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Soriano the fan favorite
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07/12/2004 10:15 PM ET
Soriano the fan favorite
Top vote-getter popular in three different countries
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Alfonso Soriano (left) and Scott Rolen show off their new hardware. (Daria Debuono/MLB.com)
• Alfonso Soriano in Houston:  56K | 350K

HOUSTON -- The polls are closed but the awards for Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano and Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen keep coming.

During a ceremony before the Century 21 Home Run Derby on Monday, the two All-Stars were honored with awards from MLB.com and Ameriquest as the top vote-getters in their respective leagues.

"It's better than we could have ever imagined," said Ameriquest's Mary Jo Shelton, who presented the award to Rolen. "We are absolutely thrilled to be here. Everybody thinks of baseball as America's pastime and we were excited to share in the event."

Soriano led all Major League players with 3,466,447 votes when the starting position players for both leagues were announced. He was also the top online vote-getter, collecting a record total of 3,056,277 votes at MLB.com. Rolen was the top vote-getter in the National League with 3,187,710 votes. He is the fourth Cardinals player to earn that distinction and the second in a row, following Albert Pujols last year.

"There are a lot of superstars in this game and to be number one in votes makes me feel very special," said Soriano, who was the voting leader when the first balloting updates were released in May. "I think because I played in Japan and I'm a Latin American guy who played in New York helps. But I think people know that I go out there and I play hard every day."

Orange, Calif.-based Ameriquest, the official mortgage company of Major League Baseball and title sponsor of in-stadium and online All-Star balloting, is one the nation's largest lenders. The company provides home-equity loans through more than 250 branch offices in the U.S., including 17 in Texas. Ameriquest and its affiliates employ more than 12,000 associates nationwide.

2004 All-Star Game

"Once I found out we partnered with Major League Baseball, I thought it was a perfect fit," said Ameriquest's Mariano DeMarin. "What we represent with our beliefs and our morals are consistent with something as American as baseball."

Tom Hicks Jr., the son of Rangers owner Tom Hicks, presented Soriano his award on behalf of MLB.com. He called Soriano "a great person and fine Ranger."

"It's symbolic of the way the club has come back as franchise and what kind of a guy Alfonso is," Hicks said. "The fact that he was the leading vote-getter says a lot about how people respect him as a player on and off the field. We are very fortunate to have him."

Hicks isn't the only one fond of Soriano. The infielder's popularity spans the two countries he has played in -- the United States and Japan -- and the two cultures he lives in -- American and Latino. He was voted into the All-Star Game twice as a member of the New York Yankees and this season as the second baseman for the first-place Texas Rangers. He is one of the top second baseman in the American League today.

"I think the overriding factor in the votes is he is the only player to get the Japan, and Dominican vote and in Texas and New York," said Cody Monk, author of the biography, Alfonso Soriano: The Dominican Dream Come True. "Yankees fans love him. He got a standing ovation when he went back there."

Soriano's popularity with the Dominican vote rivals that of Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez said Enrique Rojas, the host of the television's Solo Beisbol in Santo Domingo and arguably the most respected baseball journalist in the Dominican Republic.

"Alfonso has two homes, Texas and New York, and he had two home teams in New York and Texas," Rojas said. "In those two markets, he is the best. He is a superstar and there are not superstars in the AL at second baseman. Jeff Kent is the NL star. Alfonso is a phenomenal player with a capital 'P' for us."

Japanese media present at the Home Run Derby did not underestimate Soriano's popularity in their country despite playing only briefly for Hiroshima during the mid-1990s before retiring and signing with the Yankees.

Some believe Soriano's votes in Japan are not comparable to Hideki Matsui or Ichiro Suzuki, but still significantly more than most other American players.

"I think that Japanese fans like him more because was a teammate of Matsui than from his years with Hiroshima's Carp Academy since very few fans really got to see him play while he was here," said Michael Westbay of Japanesebaseball.com. "Japanese fans will tend to vote for players they know. In that regard, Japanese fans will be voting for many Yankees."

Soriano has the hardware to prove it.

Jesse Sanchez 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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