07/06/08 6:22 PM ET
A-Rod top online All-Star vote-getter
Yanks' third baseman edges out Phils' Utley for distinction
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Rodriguez, named the starting third baseman for the American League All-Star team on Sunday, received 3,934,518 votes in online balloting for the July 15 Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium, narrowly edging the Phillies' Chase Utley in total votes cast (3,889,602).
"It's very exciting -- it's obviously a very humbling experience," Rodriguez said on Sunday. "It tells you how time flies; I can remember my first All-Star Game when I met Cal Ripken in Philadelphia [in 1996]. I was a nervous little boy in that clubhouse.
"To me, the biggest recollection I get about All-Star Games is the time you spend in the training room and the clubhouse with the newcomers and old veterans. It's quite a neat experience. For it to happen here in New York and to be selected as the No. 1 vote-getter, it's nice."
Along with shortstop Derek Jeter, also voted a starter on the AL All-Star team, the left side of the AL infield will have no problem adjusting to its surroundings once the first pitch of a grand farewell to Yankee Stadium takes place. Their pinstriped uniforms won't have to be shipped very far.
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised 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 that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.
ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Rodriguez, who turns 33 on July 27, will be making his 12th appearance on an AL All-Star team and his ninth consecutive showing at a Midsummer Classic. He recalled the first one on Sunday, being 19 years old and fidgeting through a press conference in the bowels of Veterans Stadium when a guiding hand from Ripken helped him feel at ease.
"I was very nervous, and Cal Ripken walked in the room," Rodriguez said. "I thought it was like Jesus Christ. It was so nice to see him. He came over and the sea [of reporters] parted, and he gave me a big hug. That was very exciting. Now, to think I can do that for some young kid at 21 or 22, it just comes full circle."
When Rodriguez led the Major Leagues with more than 3 million votes last year, earning selection for the All-Star Game at San Francisco, he spoke about having accomplished one of his career goals.
Rodriguez has certainly rattled off quite a few since then -- a three-time AL Most Valuable Player and the reigning recipient of the award, he slugged his 500th career home run on Aug. 4 of last season against Kansas City and hasn't stopped climbing the leader boards. His next home run will be his 536th in the big leagues, tying him with Mickey Mantle.
"You work so hard at this game, and I love this game so much," Rodriguez said. "To get that type of appreciation from the fans of baseball -- not only in America, but around the world -- it's pretty exciting."
As he did last season, when Rodriguez jumped out to a scorching start and paced the Major Leagues in home runs, Rodriguez has tried to focus on helping the team and not worrying about individual statistics.
In the first season of a 10-year contract that could be worth as much as $300 million if he eventually sets baseball's all-time home run record, Rodriguez's presence has been vital for the Yankees.
The three-time MVP is batting .320 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs in 68 games for New York, having missed 16 team games with a strained right quadriceps from April 30 to May 20.
In the 47 games since he returned from the disabled list, Rodriguez has batted .337 (54-for-160) with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs, helping the Yankees go 26-18 over that stretch.
Regardless, Rodriguez has made an effort to keep his focus -- and his comments -- limited to helping the Yankees, a viewpoint he'll no doubt take as he tries to lead the AL to another All-Star Game victory.
"I think every year is a different battle and a different season," Rodriguez said. "You can't take last year and put it into this year. Every year you have to re-prove yourself."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.