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Konerko gets another chance with Final Vote

Konerko gets another chance with Final Vote

ARLINGTON -- Paul Konerko hasn't missed out on much during the course of his 14-year Major League Baseball career, of which the past 12 have been spent with the White Sox.

Forty home runs in a season and at least 300 long balls overall? Done and done.

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Win a World Series? Took care of that one in 2005. Earn Most Valuable Player honors in an American League Championship Series? Also accomplished in '05.

Three All-Star appearances dot Konerko's resume, but now the talented first baseman has a chance to earn a fourth All-Star bid -- and his first since 2006 -- in a manner he has never arrived at before.

Konerko was one of five players selected for the AL ballot of the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint. Boston's Kevin Youkilis, Minnesota's Delmon Young, Texas' Michael Young and New York's Nick Swisher, a one-time Konerko teammate in Chicago, round out the elite quintet.

And in voting for Konerko, White Sox fans can help their captain beat out Delmon Young and the Twins -- just as the South Siders hope to do during the 2010 season's second half. Konerko doesn't talk much, if at all, about personal accomplishments or statistics once the season begins, focused totally on doing whatever necessary to help the team win.

So it's not surprising Konerko took a pragmatic view regarding this latest potential All-Star honor and all the surrounding hoopla.

"If you go, it's a great thing. It's an honor. If you don't go, you get three days off. You enjoy it. It has always been my mindset," Konerko said. "You can't have much more emotion or thought other than that.

"There's just a lot of moving parts to it. Now, at least I kind of know it's this or nothing. It prolongs it a few days, I guess. I don't know, it will be tough. You have a Yankee, a Red Sox and a Twin on there."

Now in its ninth year, the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint 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 and continues until 3 p.m. CT on Thursday, July 8. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.

Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Std rates may apply.  

The fun doesn't end there, however. 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 Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.

The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT.  ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage.  MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

This inclusion marks the second time Konerko, who garnered close to 500,000 All-Star fan votes in 2010 voting, has been part of the Final Vote. In 2004, Konerko finished third behind teammate Frank Thomas and eventual winner Hideki Matsui from the Yankees. And there's little doubt he deserves the pure All-Star recognition again in '10.

"Hopefully, he gets in with the vote," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "Without him offensively, we would be in big trouble this year so far."

"It's tough when you play the same position as [Minnesota's Justin] Morneau and [Detroit's Miguel] Cabrera," said a smiling White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who named Konerko as his lone captain during the offseason following the 2005 World Series.

With a .297 average, 20 home runs and 57 RBIs, Konerko is in the midst of one of his best overall seasons out of a long showing of excellence. His .564 slugging percentage and .386 on-base percentage add to the 2010 equation for the free agent-to-be after the current campaign, not to mention his stellar defense and overall leadership for a team fighting its way back into AL Central contention.

Then again, Youkilis, Delmon Young, Michael Young and Swisher all can present good cases for a trip to Anaheim. It will be up to the White Sox vote-getting machine and its passionate fan base to churn out Konerko interest.

No Major League team has more all-time Final Vote candidates than the White Sox, with Konerko being the eighth since 2002. Scott Podsednik emerged as the winner in '05's memorable season, behind the "Vote for Scott" campaign, edging out Yankees superstar Derek Jeter, Torii Hunter, Matsui and Carl Crawford.

A.J. Pierzynski followed as the AL fan choice in 2006, beating out Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander, Travis Hafner and Ramon Hernandez through the ingenious and apropos "Punch A.J." slogan. The White Sox already have announced 10 voters will receive signed Konerko jerseys, two tickets to a game on Aug. 14 and a chance to meet Konerko during batting practice that day.

Up next for the White Sox, who will be at home against the Angels with big games every day during the voting period, could be "Paulie's Prize" or "Coronate the King," playing off of Konerko's nickname. Whatever the slogan, the White Sox will be working hard to get a second deserving player into the Midsummer Classic, joining first-time All-Star Matt Thornton -- although Konerko isn't looking for any sort of special treatment.

"I appreciate anything the team does or the players do," Konerko said. "For me, it's all between the lines. If you can't earn it between the lines, I'm not on a crusade to go out of my way to get myself into the Game. I try to do it on the field. If it's enough, it's enough. If it's not, it's not.

"So, regardless of what happens, it doesn't change that I feel like I'm having a good year. And hopefully it will continue right on to the playoffs with the team."

Scott Merkin 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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