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Longoria elated to win AL Final Vote

Longoria elated to win AL Final Vote

CLEVELAND -- Shortly after 5 p.m. ET, the Rays began their pregame stretching and still, no news.

Evan Longoria and the rest of the Rays were eagerly waiting to find out if the Final Vote had been tabulated, which determined who would be the last player on the American League team for Tuesday's All-Star Game in New York.

Then Rick Vaughn's cell phone rang, and the Rays' vice president of communications handed over the phone to Longoria, who was sitting on the field surrounded by teammates. Phyllis Merhige, Major League Baseball senior vice president of club relations, then spoke to the Rays' rookie third baseman.

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"Congratulations, you're an All-Star," Merhige told him.

A broad smile spread across Longoria's face as Vaughn gave the rest of the team a thumbs up and they cheered for Longoria.

"Those were the words I was waiting to hear," Longoria said.

The voting began at 3 p.m. Sunday and concluded at 5 p.m. on Thursday exclusively at MLB.com, and ultimately this will be remembered not only for Longoria and the Milwaukee Brewers' Corey Hart's selections, but also for the amazing participation by baseball fans worldwide. The final vote total was more than half of the entire volume cast in the previous six years of the Final Vote, and it was more than double last year's record of 23.2 million.

Longoria received the highest total number of votes in history and led all vote-getters with nine million en route to becoming the second consecutive rookie to win the balloting, following Boston's Hideki Okajima last year.

Longoria was followed in the voting by outfielder Jermaine Dye, who could have become the third White Sox player in four years to win the Final Vote. Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, despite a high-profile "Support the 'Stache" campaign, finished third, followed by Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts and Kansas City outfielder Jose Guillen -- all of whom finished with impressive vote totals.

"How about that," Longoria said. "Shoot, what can I say? Now it's going to be the dream come true I was hoping for. I'm totally excited."

Longoria immediately recognized those responsible for his election.

"I just want to say thanks to the fans, thanks to the people who voted," Longoria said. "First and foremost, I couldn't have done it without the people who voted."

Minutes later, Vaughn's cell phone rang again, and Red Sox manager Terry Francona -- who also happens to be the American League manager -- was the caller. Francona asked Vaughn to pass along his congratulations to Longoria for making the team.

Longoria, 22, entered Thursday's action batting .281 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs. He maintained a solid poker face prior to receiving the news, but inside he felt eager to find out if he would be on the All-Star team.

"I was more worried about what was going on in the field," Longoria said. "But I can't lie. Today, I was pretty pumped up coming here to see how it finished out."

From the start, Longoria didn't hide the fact he voted for himself, which he did again Thursday, when he said he "probably voted like 20 times."

"I had to," he said. "Did I win by 20? You never know."

Rays manager Joe Maddon laughed when told that Longoria voted for himself again Thursday.

"Good for him," Maddon said. "You've got to love the honesty. It's very refreshing, and I totally believe that he did it."

Maddon clearly was pleased with Longoria's win and noted, "I think he's earned it."

"He's made a nice strong push over the last month," Maddon said. "He's been playing at a very consistent level, at a very clutch level. ... And not just offensively, defensively also. He's made some huge plays for us.

"It's quite a testament to him, as well as the university [Long Beach State] he comes from, as well as our scouting and developmental departments to get him here this quickly and to make such a tremendous impact."

Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, called Longoria's win "quite an accomplishment" after going "head-to-head" against "a player from the Chicago market and the New York market."

"A lot of that has to do with the success of the team and the success he's had, so I think it's a perfect storm of events that has allowed him to win that vote," Friedman said. "Even last year, we weren't in position to have someone win one of those votes. And the success we've had, obviously there's been a lot of national recognition, and certainly that aided him as well."

Longoria is the third Rays player selected for the 2008 Midsummer Classic, joining pitcher Scott Kazmir and catcher Dioner Navarro.

The incredible week of fan voting was merely an extension of what has been happening at MLB.com the past month. During the online balloting process to decide starters, 214.7 million votes from 16.5 million ballots were cast at MLB.com and the 30 individual club sites, even though there were seven fewer days in the voting period than in 2007. These record figures each represent increases of nearly 40 percent over the previous marks for total votes and ballots cast.

With the majority of the individual races going down to the wire, fans cast their final votes online at unprecedented rates -- more than 41 million votes in the final 24 hours of online balloting were cast on July 2. That mark was 57 percent higher than the previous single-day record, 26 million, set on the final day of online balloting in 2005.

Previous winners of the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote include Hideki Okajima (AL) and Chris Young (NL) in 2007; A.J. Pierzynski (AL) and Nomar Garciaparra (NL) in 2006; Scott Podsednik (AL) and Roy Oswalt (NL) in 2005; Hideki Matsui (AL) and Bobby Abreu (NL) in 2004; Jason Varitek (AL) and Geoff Jenkins (NL) in 2003; and Johnny Damon (AL) and Andruw Jones (NL) in 2002.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, and MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.

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

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