Reds go all out in 'Vote Votto' campaign
Team mobilizes to help get first baseman on All-Star team
NEW YORK -- Within moments of first baseman Joey Votto being named as a candidate in the 2010 All-Star Final Vote, the Reds mobilized faster than any political campaign for a government post could ever hope to do.
There was little choice, because time is ticking fast. The Final Vote, sponsored by Sprint, continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Right after the conclusion of the All-Star Game Selection Show on Sunday, Reds media relations director Rob Butcher lined up most of the club's players to tape television spots to run during games that urge fans to "Vote Votto."Back home in Cincinnati, the front office spent most of Monday devising a Vote Votto campaign, forming alliances and even enlisting another country's support. Moving quickly seems to have paid off, since MLB.com revealed Monday afternoon that Votto had the early lead in National League balloting. Through the first 24 hours, more than 10 million ballots had been cast. Since Votto was considered by many to have been the biggest oversight in this year's NL All-Star roster selection, many in the media have argued that he deserves to make it to Anaheim, where the All-Star Game will be played on July 13. During the regular voting period over the past several weeks, Reds assistant director of media relations Jamie Ramsey used his popular "Better off Red" blog to garner support for the team's players. Each week, he'd have a "voting lunch" over Twitter. Fans used their lunch hour to repeatedly vote for a selected player. Last week at Great American Ball Park, the club organized a pizza-and-vote lunch and had fans come in to personally vote on one of several laptops. Now all of that energy will be channeled specifically toward Votto. Another voting lunch is scheduled for Wednesday. "We're still trying to hammer out the details," said Ramsey. The Reds have also struck an accord with the Red Sox front office. In exchange for Boston driving its fans to vote for Votto, the Reds will ask their fans to make their American League selection for Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who grew up in Cincinnati. Youkilis was a 1997 graduate of Sycamore High School and a two-time All-America at the University of Cincinnati. On Wednesday during batting practice, the Reds will be wearing "Vote Red" and "Vote Votto-Youkilis" T-shirts at Citi Field, where they will be playing the Mets. "We told the Red Sox that if you do this for us, we'll let you have a full month to think that you won the 1975 World Series in six games," Ramsey joked, tongue firmly in cheek. Reds equipment manager Rick Stowe has written "Vote Red" and "Vote Votto" on batting-practice balls for fans that may catch them before games. In Votto's hometown of Toronto, the Toronto Sun was to publish a "Vote Votto" campaign page in its Tuesday editions, and it will also appear online through the rest of the Final Vote. In Cincinnati, the Reds have digital billboards programmed to get fans to vote for Votto. The club is contacting local businesses to put "Vote Votto" on their marquees. And to entice voting among Reds fans, one lucky fan who participates in the Final Vote and selects Votto will be entered to win a signed Votto jersey and four field-level seats for a future home game. Votto is vying for the Final Vote against Padres reliever Heath Bell, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Braves reliever Billy Wagner and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. The Reds are on the road during the entire Final Vote campaign. "It's a little bit of a challenge, but we're up for it," Ramsey said. "The early results show that we're up for it. People recognize that Joey deserves to be on the team. They're echoing that feeling with their support." On the field, Votto is helping his own cause. In his first at-bat against the Mets on Monday, he slugged a home run into deep center field and in the sixth he homered again, this time to right-center. The multi-homer performance gave him the National League lead with 21 round-trippers.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.