Hart beats out big names in Final Vote
Brewers outfielder holds on to claim NL All-Star roster spot
MILWAUKEE -- Matthew and Ryleigh Hart will always remember their first cold beer.Brewers outfielder Corey Hart's kids were part of the celebration on Thursday when Hart got a surprise suds shower from his teammates after winning the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote, an online contest that settled the final roster spot for each league.
Fans cast a record 47.8 million votes at MLB.com and via text messages over four days to get Hart the final spot on the National League All-Star team. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria won the last spot on the American League squad.Outfielder Ryan Braun and right-hander Ben Sheets will also represent the Brewers on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, giving Milwaukee at least three All-Stars for the third straight season. "It's incredible," Hart said. "I thought maybe I had a chance the way the fans have been and the way they pushed Braun. But at the same time, we were going against New York and Philly and those are pretty big markets." The soft-spoken Hart beat out a quartet of big-market stars for a ticket to Yankee Stadium. Hart led the balloting through its four-day run but was challenged late by the Mets' David Wright, and also edged Pat Burrell of the Phillies, Aaron Rowand of the Giants and Carlos Lee of the Astros. Milwaukee, by the way, is Major League Baseball's smallest media market. "It's a big deal that all the fans got him in," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, one of four Brewers All-Stars last season. "I was nervous. He definitely deserves it, and I know he's going to enjoy it, especially being in New York. With as much as they had going on last year in San Francisco, it's going to be even more intense in New York." Hart didn't know the outcome of the Final Vote when a club official led him along with Matthew, 3, and Ryleigh, 2, into an interview room across from the clubhouse at Miller Park. Hart's oldest daughter, Alyssa, wisely stayed away, because minutes after manager Ned Yost delivered the news, at least a dozen Brewers players charged in armed with bottles of beer and began spraying. CC Sabathia got a similar shower on Tuesday after winning his Brewers debut. It's the team's traditional celebration for individual milestones. "I was just trying to cover Ryleigh's eyes," Hart said with a smile. "I think the guys scared her a little bit, but it's all good. It was pretty exciting." And Matthew? "I think he liked it," Hart cracked. "He had his head tipped back and was trying to drink, and now he's running around right now licking his lips. He basically lives in the clubhouse, so he can take it." The Hart clan is headed to New York next week after the Brewers stirred up support with an, "I Hart New York," campaign. Hart took part in a media tour rivaling the one that landed Braun a starting spot via fan balloting. Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio was talking with some sponsors on Thursday and learned one Milwaukee company had its employees voting for Hart online. The team set up laptop computers at Miller Park for fans to vote, and aired video messages encouraging fans at the game to text their support for Hart. Even Kristina Hart, Corey's wife, got into it. She skipped Thursday's game and instead stayed home to vote. It paid off. Hart received about 8 million votes. "You know you're up against guys like David Wright and Pat Burrell from big cities, so you have to be realistic and muted somehow," said Attanasio, a Bronx native and lifelong Yankess fan who will be at the All-Star Game. "I know Ned Yost was lobbying for Corey with Clint Hurdle, the manager of the Rockies who is going to manage the National League All-Star team, because he felt like we might have to get Corey in that way if we can. "It's very, very exciting. Corey Hart has been a great player for us, and unsung player for a couple of years now. With guys like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Ben Sheets and now CC Sabathia here, he kind of gets lost a little bit. It's great to see him get some notoriety." Hart admitted that he was ready for it all to be over. "You tell yourself not to think about it," he said Thursday morning, "but that's hard to do. You find yourself looking up at the scoreboard to see what other guys are doing." Later in the day, he admitted the process was, "frustrating." "It's a distraction," Hart said. "But it's worth it. ... I was doing five, six, seven [interviews] a day and at the same time trying to figure out how to play baseball. It was kind of tough." Hart did not do much in a four-game series against the Rockies that coincided with the Final Vote. He had two hits in his first 14 at-bats in the series, including a pair of swinging strikeouts in the Brewers' six-run fourth inning Thursday. But he belted a solo home run in the seventh off reliever Cedrick Bowers. It was Hart's 15th home run this season and his 57th RBI. "You go out there and you want to do so well to make sure that [fans] go vote for you," Hart said. "It's kind of hard, because you put so much pressure on yourself." The Brewers are sending at least three players to the All-Star Game for the third straight season. Before 2006, they did not boast more than two All-Stars since 1984. "We wanted to show Corey we were behind him," said Brewers infielder Bill Hall, one of the catalysts of the impromptu beer shower. "It's a big moment for him, and we wanted to show him we're glad he made it. It's a credit to the league and the fans for noticing what he's doing."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.