Votto headed to All-Star Game after all

Votto headed to All-Star Game after all

PHILADELPHIA -- Thanks to millions and millions of baseball fans this week, a wrong has been made right, a mistake has been corrected and Reds first baseman Joey Votto is going to the All-Star Game.

One of the all-time snubs will likely be reduced to a footnote on Thursday because Votto was the winner of the National League version of the All-Star Final Vote on MLB.com. A total of 13.7 million fans cast their online ballots for the 26-year-old Votto.

"I would say I'm relieved," Votto said before the Reds played the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. "I'm really glad this whole thing is over with. It was kind of taxing on me. I'm excited and I really, really appreciate the fans and their support."

It was a wire-to-wire win for Votto, who led each day since voting began on Sunday. Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals finished second, followed by the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez and the Braves' Billy Wagner. Padres reliever Heath Bell was the fifth candidate, but was earlier named to the NL team as an injury replacement.

In the American League vote, Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher received 9.8 million votes and edged out Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis in the closest race in the nine-year history of the All-Star Final Vote.

The All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

Votto, now a first-time All-Star, entered Thursday leading the NL with 21 home runs and a 1.006 OPS. He is fifth in the league with a .313 average and tied for fifth with 59 RBIs.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only Boog Powell in 1966 did not make his league's All-Star team when he was in the top five of the Triple Crown categories since the current qualifier rules began in '57.

That issue has now been averted with the fans' selection of Votto, who is a big reason the Reds are a first-place team in the NL Central. At the current pace, he should easily be a candidate for NL Most Valuable Player at season's end.

Overwhelming sentiment seemed to favor Votto from the moment he was left off the All-Star roster on Sunday by manager Charlie Manuel. Using his prerogative in choosing one of the last spots, the Phillies skipper decided to select another first baseman and his own player in Ryan Howard.

"I'm glad the people voted Joey in, big time. He was very deserving," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I don't know if it was an oversight as much as Charlie had an idea that his guy and Joey might make it when he chose the five. I think people should realize that Charlie is more astute and knows [more] what's going on than a lot of people give him credit for."

Once Votto was named as one of the five NL players on Final Vote, the Reds wasted no time mobilizing their players, front office staff and fans to get out the vote.

Almost every Reds player taped television spots urging fans to "Vote Votto." Back in Cincinnati, the club enticed almost 200 fans to Great American Ball Park with free pizzas and had them voting on laptops Wednesday afternoon. Even Mayor Mark Mallory and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown stopped by to vote. Digital billboards along local highways told drivers to "Vote Votto."

Also on Wednesday in New York before their game with the Mets, Reds players and coaches showed solidarity for Votto by wearing red "Vote Votto" T-shirts during batting practice.

"This is an individual accomplishment, but I have an entire team behind me," Votto said. "Everyone didn't have to wear the shirts and nobody had to put them on and go through batting practice or tell their friends and family to vote. But they did and that means a lot more to me than anything."

In a shrewd move, the Reds also aligned with the Red Sox -- a big-market club that has a very devoted fan base -- to "Vote Red" for both Votto and Youkilis, a native of Cincinnati. Unfortunately for Boston, Youkilis came up just short.

In Votto's hometown of Toronto, the Blue Jays also encouraged their fans to vote -- especially since he was the only Canadian on either the NL or AL ballot.

All of those initiatives, and more, tipped the scales in Votto's favor so he can join his peers in Southern California next week as an All-Star. He hadn't given much thought to what he looked forward to once the experience begins on Monday. The league invited Votto to participate in the Home Run Derby, but he declined.

"I just really appreciate the accomplishment. I'm going to take it in," Votto said. "I'm told it's kind of a show. I just really worked very hard. It's an individual game within the team concept. I did my part to earn an All-Star berth. It means a lot to me. I've always wanted to be an All-Star one day. Today, I was finally selected."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.