Rising star: Longoria leading Final Vote

Longoria leading Final Vote

ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria is leading the voting to be the final player selected for the American League All-Star team.

The Rays rookie third baseman is a Final Vote nominee and leads a close race that includes Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, Jason Giambi of the Yankees, Brian Roberts of the Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Royals.

"Yeah, it's awesome, I'm really looking forward to going if I go," Longoria said. "Obviously, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime. To be there my rookie year would be awesome."

Longoria has teased that his mother, Ellie, is executing her own private voting campaign.

"She's out there, she's getting it done," said Longoria through a smile. "But it's awesome to know that the fans care and notice not only what I'm doing over here [but what the team is doing as well]. It takes a lot to get voted in. The team has to be successful, too. It's exciting."

Now in its seventh year, the Monster 2008 All-Star Game 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 Chevy and continues until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 10. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.

The seventh annual Monster All-Star Game Final Vote ballot commenced exclusively on MLB.com at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, and more than 11 million votes have already been cast in the opening 24 hours of fan voting.

Fans attending Monday afternoon's Rays-Royals contest at Tropicana Field offered a loud cheer when the announcement came that Longoria currently leads the voting. The Rays are encouraging fans to vote with in-game promos on the scoreboard and fliers posted around Tropicana Field, and they plan to have a crawl at the bottom of the screen on upcoming Rays telecasts beginning Tuesday night.

Longoria, 22, has been everything the Rays expected since they selected him from Triple-A Durham on April 12. He has started 75 of 76 games since his arrival, and the Rays have posted a 50-27 mark since then.

After going 2-for-5 with an RBI on Monday, Longoria was hitting .283 with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs. In addition, he has fielded his position like a Gold Glover.

Longoria already ranks second in Rays history for home runs by a rookie (Jonny Gomes had 21 in 2005). In addition to the power stroke, Longoria has displayed versatility in the field, playing shortstop for the first time in his professional career on June 19, when everyday shortstop Jason Bartlett was a late scratch.

There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans also can text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to have the All-Star Final Vote candidates sent to their phones. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 88555. Standard rate text messaging rates apply -- please check with your mobile carrier for details.

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 Chevrolet via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, 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 that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.

Should Longoria be the American League's Final Vote winner, he will join Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir and catcher Dioner Navarro, who were both named to the team Sunday.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.