The fans' choice to start the 2012 All-Star Game for the American League at designated hitter may come down to two players.
One is a member of the position's all-time elite who's been selected to the All-Star Game seven times, the other is a hometown favorite who's never had the honor of participating in the Midsummer Classic.
Boston's David Ortiz, 36, has the third-most home runs of anyone who's spent at least 50 percent of their career as a DH, and he's continued to rake this season. Entering Friday's action, Big Papi was hitting .315 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs.
Despite his many trips to the All-Star Game, Ortiz's respect for the fans remains paramount, so if they want him in Kansas City, he wants to be there, too.
"If I get voted to the All-Star Game, I definitely will go," said Ortiz. "That means the fans want to see you. And through the years, fans kind of enjoy watching me being out there and, you know, make sure we put on a good show for them."
"Anything for the fans, man," he added. "Whenever I get voted to the All-Star Game, I try to go and make sure the fans have fun."
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via a mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until June 28 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Kansas City's Billy Butler, 26, is a decade Ortiz's junior, and someday he may succeed Ortiz's as the position's most iconic player. He is hitting .299 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs -- very similar numbers to ones Ortiz has posted.
"Other than Big Papi, I mean, I'm right there," Butler said. "I'm the next guy. You can't really fault Big Papi, either. He's always been good. He's always deserving."
"This would be my first time," Butler added. "Everybody strives for it, that's what everybody wants to do. ... It's something that when you make the Major Leagues, you definitely want to do. You want to make one of those [All-Star teams], you want to win a World Series. Those are a certain kind of career milestones that you'd like to have."
The race isn't so simple, though, and other big bats are sure to draw votes away from Ortiz and Butler.
Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto and Adam Dunn in Chicago are tied for the lead among all DHs with 14 home runs. Only Josh Hamilton, with 18 homers, has more at any position. Both Encarnacion and Dunn are having rebound seasons, and an All-Star appearance for the latter would be particularly remarkable considering his well-documented struggles in 2011.
"A lot of [Dunn's improvement] is just kind of free thinking instead of caring about results. He is more concerned about hitting the ball," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's been very good at putting last year behind him and just playing baseball."
It's hard to look past Ortiz and Butler, though. Boston shortstop Mike Aviles has played with both of them.
"I'm not saying this because [Butler] is my friend," Aviles explained. "But I've never seen anybody, literally, if you wake [him] up, he could roll out of bed and get three hits. I've never seen anything like it.
"I'd like Papi to make it because he's my teammate, and I'd like Billy to make it too because he's my boy ... they both deserve it."
Fans can also once again participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Derby. The 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby -- part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day -- will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 9.
The American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 1, on the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2012 All-Star Game Final Vote on MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2012 All-Star Game will be played at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, July 10. MLB.com will have extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.