players in their sport in the world," Saunders said. "To have my name mentioned alongside the great players that are in the All-Star Game ... is where you start saying it's an honor.
"Not only this All-Star Game but previous All-Star Games dating back all the way to when you can remember. The historic players, the Hall of Fame players, and then the great players who are still playing the game today. Just having your name mentioned with the likes of them. I'm not there right now, but with the Final Vote, I obviously hope to be. I think that's the honor, it's a privilege."
The push from Toronto's social and marketing team went to another level on Friday morning, with fans now eligible to vote on Twitter. Until 4 p.m., fans can use #VoteCaptainCanada on the social media platform to have their say in the final result.
The slogan came together quickly once the organization found out that Saunders was among the candidates for the Final Vote. The fact it was a Canadian playing for Canada's only big league team made the approach a natural one to take.
"We were just trying to find something, obviously because the Blue Jays, they're Toronto's team, but they're 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," said Michelle Seniuk, who is the Blue Jays' manager of promotions and fan activation.
"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, and the whole country should vote for him."
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.
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.