Thirteen is Junior's lucky number
All-Star Griffey a fan favorite for 13th time in his career
CINCINNATI -- Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. is enjoying his strongest first half in several seasons. The fans have definitely taken notice.
On Sunday, Griffey was elected to be a starting outfielder on the National League All-Star team. The 37-year-old also led the NL in the fan balloting, surpassing Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran in the final week of voting.
Griffey finished with 2,986,818 votes, with Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder coming in second overall among NL players with 2,706,020 votes. Also recognized by players, Griffey received 577 votes from the players' ballot, which would have earned him a spot without the fan vote.
"It's always special from the fans, [and] especially the players," Griffey said after the Reds' 11-7 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. "They're the guys that are here everyday, day in and day out. For them to pick me is a great honor."
The 78th Major League All-Star Game will be played at San Francisco's AT&T Park on Tuesday, July 10. Griffey will be Cincinnati's lone representative to the Midsummer Classic.
A 13-time selection by fans to the All-Star Game, Griffey trails only Cal Ripken Jr. (17 times) and Rod Carew (15) in number of times honored through voting.
Joining Griffey in the starting outfield trio is Beltran, who finished second among outfielders with 2,511,242 votes, and the Giants' Barry Bonds, who was third with 2,325,391 ballots cast.
"They've got everything, until I call it," Griffey joked. "It seems to work out here. Let's just try it there. You've got three guys who have played center before. One guy is going to be a lot bigger than everybody because it's his hometown. He gets to have all the fun stuff, the press conferences and all that stuff. I just get to show up and play."
Enjoying a run of mostly good health this season, Griffey has responded by batting .292 with 53 RBIs in 75 games while ranking second in the NL with 22 home runs. With a three-run homer in the third inning on Sunday, Griffey has 585 career homers and is ranked seventh all-time.
After a slow start in April, much of Griffey's offensive success came after being moved back to the third spot in the Reds lineup on May 3. He hit all but two of his homers this season in May and June while batting .299 with 41 RBIs the previous two months.
Serious injuries since his arrival to the Reds from the Mariners in 2000 had slowed Griffey's offensive production, especially from 2002-04 when he played in fewer than 85 games each season.
Seeking to preserve his legs, management decided to move Griffey from center field to right field before this season.
"He's had a great first half," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "It's nice to see him bounce back and have this kind of year. The big thing with us is to try to get him out there for a full 162 game schedule this year, because he's swinging the bat very well."
Not hurting his results, either, is the fact Griffey received plenty of media coverage and goodwill last weekend when the former Mariners standout returned to Seattle for the first time since his Feb. 2000 trade to Cincinnati. A hero's welcome was accompanied by three days of nostalgia about his 11-year run with the Mariners.
The All-Star Game 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.
A few Reds deserved consideration as potential All-Stars, but were left out this year. Second baseman Brandon Phillips has 15 homers and 42 RBIs this season. Closer David Weathers has saved 15 of 17 games, including a Major League-leading eight saves of more than three outs. Rotation ace Aaron Harang is 8-2 and among league leaders in innings and strikeouts.
"There are a lot of pitchers having very, very good years," said Narron, who publicly stumped for all three players in recent days. "It's a shame for Harang -- [with] what he's done the last two years, not to be pitching in an All-Star Game -- but I'm sure at some point in his career he will. This is really Brandon's second year of playing second base, and he's got a chance to be a Gold Glove second baseman, and I'm sure his time will come to be an All-Star as well."
Phillips said he would go to the All-Star Game if someone was unable to play, but preferred to earn the honor outright.
"I don't want to be a backup because a dude didn't want to go," Phillips said. "It'd be nice, but it'd be more deserving if they said 'Brandon, you're in the All-Star Game' from the beginning. If it happens like that, I'd take it, so I can be on the same field with the greats and the best players in baseball."
This season marks the third time Griffey has been elected to the All-Star Game as a member of the Reds. It also happened in 2000 and 2004, but injuries kept him out of both games. The last All-Star Game he played in was 1999.
Fans have made Griffey the top vote-getter in the Major Leagues five times and the first in his league eight times. He has received 44,397,033 million All-Star votes since his debut in 1989, the most in the history of the fan balloting program.
"That just means I'm old. I started young," Griffey said. "That's a whole lot of people saying thank you."
The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers -- five starters and three relievers - become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season - in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and St. Louis' Tony La Russa -- then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.