Surge of fan support helps first baseman edge Rockies' Morneau on final day of voting
CINCINNATI -- Thanks to a strong surge of fan support, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is now an All-Star.
Rizzo won the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote sponsored by Experian on Thursday, edging the Rockies' Justin Morneau and the Braves' Justin Upton in a close race. The first baseman received 8.8 million votes and is the first Cubs player to win the All-Star MLB.com Final Vote. He found out after the team beat the Reds, 6-4, in 12 innings.
"It's awesome," Rizzo said. "It's great to get that win, too. I'm very, very happy."
Rizzo, 24, trailed Morneau until late Wednesday when the Cubs first baseman took the lead. However, Rizzo's lead was less than 2 percent early Thursday prior to the start of the Twitter voting in which fans could tweet #VoteRizzo.
Rizzo tried to boost his votes by giving away his game-used shoes from Thursday's game, which he marked "#VoteRizzo." He can probably get a new pair for Tuesday's All-Star Game, which will be his first.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria gave Rizzo the news in the post-game meeting, and it was greeted by a loud cheer. The players then drowned Rizzo in a celebratory shaving cream shower.
"They're setting themselves apart and doing things that are obviously impacting people who notice as far as the oranization is concerned," Renteria said of Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro, who was named to the NL team. "They're representing the organization very well. They should enjoy this particular time. It's a tremendous feat.
"They've earned it," Renteria said. "They've gone after it and shown they're among the top tier of players in the big leagues."
Rizzo will join Castro and former teammate Jeff Samardzija, who were both selected by the players' votes. Samardzija, now with the Athletics after a July 4 trade, will have a generic National League jersey.
"It's a crazy day," Rizzo said. "To get the win and hear that -- it's great."
The Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears' Lance Briggs and Robbie Gould showed support along with actors Joe Mantegna and Jeff Garlin, as did Rizzo's teammates. Chicago's Mike Olt voted more than 2,500 times, and was able to cast about 1,000 votes via text before batting practice.
"He's saved us," Olt said of the Cubs first baseman. "He's saved us plenty of errors. Just [Wednesday], I threw one a little off the side, and he makes a nice routine play. I'm thinking, if I'm playing first, I know I'm not getting it.
"Defensively, he gets us out of jams and keeps us in games, and offensively, he's taught me and a lot of the guys a lot," Olt said. "When we need someone to come through, he's the guy. That's an All-Star right there."
Rizzo belted his 20th home run Wednesday in the third inning, launching a 2-0 pitch from the Reds' Alfredo Simon into the Cubs' bullpen. He is the first Cubs left-handed hitter with 20 home runs before the All-Star break since Rick Monday hit 20 in 1973, and the first player in team history to do so since Derrek Lee belted 27 in 2005.
"I'm just being aggressive," Rizzo said. "Teams are going to pound me in, and I know that's what they're going to do. Let them do it, and if they miss, I try to take advantage of it."
He found out prior to Wednesday's game that he had passed Morneau.
"It's really cool," Rizzo said of the fans' support. "I'm really appreciative for all of it."
Rizzo is one of three National League players to reach 20 home runs by the All-Star break, and was second in the league to the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (21). Rizzo has 17 home runs since April 30, the most in the NL, and was tied for fifth most in the Major Leagues in that span.
Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson knows how valuable Rizzo and Castro are to the team.
"Rizzo and Castro are both All-Star caliber players," Jackson said. "They're both able to go out and do things that the average person in the game can't do. I definitely hope [Rizzo] gets a chance to make it. It's fun times and a good experience. You're in the clubhouse with the All-Stars and it's the creme de la creme, the best of the best. Just from experience, it's a real fun time. It's something that you wish everybody in their career had a chance to do it."
Rizzo also is a survivor. Diagnosed in 2008 Hodgkin's lymphoma, he's beaten cancer and is doing his part to help children stricken with the disease. The Rizzo Family Foundation has hosted two walk-a-thons in his hometown in Parkland, Fla., and held two fundraising events in Chicago to help cancer patients. And he makes several unannounced visits a year at cancer wards to try and pick up patients' spirits. It's a part of his life that he'll never forget. During the Cubs' recent trip to Boston, Rizzo said he got a knot in his stomach passing the hospital where he first started chemo treatements.
Right now, he's focused on baseball, and his first trip to the All-Star Game.
"I've had a lot of good first basemen here," Chicago second baseman Darwin Barney said. "I was with Derrek Lee for a little and then Carlos Pena, who was a Gold Glover, and I honestly think Riz is the best first baseman I've had. He takes pride in it. We've worked together for so long, I know he'll win a couple Gold Gloves in his career.
"Just having someone over there who you can talk to -- we have game plans for different people, and the fact that he's so good around the bag, he's definitely the best guy I've had over there," Barney said.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again allow fans to help choose 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 and via Twitter in the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers, for the first time, will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 platforms that support MLB.TV, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.