This will not be your average Fourth of July.
No matter where you are this Sunday for the holiday, you will want to pay close attention at noon ET, because all those weeks of voting and campaigning for the most deserving Major League Baseball players will come down to this -- the announcement of rosters for the 81st All-Star Game on July 13 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
The American and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday during the hour-long 2010 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS, with comprehensive coverage on MLB.com.
The MLB.com polls closed at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, bringing a furious finish to the largest All-Star Game balloting program in sports. Whom did you choose to start the game? Whom did the managers and players choose as reserves?
Overall during the past three years of online All-Star balloting for the elected starters, fans have cast more than 650 million votes at MLB.com and the 30 individual Club sites, including this year's 220 million votes.
If you are like many fans, you voted 25 times per e-mail address over the past several weeks, dating back to the May launch of balloting in Anaheim. Over and over, you submitted your picks and saw: "Thank you for voting. Vote again." Now we wait.
Will it be Justin Morneau of the Twins, Mark Teixeira of the Yankees or Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers as your starting AL first baseman? They were ranked in that order at the final update, on Monday, but between that time and midday on Thursday, Cabrera gained 70 percent more online votes than Teixeira and almost 10 percent more than Morneau.
Nick Swisher thanked his constituents through Twitter on Thursday night for their votes, but did he make a strong enough surge in the final week of online-only balloting to become the first Yankee since Bernie Williams in 2000 to break into the top three AL outfielders? Did Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, the Midsummer Classic's 2009 Ted Williams Most Valuable Player, maintain his late momentum and garner enough votes to hold off Swisher and Nelson Cruz of the Rangers? Who will be No. 1 in the AL outfield -- Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners or Josh Hamilton of the Rangers?
Did David Wright of the Mets finally take over third base from Placido Polanco of the rival Phillies? Polanco was among five Phillies announced as leaders when the first NL voting update was released, in late May, but Wright proceeded to out-gain him in every subsequent update until he was trailing by just 22,000 votes in the most recent count. It seemed a fait accompli when Polanco went on the disabled list on Tuesday, but you know how much Phillies fans like Mets fans. Will that one be close?
Did Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer hold his lead over Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to end up as the AL's top vote-getter and just the second AL backstop to earn the honor? Will Albert Pujols become just the third player to be voted a league's top vote-getter at least four times? Will Yadier Molina be the first St. Louis catcher to earn back-to-back starting spots behind the plate for the NL, or did Braves fans rally to help Brian McCann surge ahead?
All of this will become clear during the All-Star Selection Show, which will be hosted by Matt Winer along with 19-time AL All-Star and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., six-time AL All-Star and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, and three-time AL All-Star David Wells.
How does the selection process work? More than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots were distributed at the 30 Major League ballparks, each of which had 23 home dates for balloting. Ballots also were distributed in about 100 Minor League ballparks.
In addition, Scotts was the official sponsor of the 2010 Retail All-Star Balloting Program, which began on May 10 exclusively at approximately 1,700 Lowe's stores across the country. All of those ballots were thrown into the big heap after the final week of online-only voting.
The pitchers and reserves for both squads -- totaling 25 for the NL and 24 for the AL -- are being determined through a combination of Player Ballot choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers -- Joe Girardi of the Yankees and Charlie Manuel of the Phillies -- in conjunction with Major League Baseball.
If a player finishes first on the Player Ballot but is also selected as a starter by fans, then the second player on the Player Ballot becomes an automatic reserve. The managers decide in conjunction with MLB how to fill their rosters from there, ensuring that the most deserving pitchers and bench players are selected while also trying to represent all fan bases.
There are some especially interesting decisions to be made. One of the most obvious ones: Does Stephen Strasburg belong in the All-Star Game? If you were watching the Yankees' victory over the Mariners on Thursday, you heard YES Network broadcasters Michael Kay and Al Leiter debating it -- and the subject is being discussed throughout baseball.
A 48-hour poll on MLB.com last week revealed that roughly 65 percent of fans say the rookie pitching sensation does not belong in the event, at least not yet. However, Strasburg is arguably the top viewer magnet in the game right now, his appeal extending beyond Nationals fans. The decision belongs exclusively to Manuel and MLB.
And since the NL has not won the All-Star Game since 1996 and needs the World Series home-field advantage a victory would secure, it has to win, and for Manuel it could be a matter of going with who he feels will get AL batters out.
Immediately following the announcement of the All-Star rosters, fans will begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster through the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint, now in its sixth year. Fans will choose from a list of five players from each league from July 4-8, and the winners will be announced after the voting concludes on July 10.
Sprint subscribers will be able to make their Final Vote selections using their mobile phones.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote. Those who are not subscribers to MLB.TV will receive a free trial of MLB.TV Premium from July 10-20. Current subscribers will receive a 15 percent off in the MLB.com Shop.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will have fans participating in the official selection of the All-Star Game Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet through the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet, Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau de Sport; and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.