Voting campaign paying off for Bay
Local push has brought slugger to All-Star forefront
PITTSBURGH -- What began as a local push to get Jason Bay voted in as a starter for the 2006 All-Star Game at PNC Park has grown into an international movement.Bay, the unassuming Pirates superstar at the center of this storm, was not even on the voting radar when the first batch of ballot results was released last month. By Monday, he was at the top of the heap among National League outfielders with 1,706,705, ahead of perennial stars Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Ken Griffey Jr. "It's very flattering, given the market [size in Pittsburgh], and the effort that it takes for a lot of people to vote that many times," Bay said at a press conference on Tuesday at PNC Park. "I never even imagined I'd be in this position. When you look at the names that I am up there with, it is unbelievable." In addition to the support he has received from Pirates fans in Pittsburgh and throughout the country, Bay's fellow Canadians are plugging the Trail, British Columbia, native. Bay's campaign has reached such extraordinary heights, in fact, that Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder encouraged the band's fans to vote for Bay when he took the stage last Friday night during a show in Pittsburgh. "I'd like to thank Eddie. I don't even know him," said Bay. "Once again, part of this whole thing is how neat it is that everyone is getting caught up in it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing." Perhaps the most impressive part of Bay's ascent is that it has happened while the Pirates have been mired in their longest losing streak since 1955. "Team-wise, we have definitely struggled, so it's been tough to enjoy it," said Bay. "I think it shows the type of sports town that Pittsburgh is. When they have something to be excited about, they definitely do." The Bay campaign has also helped a few of his teammates to climb into the All-Star voting mix. Freddie Sanchez leads all National League players in write-in votes and Jose Castillo ranks third among second basemen. Shortstop Jack Wilson, a 2004 All-Star, is second in the balloting, less than 80,000 votes behind New York's Jose Reyes. "I think it's outstanding," said Wilson. "It shows how awesome the fans are here, trying to get their players into the All-Star Game. "It would mean more to me than 2004, because it's in Pittsburgh and the fans have been so good to me in my six-year career." While some have argued that the last-place Pirates should not be rewarded by having more than one player voted into the NL starting lineup, Bay defended the system of fan voting. "Its people going out, taking time to vote 25 times," said Bay, who admitted that he has voted online for himself about a dozen times. "People are getting excited. Whether it's right, wrong or indifferent, that's the way the system is. "Everyone has kind of lived it the last few years. In some places it becomes a popularity contest. If you get enough people in a small market like Pittsburgh to get two people in, I think it's deserved." Although paper balloting is now over, fans still have until Thursday to vote online with the Monster.com 2006 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com.
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.