DENVER -- The Rockies' Todd Helton has played his way back into the category of star first basemen. Now, fans have a chance to put him back in the All-Star Game, an event that used to be a part of his yearly schedule.
Helton, hitting .323 and having already surpassed his totals for home runs and RBIs during an injury filled 2010, is one of five National League candidates for the All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and continues until 2 p.m. MT on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Helton, 37, played in five straight Midsummer Classics from 2000-05, and is 2-for-9 with a home run. He hit that one in '03 at U.S. Cellular Field, when fans voted for him to be a starter. It was the last time the Rockies sent a starter to the game.
Helton, who could join shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (a players selection) in representing the Rockies, took the All-Star possibility in stride.
"It's special, no doubt about it. I'm not going to get too excited until [the voting results are known]," Helton said. "The other players on the list are good players, worthy to be there. We'll see what happens."
Also vying for the Final Vote are Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, D-backs pitcher Ian Kennedy and Nationals first baseman Mike Morse.
Interestingly, Helton entered Sunday with a higher batting average and OPS than any of the hitters, although his lead over Ethier was just one point. Helton has a career .353 batting average against Kennedy, although the figure is .250 with a double and two RBIs this season.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy outright campaigned for his first baseman.
"Can I say this? I'm imploring to our Rockies Nation to get busy and get online and punch that name Helton as many times as you can possibly do it," Tracy said.
"For the contribution that this man has made, not only to this city and this organization, but to the game of baseball in general, I think it's really, really important for this guy to get a legitimate opportunity of going to that game. You don't know how many more he's going to go to.
"Like I said last night in the postgame, I don't really feel like that's a bad guy to have sitting on the bench in the eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th or 13th inning if you needed an at-bat or you needed a ball caught and you need some professionalism to go along with it."
Tulowitzki could use the company.
"Even if I didn't play here, even if I wasn't friends with him, he would get my pick," Tulowitzki said. "He's having an unbelievable year. His numbers speak for themselves. So the fans really need to get behind him, and hopefully he'll come through. I'd really like for him to join me there. More than anything, he deserves it."
Now, fans have plenty of incentive to elect Helton.
The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 6 p.m. MT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 10-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 9-19. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on July 11 to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Fans who vote for Helton will be entered into the Rockies' "2011 Vote Todd Helton All-Star Game Final Vote Sweepstakes." Five Helton fans will receive four tickets for a 2011 game at Coors Field. Plus, they will receive a 50 percent off discount offer for tickets for three Rockies games.
Electing Helton would be a nod toward a player who has had a lengthy and prodigious career, and one who has overcome injury and the notion that his productivity is behind him.
On Thursday, Helton played in his 2,000th game, becoming one of 15 active players to appear in that many, and one of three to do it all with one team. The Yankees' Derek Jeter and the Braves' Chipper Jones are the others. Both of those players are on their respective All-Star squads, Jeter with the American League and Jones with the NL.
Helton dipped to a career-worst .256 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs last year. But he went into Sunday's game tied for third in the NL in batting average. As the lineup struggled early, Tracy moved him from fifth to third in the batting order.
In addition, Helton entered Sunday leading NL first basemen in batting average, third in on-base percentage at .393, third in OPS at .889, fifth in slugging percentage at .496 and seventh in runs with 36.
Helton is the third Rockies player to show up in the Final Vote election. Larry Walker was a candidate in 2002, when fans selected the Braves' Andruw Jones. Last year's candidate was outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who lost out to the Reds' Joey Votto.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 89269 (Example: Text "N2" to vote for Helton). In Canada, fans should text their choices to 65246. Standard message and data rates may apply.
Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.