NEW YORK -- Balloting is under way for the 84th All-Star Game on July 16 at Citi Field, with Wednesday's launch of the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot, sponsored by freecreditscore.com, and the first chance to punch names at ballparks.
So begins the largest All-Star balloting program in sports, one that last year produced a record-shattering 40.2 million ballots cast. Fans can vote for starting position players online or by mobile device until 11:59 p.m. ET on July 4 and help influence the makeup of an event that has been won the past three years by the National League, which capitalized each time on the consequent World Series home-field advantage.
"All-Star balloting is more popular than ever and we hope for another record-setting year in 2013 as the Mets host our 84th Midsummer Classic," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Major League Baseball is thrilled that fans throughout the world will continue to choose their favorite players for the greatest sporting event of the summer. We look forward to adding a new chapter to the remarkable National League tradition of New York City at Citi Field this summer."
MLB, Firestone and the Mets -- the latter represented by principal owner Fred Wilpon, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, team president Saul Katz, six-time All-Star third baseman David Wright and former players and current club ambassadors Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco and Mookie Wilson -- marked the start of the balloting with a news conference at City Hall in Manhattan that also included New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan.
More than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at the 30 Major League ballparks, each of which will have 25 dates for balloting, and in approximately 100 Minor League ballparks. The first distribution of ballots was to be at games hosted by the Mets, Phillies and Reds on Wednesday night.
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was at Citi Field on Tuesday night for a series opener against the Mets, and the weeks ahead will decide whether he returns there for a fifth All-Star Game, having strung together four consecutive appearances while with San Diego. His NL competition includes the likes of Cincinnati's Joey Votto, the 2012 starter, Chicago's Anthony Rizzo and Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.
"It's always fun to see the fans voting and be a part of it now as a player, having grown up with it voting when I was a kid," Gonzalez said. "You always vote for your hometown players. I voted for Padres then. It's such a worldwide sport, we have the ballots online and in the stadiums, and the fans get into it and get excited. The fans should want to see their hometown players win out so they can see them in the All-Star Game."
An early first-base contender in the American League is Baltimore's Chris Davis, who had a historic start to the season. He is hoping for his first All-Star berth, and his competition includes names like Boston's Mike Napoli, 2012 starter Prince Fielder of the Tigers and six-time All-Star Paul Konerko of the White Sox.
"It's obviously a huge honor to be elected by the fans," Davis said. "The reason we play the game is for the fans, and to know that they want you to be a part of something that means so much to the players, it's a great honor. I think it gives the fans a good chance to get more involved and have some say in an event that is really made for them."
In addition to the usual 25 ballots allotted per person exclusively at MLB.com during the voting period, this time you also can earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots. To access those additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot.
During the voting period, the online ballot will be available in English and Spanish, and will offer audio CAPTCHA functionality for visually impaired fans. Japanese, Korean and Chinese versions of the online ballot will be available in May. Banco BHD will sponsor online 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.
The AL and NL All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 7, on the 2013 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, including a designated hitter, 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 Jim Leyland of the Tigers and NL manager Bruce Bochy of the defending World Series champion Giants.
Immediately following the announcement of the AL and NL All-Star rosters, fans will begin the always-frenetic process of selecting the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote, sponsored by freecreditscore.com. Leyland and Bochy, in concert with MLB, will each provide five names from which to choose in his respective league.
Voting will then be conducted over a four-day period and the winners will be announced after balloting concludes on Thursday, July 11. The Final Vote is in its 12th season with more than 350 million overall votes cast, and once again fans can make their Final Vote selections on MLB.com, club sites and mobile devices.
The final step in this run of fan balloting will be the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, you can vote exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 club sites via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and your collective voice will represent 20 percent of the vote that determines this year's recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
Every Major League club will have begun its in-stadium balloting no later than May 7. When the in-stadium phase of balloting concludes on June 28, fans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots exclusively online at MLB.com, the 30 club sites and their mobile devices through Independence Day.
Firestone, the official tire of MLB, is the exclusive sponsor of the 2013 In-Stadium All-Star Balloting Program. The ballot features an All-Star sweepstakes, in which a winner will be rewarded with a trip for two to All-Star Week, including airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to the All-Star Game and other All-Star Week events.
For the fifth consecutive year, this year's ballot will feature the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Derby, which will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the U.S. beginning at 8 p.m. ET on July 15.
The 10 AL candidates are Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, 2011 winner Robinson Cano of the Yankees, Adam Dunn of the White Sox, 2009 and '12 winner Fielder, 2008 winner Josh Hamilton of the Angels, Adam Jones of the Orioles, Evan Longoria of the Rays and Mike Trout of the Angels.
The 10 NL candidates are Votto, Wright, Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Bryce Harper of the Nationals, Jason Heyward of the Braves, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Buster Posey of the Giants and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins.
Kemp was at Citi Field on Tuesday and recalled how an injury ruined his All-Star Game hopes last year. He was humble when asked what it would mean to be in the lineup this time.
"I'm just happy to be on the list," Kemp said. "I remember there was a time in my career when to be on the ballot, I had to be a write-in. As long as I'm on there, it's good. You have a chance to make the All-Star team.
"I know fans enjoy picking their favorite All-Stars. You leave it up to the fans to get you into the All-Star Game and I think they do a great job most of the time picking who deserves to be there."
The 84th 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 7:30 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 also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.