© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

07/02/06 7:56 PM ET

Pujols garners most votes in NL

Cardinals first baseman to make fifth All-Star appearance

ST. LOUIS -- Already recognized in recent years by his peers and by the Baseball Writers Association of America, Albert Pujols has now been voted by the fans as baseball's brightest star.

Pujols was the top online vote-getter, and No. 1 overall in votes received, in balloting for the 77th Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Pujols, the 2005 National League Most Valuable Player and the 2003 Players Choice Major League Player of the Year, celebrated the announcement with his 27th home run on Sunday -- one short of the Major League lead.

Online voters gave Pujols a staggering 2,886,537 votes, more than 80 percent of his vote total overall. That's more online tallies than any other National League player received total votes.

As a general rule, online voters tend to reward players with impressive stats over bigger names who may not be performing. At this point, Pujols is not only a big name -- possibly the game's biggest -- but he's also its dominant offensive force.

"I just thank the fans for their support," Pujols said Sunday. "Definitely if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be the top leader. I always say, those are the rewards that you get for the hard work that you put in in the offseason and the way that you play the game and respect the game."

It's the second time the slugger has been the top online vote-getter. In 2003, he surged into the National League's starting lineup with a huge boost from online votes. He has never been the top overall vote-getter in All-Star balloting.

Pujols thrust his name into the baseball spotlight early this year with a torrid pace over the season's first two months, raising questions as to whether he could break the single-season home run record. An oblique muscle strain dashed those discussions, but he remains among the league leaders in several major offensive categories.

"It's unbelievable for me to watch it," said teammate Scott Spiezio recently.

Last season, Pujols was barely edged out by Derrek Lee, not only as the National League's first baseman, but as the top vote-getter in the league overall. This year, Lee spent much of the first half on the disabled list, hurting his case.

Plus, there's the fact that Pujols appears poised for his second MVP award.

Pujols greatly enjoys the All-Star experience, and he's looking forward to another trip.

"I think the best thing is being around a bunch of superstars and hopefully future Hall of Famers," he said. "I think that's the main thing. You do that for three days, and three days later you're facing each other and we're enemies again. But it's neat. Any time you can be an All-Star, you should be proud, you should be excited and at the same time you should have fun."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.