A record number of fans cast their votes at MLB.com as the Monster 2007 All-Star Game Online Ballot closed at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday. Now it is time to catch your breath for a couple of days, watch the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS at approximately 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, and then prepare for that always-unbelievable week ahead with the Monster 2007 All-Star Final Vote exclusively at MLB.com following the roster announcements and your 32nd-man nominees.
"MLB.com thanks the great baseball fans around the globe whose knowledge and diligence helped establish an unprecedented standard for online balloting," said Dinn Mann, Executive Vice President, Content, Editor-in-Chief, MLB Advanced Media. "We are proud to provide an interactive balloting platform in the digital space for fans to cast their votes for the best players in baseball, 62 of whom will be unveiled on Sunday during the exclusive announcement of the American and National League All-Star teams on TBS."
A record 11.8 million ballots were cast online during the voting period, including 3 million ballots over the final 48 hours after the most recent voting updates were announced.
The 78th All-Star Game is July 10 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and now the suspense really builds as that event draws closer. Will Barry Bonds -- in fourth place after the final weekly voting update -- break into the starting outfield picture in the NL at his home park? Did Pudge Rodriguez of the Tigers hold off Jorge Posada of the Yankees behind the plate in the AL? Did you watch Minnesota's Torii Hunter jack those two homers against Toronto on the last day of voting and leapfrog him all the way from fifth to the top three in the AL outfield picture? There were plenty of uncertainties heading into the final day, and on Sunday the truth will be revealed.
Major League Baseball's All-Star balloting program is by far the largest in sports, one that began in late April and featured all of those paper ballots that you faithfully punched at the Major League and Minor League ballparks. Even at Wal-Marts all over. Balloting was predictably intense the whole time at MLB.com, and especially in this last week, when it was online-only. Users were able to vote up to 25 times online per registration, and many of you did exactly that, comparing stats along the way.
So what happens now? Sunday's Selection Show -- coming to TBS for the first time -- will feature the announcement of the 16 elected starters, as determined by the fan balloting program. It also will reveal 46 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the Player Ballot, the two All-Star managers -- Tony La Russa of the Cardinals and Jim Leyland of the Tigers -- and Major League Baseball.
The fun goes on here, so keep your voting shoes on. Just take a breather, and pat yourself on the back. You just hit your own milestone. Here is a look at all the steps between now and the time everyone leaves the park on one wonderful Tuesday night in San Francisco:
1. Monster 2007 All-Star Final Vote
Immediately following the Selection Show, fans will have the annual opportunity to select the final player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Monster 2007 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 sent Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra and White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski to PNC Park in Pittsburgh this way. As is always the case, it was last-day drama and a lot of clever grassroots campaigning among fan bases.
Messrs. La Russa and Leyland -- last October's World Series managers -- 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 San Francisco.
Final Vote balloting will continue until 6 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on 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 this program has shown that baseball fans love the opportunity to be the ones who determine the true outcome to these debates."
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). In 2005, Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter made his first All-Star appearance thanks to the Player Ballot. Just one of the examples last year was Howard, during his record 58-homer season for the Phillies. Once he got to PNC Park, of course, he demolished the field in the Home Run Derby.
"The fans are very important, but at the same time when guys around the league recognize you, it's a great feeling," Howard said.
3. The MVP
For the fifth 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 78th All-Star Game via the Monster 2007 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 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, Alfonso Soriano and last year's winner in Pittsburgh, Michael Young of the Rangers. Fans spoke loudest at the end, citing his homer that blew a save for Trevor Hoffman and stood up as the game-winner in the ninth. 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, though it will be up to the NL players whether their victory drought dating back to that year finally will end.
So there is plenty more to do in the days ahead, right through the Midsummer Classic itself. But now is a time to just sit back, take a deep breath, and relax. It is time to congratulate yourself during this Milestone Madness for setting another milestone of your own. Baseball fans have spoken, and the rosters are about to be announced.