Pena can't make up ground in Final Vote
Rays first baseman appreciates support of family, fans
ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite a weeklong campaign put on by the Rays, Carlos Pena won't be joining his four teammates at the 2009 All-Star Game
Detroit's Brandon Inge earned the most votes of the five American League finalists in the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote, landing him a spot in St. Louis for the Midsummer Classic. Pena, the American League home run leader, finished fourth.
Shane Victorino of the Phillies won for the National League.
The Rays had created a "Vote for 'Los" Campaign to urge fans to vote for the first baseman. Advertisements, online commercials, fliers, merchandise and white T-shirts were adorned with his face.
On Thursday, a video tribute featuring comedian Rob Schneider played on the scoreboard pushing fans to keep voting.
"It's been great, the fans have showed me so much love here in St. Petersburg and worldwide," Pena said after Thursday's 3-2 win over Toronto. "I know people in the Dominican Republic have been voting. My family has been amazing. And just to know that they consider me an All-Star -- their All-Star -- it's so flattering to me."
Pena, who leads the AL with 23 home runs, has taken the effort in stride. On Tuesday, he joked with reporters about his happy surprise with the photo used on the T-shirt.
After Thursday's game, he said the shirts will remain a memento for him that he'll cherish.
"It was cool," Pena said. "No. 1, I think it's hilarious. And No. 2, it reminds me of this time, so I will definitely keep it."
Tampa Bay infielders Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria, and Ben Zobrist, and outfielder Carl Crawford have already been selected for the AL team, which will be led by Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Last season, Longoria won the AL's Final Vote to earn a spot in the 2008 All-Star Game. This year, the third baseman is an All-Star starter.
For the 31-year-old Pena, getting so close to making his first All-Star team is disappointing, but also motivating. Pena said playing in the All-Star Game would be a dream come true, but he's not about to believe this year is his last shot.
"I think I have a few more years in my tank," Pena said. "So I'm going to try and keep on improving and getting better and better."
Instead, the four-day break will come as a welcomed respite for Pena, who has played in 84 of the Rays' 85 games so far this season.
"I'm going to take advantage of those days for sure," Pena said. "I'm going to be wise and get my rest and spend time with my family."
Nonetheless, he said the outpouring of support has been beyond his belief. A few years ago, Pena was struggling to stay on a Major League roster, bouncing in and out of lineups and from team to team. Now, he's one of the league's fiercest hitters, sharpest defenders and a clubhouse leader on the Rays.
And, very nearly, the popular last entrant for the 2009 AL All-Star team.
"The reward was actually to see how people moved to vote for me and to show me what they think of me," Pena said. "To me, that is extremely humbling and extremely flattering. All I can do [is] say thank you ... and go out and [play] my heart out every time."
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.