Longoria leads four Rays All-Stars
Slugger to start at third; Zobrist, Bartlett, Crawford are reserves
ARLINGTON -- Evan Longoria will be an American League starter in this summer's All-Star Game in St. Louis.
The Rays third baseman was the top vote-getter at his position thereby making him only the second Rays player in club history to be selected as a starter by the fans; Jose Canseco was selected to be the American League's DH in 1999 but could not play due to a back problem.
And while Longoria will be the teams' only starter, he will have several teammates to keep him company as Ben Zobrist was a manager's selection, while Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford were selected via the players' balloting.
"I think it just shows a lot about the steps that the team has taken as far as in the fans' eyes," Longoria said. "It's definitely a huge honor. Obviously, with the caliber of third basemen there are in the American League, to be the leading vote-getter is a tremendous honor."
Meanwhile, Carlos Pena is one of five players involved in the fans' Final Vote. Should Pena be elected, the Rays would have their entire infield represented on the team. Zobrist has been the team's regular second baseman ever since Akinori Iwamura went on the disabled list earlier in the season.
"I'm happy for the guys that are going and I can only hope that I can join them," Pena said.
The Rays and the Mets have the most position players on their respective squads with four each, while the Red Sox have the most players on either All-Star team with six.
"I think it's all well deserved, obviously," said Maddon when asked about the Rays' numbers. "I'm in agreement with all of the people who were voted in. And I'm looking at everybody else who was available or eligible and I just felt like Zobrist's numbers stacked up really well.
"... You want to be fair to everybody else, but you want to be fair to your own group at the same time. I just looked at the whole thing and felt like Ben definitely belonged on the team, also."
Having Longoria, Crawford, and Bartlett make the team, either by fan election or by the players, made Maddon's choice of Zobrist easier to make.
"Exactly," Maddon said. "It narrowed the field down here for us for who I thought should be on the team. So, by those guys getting on the team by their own volition, it made it easier to bring Zoey into the pack."
Crawford will be experiencing the All-Star Game for his third time.
"It's good every time," Crawford said. "Get excited about it every time. It never gets old."
Bartlett and Zobrist each made the team for the first time.
"[Being an All-Star has] always been a dream," Bartlett said. "I texted my brother last night, 'Who would have ever thought I'd go from playing Wiffle ball in the front yard to being a Major League All-Star?' It really didn't hit me until I lay in bed last night and realized not too many people get this opportunity."
Zobrist reflected on how far his career has advanced since losing the starting shortstop job early in 2007.
"I just think back a couple of years ago, how humbled I was by that situation, getting sent down to Triple-A, getting injured later on that year, getting injured in 2008, too," Zobrist said. "It was definitely difficult. ... This is far beyond what I thought would happen coming into the year."
The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game takes place on July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, 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, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Longoria said going to the game with several of his teammates, along with the manager and coaching staff, should add to his experience.
"I'm really excited to see Zobrist go," Longoria said. "I definitely think he deserved it. He didn't get the at-bats he needed at the beginning of the year. But you saw when he got the at-bats, his abilities. Obviously, Bartlett, should have been a shoe-in from the beginning. Hitting .360 in the first half is not an easy thing to do."
Longoria, who was named the AL Rookie of the Year in 2008, was not on last year's ballot. However, he did earn a spot on last year's team after winning the Final Vote fan ballot with a record 9 million votes, becoming the youngest Rays position player to make the club.
Not only did Longoria make last year's team, he participated in the Home Run Derby and went 1-for-4 with a ground-rule RBI double as he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the DH spot.
"Last year, it was kind of a whirlwind experience, just me, Navvy [Dioner Navarro] and Kaz [Scott Kazmir] -- us three [from the Rays]," Longoria said. "It was a little different experience. You kind of get lost a little bit in New York. I think it will be a better experience this year with the whole staff there.
"Hopefully [Pena] can get in on the final vote like I did last year. And there will be a bunch of us there to enjoy it together."
According to the State Farm Home Run Derby Fan Poll, Longoria and St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols are the top two sluggers fans would most like to see in the 2009 State Farm Home Run Derby.
"They haven't asked me anything yet," Longoria said. "Last year I remember they asked me the day of the vote, that's when I got the call [to be in the contest]. I kind of don't want to hit in it this year. If they need somebody, I'll do it again. I'd rather just relax. It's kind of a nerve racking ordeal."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.