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Who is the most popular athlete in Tampa Bay?

Who is the most popular athlete in Tampa Bay? That's for you to decide. We want to know your favorite from among the players below. Because we couldn't include every worthy candidate, popular stars such as the Bucs' Barrett Ruud, the Rays' James Shields and Matt Garza, and the Lightning's Steve Downie are missing from the list of candidates. But we've selected the players who seem to be the favorites of Tampa Bay sports fans. So tell us who you like best. Go to our poll at sports.tampabay.com and vote for your favorite from among these:

Ronde Barber

Everyone loves the smile of the charismatic Bucs cornerback, who has spent 14 stellar seasons with Tampa Bay. He also is responsible for perhaps the most famous play in Tampa Bay sports history, a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown that sealed the 2002 season NFC Championship Game win in Philadelphia and sent the Bucs to their only Super Bowl appearance.

Carl Crawford

The superstar has grown up before our eyes. He broke into the majors as a 20-year-old in 2002 and is now 28 and one of the majors' best players. He also has bridged the gap from the sorry days of the "Devil'' Rays to what the Rays are now, one of the most exciting teams in the game. Much of that excitement is generated by the man known as "CC.''

Josh Freeman

Have to have the starting quarterback on the list. He's still a kid at 22 but showed flashes of promise last year as a rookie, and it appears he is the player the Bucs will build around as they try to become an elite team again.

Vinny Lecavalier

Still the face of the Lightning franchise, it's hard to believe he turns 30 next week. He's the Lightning's all-time leading scorer and is a fan favorite for not only his play on the ice but his kindness off it, including his extensive charity work.

Evan Longoria

Longoria, 24, is not just a big star for the Rays but one of baseball's biggest stars, already appearing in national commercials. He is starting just his third year with the Rays, but it feels like he has been here for a decade. Maybe that's because the team became good when he arrived.

Carlos Peña

Since joining the Rays in 2007, Peña has belted 116 home runs and become one of the major league's premier sluggers. But it's his easy-going personality and quick smile that have made him a favorite among Rays fans.

Marty St. Louis

Our little engine that could. Officially 5 feet 9 (though we say he's closer to 5-7), St. Louis has been a Lightning mainstay for nine years and one of its most consistent scorers. His overtime goal in Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final against the Flames kept the season alive, and this season, at age 34, St. Louis is a point-a-game player.

Steven Stamkos

One of the NHL's most prolific scorers, this season he is running neck and neck with superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for the goal-scoring title. He's only 20 years old, and Lightning fans hope he's the team centerpiece for years to come.

B.J. Upton

Another piece of the Rays' young nucleus, Upton has emerged as one of baseball's best defensive outfielders with his impressive speed and arm strength. He has matured into a team leader and should be a Rays cornerstone for years.

Ben Zobrist

The former utility player came out of nowhere to become an American League All-Star last season. Two years ago he played sparingly. Now he's batting third in one of the most lethal lineups in baseball.

Who is the most popular athlete in Tampa Bay? 04/10/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 12, 2010 12:28pm]
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