PASADENA, Calif. – The Dodgers want their fans to vote until it hurts, and sometimes it does.
Thumbs can flex and press only so much, but to get Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig into the All-Star Game next week, they’ll have to work overtime. That means staring at cell phones and pushing “N5,” the code that casts a vote for Puig.
Once is not enough. They push and push and push – at least that’s what fans who have gathered at Barney’s Beanery in Pasadena are doing between bites of burgers as they watch the Dodgers beat down the Arizona Diamondbacks on dozens of TV screens.
“It’s kind of exhausting,” Kary D’Alessandro of Sun Valley said, “but if we all vote 150 times as fans, he’ll get in. Every fans needs to do their job.”
The Dodgers are hoping Puig will win Major League Baseball’s Final Vote over four other National League players, including teammate Adrian Gonzalez, to claim the final roster spot for the July 16 game at Citi Field in New York. But to make it a reality, they’ll have to vote much more than 150 times.
Through the first two days of online voting, Puig has trailed Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. Balloting ends Thursday at 1 p.m. Pacific time, and if Puig doesn’t finish first, he can only be added to the team as an injury replacement.
A late rush certainly is a possibility. And there are always fans like Priscilla Cabrera, a college student from the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles, who arrived at Barney’s wearing a Puig jersey with her hair dyed blue and her face painted red and blue.
Asked how often she has voted, she said, “I lost count. I vote until I get tired.” But she figures it’s been at least 1,000 times – and she’s not done.
No one knows better than Steve Garvey about winning a popular vote. In 1974, the former Dodgers first baseman won election to the game through a write-in vote of fans. In those days, fans punched a computer card, but they could also write a player’s name at the bottom of the card.
The Dodgers asked Garvey to help get out the vote this week, so he has promised to attend the voting parties, sign autographs and encourage fans to pull out their phones and cast their ballots. The team hosted a party Monday night at Barney’s Beanery in Burbank and will have another Wednesday at Barney’s in West Hollywood.
“People don’t understand that this is the entertainment business,” Garvey said. “This is our showcase.”
Garvey considers his write-in election “one of the great achievements in my life,” and there’s no doubt it was a significant moment. He is the only player ever to win a spot on the All-Star team via write-in vote.
So he knows how important this is. And so does Gonzalez, Puig’s teammate, who has said he supports Puig’s selection and would vote for him. Gonzalez has gone to the All-Star Game four times previously, so this is really no big deal to him.
But time is running out. Freeman could run away with the voting, and Puig’s amazing season – he has eight home runs and 19 RBI, and his batting average hasn’t dipped below .400 through his first 34 games – will not be justly rewarded.
But if the All-Star Game is about showcasing the game’s best players and allowing stars to show off their skills to a worldwide audience, Puig belongs there. He’s neither a polished nor a finished product, but he plays the game with a frenzy that hasn’t been seen since the Angels’ Mike Trout last season.
Those players don’t come along too often. If the result is sore thumbs for Dodgers fans, it’s a worthy price to pay.