Pena needs late push in Final Vote
Slugger is fourth in latest update for final AL All-Star spot
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Pena only had one issue with the promotional T-shirts the Rays produced to urge fans to vote him into the 2009 All-Star Game.
He didn't get to choose the headshot.
"Last night I heard about it, and [I was] immediately worried about the picture they would choose," Pena joked. "But I'm happy with it."
Pena is one of five American League finalists for this year's All-Star Sprint Final Vote, and he is hoping to earn enough votes to grab the last spot on the team's roster and head to St. Louis with four of his Rays teammates.
Infielders Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist and outfielder Carl Crawford already have been selected to represent Tampa Bay and play for their manager, Joe Maddon.
However, Pena was fourth in the latest Final Vote results released Thursday afternoon, trailing the Tigers' Brandon Inge, the Rangers' Ian Kinsler and the Angels' Chone Figgins.
But Pena clearly is having fun with the entire spectacle.
"I've been laughing most of the day today and yesterday," Pena said on Wednesday. "I laugh all the time, but not like this. This has been a lot of fun. People call me saying, 'We've got everybody voting.' It's been great just to be appreciated like that. Just the recognition is enough for me. To be recognized by the people of St. Pete in such a way, it means the world to me."
Pena leads the AL in home runs (23) and walks (56), to go with his 55 RBIs and 59 runs scored. A 2008 Gold-Glove winner at first base, he's been a prominent force as the cleanup hitter for baseball's top slugging team.
The AL roster already has three worthy first basemen -- Minnesota's Justin Morneau, Boston's Kevin Youkilis and New York's Mark Teixeira. Pena, who had accumulated over two million votes as of Wednesday afternoon, can slide in as a fourth.
On Tuesday, the Rays unveiled their "Vote for 'Los" campaign, complete with advertisements, merchandise, signs and Facebook and YouTube ads to urge fans to vote for their slugging first baseman.
And that didn't include the bright white T-shirts each Rays player wore during batting practice.
"Every city is going to do the same thing, deservedly so," Maddon said. "It'd be great to get him on the team and have our entire infield show up. It'd be kind of fun."
Last year, Longoria was in a similar situation as Pena, needing fan votes to earn him a spot on the 2008 All-Star team, and he eventually got enough. Pena's hopeful the same result follows this season.
And if Pena does earn enough support to make the roster, he immediately may have a decision on his hands: whether or not to participate in this year's Home Run Derby.
"I don't even know how it works," Pena said. "I don't know how any of this works, except that I know people are trying to get me in and voting as many times as they can to get me to be part of this All-Star team, so I can join my teammates. Then we'll worry about the Home Run Derby. I first have to make the team."
Now in its eighth year, the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Pepsi and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 9. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote mobile ballot text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Standard rate messaging fees also may apply; check with your carrier. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 14 in St Louis will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.