The 2012 All-Star Game Online Ballot was launched on Friday, the same day in-park balloting begins at Kauffman Stadium, and that begins the process of fans deciding on starting position players. The online ballot is up through June 28 -- exclusively at MLB.com and all 30 club sites, wired or mobile -- allowing you to cast up to 25 ballots per email address. Then comes the always-frenetic finish with the All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote from July 1-5 and the annual MVP Vote during the Midsummer Classic to help decide who wins the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.
The ceremonial start to the largest balloting program in sports was held on Thursday in the host city, as MLB, Firestone and the Royals conducted a news conference featuring Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business; Royals owner David Glass; Kansas City Mayor Sly James; Jackson County executive Mike Sanders; Hall of Famer and MLB All-Star Summer Ambassador George Brett; and Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the MLB All-Star FanFest spokesperson.
"As we aim for another record year of All-Star Balloting, today's festivities at Kauffman Stadium represent the beginning of our efforts to bring the excitement of the Midsummer Classic to the wonderful fans of Kansas City," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Today's players are carrying on the legacy of George Brett and the other greats of the game, and we are delighted to bring the All-Star Game to Kansas City for the first time since 1973."
"The players in the game will be selected as part of an All-Star balloting program that is the single-largest election in the United States," Brosnan added. "There will be more ballots cast for these players than will be cast in the presidential election."
The National League has won consecutive All-Star Games for the first time since 1994-96, capitalizing on that consequential World Series home-field advantage to produce Major League Baseball's past two champions -- St. Louis last year and San Francisco in 2010. It will be especially interesting to watch what happens at first base in both leagues, now that voting mainstays Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder have moved from the NL ballot over to the AL with the Angels and Tigers, respectively.
Each year brings newcomers into the Midsummer Classic, and this is where fans can directly influence such an honor for their favorite players or those they consider most deserving.
"I would like to go. Definitely, (it's an honor)," said Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies, back on the NL ballot at catcher and hoping for his first All-Star selection. "At the same time, I don't want to put pressure on myself. Definitely, one day I want to enjoy that. That's the one thing every player, that's why we play baseball."
MLB's All-Star Balloting Program last year produced a record-shattering total of 32.5 million ballots cast. MLB.com finished the 2011 voting for the 17 starting position players in record-setting fashion -- with 357.5 million votes and 27.4 million ballots -- and then fans added Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Paul Konerko of the White Sox via the Final Vote.
More than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at the 30 Major League ballparks, each of which will have 23 dates for balloting, and in approximately 100 Minor League ballparks.
During the voting period, the All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot will be available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Chinese and will offer audio CAPTCHA functionality for visually-impaired fans. Every MLB club will have begun its in-stadium balloting no later than Tuesday, May 8. When the in-stadium phase of balloting concludes on Friday, June 22, fans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 club sites until 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 28.
Firestone, the official tire of MLB, is once again the exclusive sponsor of the 2012 In-Stadium All-Star Balloting Program. The ballot features an All-Star sweepstakes, in which a winner will be awarded with a trip for two to MLB All-Star Week -- including airfare, hotel accommodations, tickets to the All-Star Game and other MLB All-Star Week events -- along with a set of four Firestone tires.
Scotts, the official lawn care company of MLB, is once again the sponsor of the retail All-Star Balloting Program, which launches on May 4 in select Lowe's stores and Chevrolet dealerships across the country. The Scotts ballot will include an opportunity to enter for a chance to win a baseball field makeover using Scotts products for your community.
Banco BHD will sponsor All-Star Balloting in the Dominican Republic, making Spanish-language ballots available to fans in the Dominican Republic via LasMayores.com, the official Spanish-language Web site of MLB, and at All-Star Balloting terminals across more than 80 branches, beginning in May. Coors Light will provide offline All-Star Balloting in 60 Wal-Mart and Amigo convenience stores throughout Puerto Rico, from May 1 to June 10.
For the fourth consecutive year, this year's ballot will feature the State Farm Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see in the annual power display. The Fan Poll also will be available on MLB.com. This year's derby, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the U.S. beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 9.
National League candidates include: Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Justin Upton of the D-backs, Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, Joey Votto of the Reds, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, David Wright of the Mets, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies and Dan Uggla of the Braves.
American League candidates include: Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Evan Longoria of the Rays, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, 2010 winner David Ortiz of the Red Sox, defending champion Robinson Cano of the Yankees, Pujols of the Angels, 2009 winner Fielder of the Tigers, Mark Reynolds of the Orioles, Josh Hamilton of the Rangers and Konerko of the White Sox.
The 2012 AL and NL All-Star Teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 1, on the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell, televised nationally on TBS. The AL All-Star Team will have nine elected starters via the fan balloting program, while the NL All-Star Team will have eight fan-elected starters. The pitchers and reserves for both squads -- totaling 25 for the NL and 24 for the AL -- will be determined through a combination of "Player Ballot" choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers -- AL skipper Ron Washington of the Rangers and NL manager Tony La Russa -- in conjunction with Major League Baseball. La Russa will be coming out of retirement solely to manage in this game.
Immediately following the announcement of the AL and NL rosters, fans will begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote. Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a four-day period and the winners will be announced after the voting concludes on Thursday, July 5. Now in its eighth year, fans again will be able to make their Final Vote selections on their mobile phones.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting again will have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining this year's recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
"They talk about those All-Star Games being exhibition affairs, and maybe they are," said late Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell, who played in nine of the first 10 All-Star Games, including the first one in 1933. "But I've seen very few players in my life who didn't want to win, no matter whom they were playing or what for."
The 2012 All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies will begin at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and Sirius XM will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. Dick Kaegel and Sarah Trotto contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.