© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

07/11/08 2:39 PM ET

Braun voted to start All-Star Game

Sheets, Hart also heading to Midsummer Classic for Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun is headed to his first All-Star Game. Ben Sheets can help show him, and Final Vote winner Corey Hart, the way.

With a remarkable final flurry of online votes, Braun not only was picked by fans to start the 79th All-Star Game, he vaulted to the top of the list of National League outfielders and nearly caught the league's leading online vote-getter, Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley.

"It got to be a little bit overwhelming at times," Braun said of his radio and TV campaign last week. "But it was definitely a lot of fun, and obviously, it ended up being well worth it."

Braun and the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome were voted to fill the three outfield spots for the NL at Yankee Stadium on July 15.

Sheets was also voted to the NL All-Star team by the players' ballot and will head to the Midsummer Classic for the fourth time in his career and the second straight season.

"It really is a big deal to say you're a Major League All-Star," Sheets said. "Once you're a Major League All-Star, you'll always be a Major League All-Star as long as you live, no matter if you stink every year. It's a title that sticks with you, and it's a big honor."

Hart beat out four competitors -- all from bigger markets -- in the Final Vote balloting to earn his first All-Star berth.

"It's incredible," Hart said. "I thought maybe I had a chance the way the fans have been and the way they pushed Braun. But at the same time, we were going against New York and Philly and those are pretty big markets."

Braun, a first-time All-Star, will be the first Brewers outfielder to start an All-Star Game since 1999, when Jeromy Burnitz replaced an injured Tony Gwynn. The last Brewers outfielder voted to start a Midsummer Classic was Ben Oglivie in 1980.

Brewers media relations boss Mike Vassallo and Braun expended a lot of energy over recent weeks to get out the vote for the 24-year-old, who is in his first full Major League season after winning NL Rookie of the Year honors last year following a May callup. He took part in radio and television interviews with outlets throughout the country, including Milwaukee, his hometown of Los Angeles and his collegiate stomping grounds in Miami.

"Everybody was contributing," Braun said. "I really appreciate the support. Obviously, it wouldn't be possible, literally, without everybody's help."

At the same time he stumped for votes, Braun slumped at the plate. He snapped an 0-for-19 drought with a fourth-inning single in Saturday's win over the Pirates and then homered in Sunday's series finale. He's hitting .279 this season with 21 home runs and 59 RBIs.

Braun said again on Sunday what he told MLB.com last week: If he's asked, he'll participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby. Braun has been nursing a sore right hand and said he'd have to consult with the Brewers' athletic training staff before making that official.

Good health has been key this season for Sheets, who improved to 10-2 with a 2.77 ERA by beating the Pirates on Friday at Miller Park. He will make his next start on July 9 against the Rockies and will be well-rested to pitch in the All-Star Game six days after that, if called upon by NL (and Rockies) manager Clint Hurdle.

This may be a stupid question, but would Sheets like to start? He'll have a chance to lobby Hurdle this week at Miller Park.

"They make up their own minds," Sheets said. "That is a stupid question, though. Of course I would like to start it. But I won't campaign for it. I'm just happy to be there."

He has never been to Yankee Stadium.

"These kids are special to me. Once you do this, you're a National League All-Star for life. This is a huge honor."
-- Ned Yost

"It's going to be pretty incredible," Sheets said. "A lot of guys were saying last year that this was the one they were looking forward to. Some of those guys are good enough to be looking forward to the next All-Star Game.

"In years past, I did as little as possible and tried to get my rest, but I'm going to take advantage of this one and take my family to see what we can, because it is the last game there. It is very special."

Sheets appears to be entering the group of perennial All-Stars. He made the All-Star team as a rookie in 2001, when he won 10 games before the break, then went again during a remarkable 2004 season in which he set a Brewers record with 264 strikeouts.

He was back last season in San Francisco and now becomes the first Brewers pitcher to make back-to-back All-Star teams since lefty closer Dan Plesac made it three straight years from 1987-89.

Brewers manager Ned Yost broke the news to Braun, Sheets and Hart on Sunday in a pregame full-team meeting. It's an annual tradition on Selection Sunday, and Yost often chokes up delivering the news.

"We get the whole team together and celebrate as a team," Yost said. "It's cool. For me, it's really a special honor. Every year I try not to, but I always get a little emotional when I do it. These kids are special to me. Once you do this, you're a National League All-Star for life. This is a huge honor."

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 7 p.m. CT. 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.

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