07/07/2004 9:00 PM ET
Matsui earns AL Final Vote
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|Hideki Matsui will join manager Joe Torre and six of his teammates at Minute Maid Park. (Jill Weisleder/Dodgers)
NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui can now call himself a two-time All-Star.
The Yankees' left fielder was elected as the final member of the American League All-Star team on Wednesday, beating out four other candidates in the Ameriquest 2004 All-Star Final Vote.
Matsui finished ahead of Chicago's Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko, with Minnesota's Lew Ford and Cleveland's Travis Hafner rounding out the ballot.
"I am very honored to be chosen for the All-Star team," Matsui said through an interpreter. "I'll do my best to play well for the fans who voted me in."
Matsui, who was elected by the fans to start for the AL in 2003, will join six of his teammates for the Midsummer Classic at Houston's Minute Maid Park, which will be played on Tuesday, July 13.
2004 Final Vote
American League winner:
Hideki Matsui, Yankees
(in order of finish):
Frank Thomas, White Sox
Paul Konerko, White Sox
Lew Ford, Twins
Travis Hafner, Indians
National League winner:
Bobby Abreu, Phillies
(in order of finish):
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Steve Finley, D-Backs
Jason Kendall, Pirates
Juan Pierre, Marlins
"I'm glad that other people recognize what we understand every day watching him play," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who is managing the AL team. "He's a very important part of our team, because he knocks in important runs and is a tough out, yet he does it without a lot of flair. The appreciation of Hideki is when you get to watch him every day, see how much he contributes in all areas."
Matsui is batting .282 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs in the Yankees' first 82 games, already matching his homer total from last season. He will join Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera on the AL roster.
"The biggest difference for him is the experience of last year," Torre said. "I think he feels more like he deserves to be an All-Star this year than he did last year."
"I think overall, I'll be more relaxed," he said. "I'll be able to enjoy it moreso than last year."
Although Matsui came to the Majors with a reputation of being a homer-hitting machine (he hit 332 in 10 seasons in Japan, including 50 in 2002), Torre has been impressed with the gritty game that Matsui has carried with him to the big leagues.
"He's been different. He isn't a spotlight guy who needs to hit home runs and jog around the bases," Torre said. "He doesn't care what it looks like, he just wants to get it done. He's not always pretty to watch, but he knows what he's doing."
Matsui has played in each of his first 239 games with the Yankees to start his big-league career, representing the longest career-starting streak since Ernie Banks played 424 straight when he started with the Chicago Cubs (1953-55).
Now in its third year, the Ameriquest 2004 All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final position player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday night's Major League All-Start Selection Show and continued until 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and 32nd man, will have yet another opportunity to make themselves heard with the return of the Ameriquest All-Star Game MVP Vote. Beginning in the sixth inning of the All-Star Game, fans can cast their vote for the player they believe deserves to win the Ted Williams Award for being the game's Most Valuable Player. The fan vote counts for 20 percent of the decision on which player wins the award, with the media accounting for the other 80 percent.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.