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Final Vote countdown starts for Hafner

Final Vote countdown starts for Hafner

CINCINNATI -- Travis Hafner's first experience with the Final Vote wasn't exactly a memorable one.

Yes, Hafner was a rising star back in 2004, when he was one of five candidates for the Final Vote to the All-Star Game. But his star had little chance of shining favorably in comparison to that of Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui and his intense international fan base.

"It came down to a battle between us two," Hafner joked recently. "I lost by about 5.3 billion votes."

Hafner hopes to fair a bit better this year, as he has once again been named one of the five AL candidates for the Final Vote. The Orioles' Ramon Hernandez, the Twins' Francisco Liriano, the White Sox's A.J. Pierzynski and the Tigers' Justin Verlander are the others.

This time around, the low-key Hafner sounds like a once-burned politician trying to rethink strategy.

"I need to get a better campaign this year," he said.

How about some "Vote Pronk" buttons at Jacobs Field?

"I'm sure [the Indians] will come up with something," Hafner said. "I'm low-key."

Now in its fifth year, the Monster.com 2006 All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team.  Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Chevrolet, and continues until 6 p.m. ET Thursday. The winners will be announced on ESPN and MLB.com shortly thereafter.

There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2006 All-Star Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans can also text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to receive the All-Star Final Vote Candidates sent to your phone. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. For $.30 per text message vote, fans will have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Fans can get the mobile ballot now. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 28776.

The fun doesn't end there. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 77th All-Star Game via the Monster 2006 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com. 

The All-Star Game, to be held at Pittsburgh's PNC Park on Tuesday, July 11, at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

With 22 homers, 66 RBIs and a .313 average after his historic grand slam Saturday night, Hafner certainly has numbers worthy of an All-Star appearance. But with the game being held in an NL park, he's run up against some tough competition at first base to join teammate Grady Sizemore on the AL squad.

"It's disappointing [not to make the original selection]," Hafner said. "But it's not something that I can control. I can control how I play."

Hafner plays quite well, as teammate Cliff Lee recently described.

"He can get in an 0-2 count, and then the next thing you know it's 3-2, and he's hitting a line drive to the gap," Lee said. "He's one of the most patient hitters, he has a great eye and he doesn't make a bad swing."

Now Hafner will see if he can get enough swing votes to carry him into his first All-Star appearance. If his recent comments about fan voting are any indication, he's not expecting much assistance from his home state.

"We don't have computers yet in North Dakota," he said.

But with Matsui out of the running, maybe Hafner has a better chance now than he did in '04. Perhaps he can even steal the Japanese vote in Matsui's absence.

"I don't know if I'm big over there or not," Hafner said with a smile.

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

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