Now that baseball season is in full stride, it's time for voting season.
Balloting is underway for Major League Baseball's 85th All-Star Game on July 15 at Target Field in Minnesota, with the traditional launch of the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian and the first chance to punch names at ballparks.
Submit up to 25 online ballots and earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots. To access these, you must be logged in to your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, register on the site in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.
So begins the largest All-Star balloting program in sports, one that produced the two highest totals in balloting history the last two years, including a record 40.2 million ballots cast in 2012. Vote exclusively at MLB.com or via your mobile device until 11:59 p.m. ET on July 3, and help influence the makeup of an event that has resulted in league home-field advantage for the last five World Series champions, easily the longest such streak.
"Major League Baseball is proud to stand alongside one of our model franchises, the Minnesota Twins, as we renew a special baseball tradition today," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "The participation of our fans in the All-Star balloting process is a key part of their extraordinary bond with the Midsummer Classic. The Twin Cities will be marvelous hosts for a celebration of the very best of our game."
MLB and the host Twins marked the official start of balloting with a news conference at Target Field. In attendance were owner Jim Pohlad and president Dave St. Peter of the Twins; Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business; six-time All-Star Joe Mauer; Hall of Famers and T-Mobile All-Star FanFest spokespersons Rod Carew, Paul Molitor and Bert Blyleven; eight-time All-Star and T-Mobile All-Star FanFest spokesperson Tony Oliva; Minneapolis City Council president Barb Johnson; city of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman; Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat; and Twins radio play-by-play broadcaster Cory Provus, who served as master of ceremonies.
More than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at MLB's 30 ballparks, each of which will have 23 dates for balloting. Every club will begin its in-stadium balloting no later than May 12. When the in-stadium phase of balloting concludes no later than June 26, you will have the opportunity to cast your ballots exclusively online or via mobile.
Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig had the dubious distinction of lining out as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning of last year's Midsummer Classic at Citi Field in New York, part of a 1-2-3 inning recorded by Mariano Rivera, ultimately given the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. With the National League losing that game, 3-0, the American League earned World Series home-field advantage, so Craig and the Cardinals wound up going back to Boston for that decisive Game 6.
During a visit this week to the same Citi Field for a series against the Mets, Craig said that just making it to his first All-Star Game was an incomparable experience. And merely being on the ballot, he said, is something that "means a lot" to today's players.
"As a kid, I remember going to games and really looking forward to the All-Star ballot and seeing who's on there and putting in the guys I thought should be in the All-Star Game," said Craig, who grew up in Southern California. "To be a player and to see your name on it, to have the opportunity to go to the All-Star Game, is really special. I got to go to my first All-Star Game last year and it was one of the greatest experiences I've had, just being in the locker room with the guys.
"I went to a lot of Angel games growing up, because they were closest to me. I filled out the All-Star ballots there. I was always a big Angel fan, and I was also a fan of Ken Griffey Jr. growing up. Definitely I always voted as many times as I could for Griffey. I think [the fans] do a pretty good job. I think the fan vote is important because the fans support the game. All the players appreciate all the votes they get from fans so it's an important thing."
The online ballot will be available in English and Spanish and will offer audio CAPTCHA functionality for visually impaired fans. Traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese 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 site of MLB.
Firestone, the official tire of MLB, is once again the exclusive sponsor of in-stadium balloting. 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, tickets to the All-Star Game and other All-Star Week events, and VIP on-field access to watch batting practice before the All-Star Game with an MLB legend.
The Home Run Derby Fan Poll is back as part of the main ballot. Select three players in each league you would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. That event 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 14.
The 2014 All-Star teams will be unveiled on the 2014 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show during the weekend of July 5-6, with further details to follow on MLB.com. The AL will have nine elected starters via the fan balloting program, while the NL will have eight fan-elected starters. 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 All-Star managers Mike Matheny (NL) and John Farrell (AL).
Immediately following the announcement of the rosters, you can select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian. Last year's winners were Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Blue Jays right-hander Steve Delabar. Choose again at that point from among five players in each league. The Final Vote returns for its 13th season with more than 430 million votes cast to date, and you'll be able to make selections on MLB.com, club sites and your mobile device.
You'll be on a voting tear at that point, having already selected starters and the last men, and the ritual will not end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the big game, vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi. The fan voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
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.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.