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9-million clicks later, Longoria gives Rays three All-Stars

CLEVELAND — With all everyone else had done, Evan Lon­goria figured he had to do his part. Getting antsy knowing the voting for the final All-Star spot ended Thursday afternoon, Longoria cast 20 votes for himself.

The Rays' amazing rookie won the online voting for the 32nd and final spot on the American League squad and joins Scott Kazmir and Dioner Navarro, giving Tampa Bay three All-Stars for the first time.

Longoria received a record 9-million votes (with 47.8-million cast overall), in finishing ahead of two players from large markets, Jermaine Dye of the White Sox and Jason Giambi of the Yankees, plus the Orioles' Brian Roberts and the Royals' Jose Guillen.

"What can I say? Now it's going to be the dream come true that I was hoping for," Longoria said. "I'm totally excited. I just want to say thanks to the fans. … That's got to be first and foremost; I couldn't have done it without everybody who voted."

Longoria was going through prebatting practice stretching when Rays public relations director Rick Vaughn handed him his Blackberry, and MLB senior vice president Phyllis Merhige told him he was now an All-Star, and his teammates cheered.

His election is a product of his stellar performance, a .281 average and a team-high 16 home runs and 53 RBIs, after opening the season at Triple A.

But it is also a reflection of the Rays' success, as well as their increased national respect and improved image. The 9-million votes — about half of which came from Florida — are more than the attendance from their seven previous seasons combined.

"It speaks a lot about the club and what we've done this year, and the changes that they've made and the guys that we've brought in," Longoria said. "We've done a good job coming together as a team, and now it shows the nation's behind us."

Even more so considering the competition.

"Going head-to-head with a player from the Chicago market and a player from the New York market, I think it's quite an accomplishment for him to have won that, and a lot of that has to do with the success of the team and with the success he's had," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "I think it's kind of a perfect storm of events that has allowed him to win that vote."

Longoria, 22, already has impressed AL/Boston manager Terry Francona, who called to offer his congratulations.

"He's one of the bright young shining stars of our game," Francona said on a conference call. "The future of our game is so important to us, and when you see guys like Longoria coming, it makes you feel a little better about it.

"This kid is what you're looking for in major-league baseball. I think it's exciting for baseball, and I'm sure it's exciting for Tampa."

No doubt, Rays manager Joe Maddon said, saying such success by a new face creates "excitement and stir" in the game.

"Furthermore, you take him and his personality, I think he's ingratiating and I think the general public and fans are going to really appreciate him as a person as well as a player," he said. "So I think he really fits the All-Star category and the All-Star mold."

Longoria led from the start, and fans were resourceful in their support, from kids at a day camp in Tallahassee who spent a day working in 10-minute shifts to cast 2,001 votes, to a man who claimed he programmed his Blackberry to send 15,000 text messages and a woman who said she is now unidentifiable "as I don't think I have any fingerprints left I have voted so many times since Sunday."

>>FAST FACTS

Almighty Evan

By being elected to the All-Star team, Evan Longoria is:

• The only rookie on the AL team, one of three in the game, and the 89th overall (and 56th position player) in All-Star history.

• First AL rookie position player since Seattle OF Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

• First rookie third baseman since Chris Sabo in 1988; and the third AL rookie third baseman in history joining Kevin Seitzer (Royals, 1987) and Rich Rollins (Twins, 1962).

• The Rays' second-youngest All-Star at age 22; Scott Kazmir was three months younger in 2006.

• Second rookie to win the online voting for the last spot in the seven seasons; Boston's Hideki Okajima did it last year.

9-million clicks later, Longoria gives Rays three All-Stars 07/10/08 [Last modified: Saturday, July 12, 2008 7:34pm]
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