Bar, raised: Delabar wins All-Star Final Vote
Righty beats out four AL relievers for first trip to Midsummer Classic
CLEVELAND -- Right-hander Steve Delabar is headed to the All-Star Game after coming out on top in the American League Final Vote.
Delabar had the lead in fan balloting after the first day of voting and never relinquished the top spot. He received a total of 9.6 million votes to finish ahead of New York's David Robertson, Detroit's Joaquin Benoit, Boston's Koji Uehara and Texas' Tanner Scheppers.
The 29-year-old Delabar is now headed to his first All-Star Game and becomes the fourth Blue Jays player set to partake in the upcoming Midsummer Classic at Citi Field in New York. He joins right fielder Jose Bautista, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and left-hander Brett Cecil as Toronto's representatives.
The honor is well deserved, considering where Delabar ranks among AL relievers this season. After Thursday's 4-2 loss in Cleveland, he sat third in strikeouts (57) and fifth in ERA (1.74), while becoming one of manager John Gibbons' most trusted arms out of the bullpen.
The result caps an impressive marketing campaign by the Blue Jays, as they used the #RaiseTheBar campaign on Twitter to generate votes. The club also offered a free trip for two lucky fans to attend the All-Star Game. The getaway package included two roundtrip economy fare tickets courtesy of WestJet and one night in a New York City hotel.
Delabar raised the stakes by offering to take five Blue Jays fans out to dinner if they cast their votes through Twitter, while Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar donated a signed uniform. It's unknown how much of a role the gift packages had, but Delabar received 77.5 percent of support in Canada, while also getting plenty of votes in his home state of Kentucky.
WOW!!! @BlueJays fans, you're amazing!! Thank you so much!! WOW!!- Steve Delabar (@SteveDelabar_50) July 11, 2013
The Blue Jays also came up with a unique idea of partnering with the Braves, which helped the cause. The two organizations ran a joint campaign. Atlanta lent its support to Delabar, while Toronto endorsed Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in his quest for a spot on the National League team.
The decision came in part because of a pre-existing relationship between the two clubs and the fact that Freeman's parents are Canadian citizens. In both cases, it worked out: Delabar and Freeman were both voted into the All-Star Game. Freeman's total of 19.7 million tallies is the new all-time Final Vote record.
"I think Freddie made a lot of sense because of his parents," Blue Jays director of social marketing Rob Jack said earlier this week. "This thing always works out best if you have a dancing partner, and they were all over it, too, based on the Canadian side, and the fact that Delabar is from Kentucky, so that's kind of Braves country down there."
A total of 79.2 million votes were cast, which surpassed the previous high of 68.6 million set in 2009. Fans also cast 10.2 million of those votes via text message in 2013.
This year's All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com concluded with a six-hour Twitter vote, as tweets with a player's designated hashtag counted in his overall total. The program drew a sustained average of more than 4,200 tweets per minute (63 percent more than 2012 in a four-hour window), highlighted by a peak of 24,660 at 3:59 p.m. ET, and accounted for 13 percent of the total votes cast during the six-hour window.
The leading Twitter vote-getter was #VoteFreddie, followed by #VotePuig, #HighSocksForVotes, #RaiseTheBar and #HighFiveCiti in the top five. All of the leading contenders had their hashtags trending in the U.S., worldwide and in their respective local markets.
Delabar's appearance at the All-Star Game will cap his incredible journey to the Major Leagues. Three years ago, he was working as a substitute teacher and coaching baseball at a local high school before he received an opportunity to work out for the Mariners.
Seattle came away impressed and signed Delabar to a contract in 2011. Later that year, he advanced through all three levels of the Minor Leagues before making his Major League debut as a September callup.
"Somebody asked me, 'If I told you you would be up for consideration three years ago ...' I would have laughed at them," Delabar said. "You just go day by day, and [you] just work hard for the future and hope that all things play out. You never expect something like this to happen. You just kind of go about doing your job and hoping good things happen."