Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and Cardinals third baseman David Freese are each headed to their first All-Star Game, thanks to a 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Firestone in which fans smashed online voting records and put a giant exclamation point on an unprecedented Major League Baseball balloting campaign.
The 83rd All-Star Game is scheduled to be played Tuesday in Kansas City, and Darvish and Freese have been added to the 34th and final spots on each roster. Darvish becomes the eighth Rangers player for the American League and Texas manager Ron Washington, and for Freese it reunites the 2011 World Series MVP with his former Cardinals manager, National League skipper Tony La Russa, who is coming out of retirement just for the Midsummer Classic.
Darvish joins Hideki Matsui (2004) and Hideki Okajima (2007) as Japanese winners on the AL side of the Final Vote, reinforcing the online ballot power coming from that nation. The right-hander was a wire-to-wire winner, holding off a gallant bid by White Sox veteran Jake Peavy. That pair was followed in order by righties Jason Hammel of the Orioles, Jonathan Broxton of the Royals and Ernesto Frieri of the Angels.
"He has a lot of pride and he is very determined," Rangers president and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said of Darvish, a 10-game winner in his first year in the Majors. "I truly believe he wants to be one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues. He works very hard and he's focused. That's very positive for somebody who is 25 years old ... or at any age."
It is the first Final Vote triumph by a Rangers player and extends their dream All-Star campaign. Washington already was planning to manage these seven: top vote-getter Josh Hamilton in the outfield, pitchers Joe Nathan and Matt Harrison, catcher Mike Napoli, second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus and third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Freese became the NL leader on Tuesday when MLB announced that Chipper Jones, the leader after 42 hours of voting, was replacing Matt Kemp on the NL roster. Finishing in order behind Freese were Braves center fielder Michael Bourn, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper and D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill.
Freese, the first Cardinals player to win the Final Vote, pushed his RBI total to 50 on Wednesday with a two-run single. The only NL third baseman with more this season is Mets All-Star David Wright. Freese is batting .285, and .282 with runners in scoring position. He ranks second among all NL third baseman with 13 home runs.
"It's St. Louis," Freese said of the huge support he received from Redbird Nation. "They love Cardinal baseball."
Freese had said that being reunited with La Russa was the biggest part of the honor, should fans give it to him. And they did.
"For me, it's not about going to the All-Star Game," Freese explained. "It's about playing for Tony La Russa one more time."
As of Thursday morning there already had been 40 million votes cast, and there were about six million more between 10 a.m. ET and the close of balloting at 4 p.m. The Final Vote was a continuation of a record-shattering 2012 fan balloting campaign. On Thursday, MLB.com finished the voting for the 17 starting position players via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot, with 391.2 million votes and 34.9 million ballots. Both figures were easily the largest totals recorded in the history of online balloting at MLB.com.
The Final Vote balloting was conducted on MLB.com, club sites and, in a new twist, on Twitter -- where designated player hashtags counted during the final four hours of balloting. There were dramatic surges by Bourn and Peavy on Twitter, and the Final Vote itself became a constant presence in international trending topics. The effort drew a four-hour sustained average of 3,000 tweets per minute during the voting period.
Here is the complete list of previous winners: Paul Konerko (AL, 2011); Shane Victorino (NL, 2011); Nick Swisher (AL, 2010); Joey Votto (NL, 2010); Brandon Inge (AL, 2009), Victorino (NL, 2009); Evan Longoria (AL, 2008); Corey Hart (NL, 2008); Hideki Okajima (AL, 2007); Chris Young (NL, 2007); A.J. Pierzynski (AL, 2006); Nomar Garciaparra (NL, 2006); Scott Podsednik (AL, 2005); Roy Oswalt (NL, 2005); Matsui (AL, 2004); Bobby Abreu (NL, 2004); Jason Varitek (AL, 2003); Geoff Jenkins (NL, 2003); Johnny Damon (AL, 2002); and Andruw Jones (NL, 2002).
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for 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 via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voices will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 83rd 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. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.