Inge triumphs to snag Final Vote spot
Fans send Tigers third baseman to 2009 All-Star Game
DETROIT -- Brandon Inge grew up dreaming about being an All-Star, going to the Midsummer Classic and meeting some of the greatest players in the game. He treasures it enough that he called winning the American League All-Star Final Vote "probably the best thing that ever happened [to me, individually] in baseball."
Yet of all the things he looks forward to doing when he gets to St. Louis, meeting Shane Victorino is pretty high on the list.
"Bran-Torino," Inge said with a smile. "It worked out, too."
As it turned out, it was a runaway hit.
Inge's pairing with Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino on a Tigers and Phillies promotional blitz ended up helping take both of them to St. Louis. In Inge's case, the extra support from Pennsylvania, combined with an avalanche of support in Michigan, helped him win a close vote over Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler to capture the 33rd and final spot on the American League roster for next Tuesday's Midsummer Classic.
It will be the first time on an All-Star roster for Inge, and another chapter in his Detroit comeback story. The man who began last season as a utility player on the trading block and was briefly the Tigers' successor to Ivan Rodriguez at catcher has become one of the best third basemen in the league, and will join Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria and Texas' Michael Young as All-Stars at the hot corner this year.
"We're thrilled Brandon has been voted to join his teammates to represent the Detroit Tigers at the All-Star Game," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. "It's a tremendous honor to have such an opportunity. We especially want to thank all Tigers fans for their passionate support in the voting process."
The lead that Inge and his fans built Tuesday and into Wednesday held up Thursday afternoon thanks to the support of a Tigers fan base, a massive get-out-the-vote effort from the club, and some extra votes from Phillies. The Tigers used their just-completed three-game series against the Royals at Comerica Park to get out the message, then partnered with the Phillies to encourage fans to vote Inge and Victorino on the same ballot.
"Yeah, I'll hang out with him," Inge said of Victorino. "It was very clever, and it worked out, so I'm happy about that."
Inge garnered 11.8 million votes, the most by an American League player in the eight-year history of the event. Victorino won the National League vote with 15.6 million votes.
"Excited would be the smallest statement I could make about it," Inge said Thursday evening from his previously scheduled charity function at Comerica Park, benefiting Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor and other local charities. "I'm so happy about it. It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. And to be able to be voted in by the fans around here and all over, I think it's been a blessing. And on a good night, too, when we're having a function that's benefiting kids."
Inge found out the good news late Thursday afternoon while he was getting ready for the event. The attention had so overwhelmed him over the past few days, he was looking forward to getting to the end and knowing one way or the other. Once he found out he won, his response was emotional.
"It was incredible," he said. "It's a dream come true. I was fighting back some tears, man. I was so excited."
Inge's addition gives the Tigers four All-Stars, joining players ballot selections Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson and Justin Verlander. Only the Red Sox have more members on the AL roster with six.
But no Tiger has a story quite like his. Inge, the longest-tenured current Tiger, returned to third base full-time at the end of last season and credits an offseason adjustment to his hitting position with helping jump-start his offensive game. In a lineup that boasts established hitters such as Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, the 32-year-old Inge leads the team with 19 home runs and 54 RBIs to go with a .264 batting average and .860 OPS.
"The difference in a year, it's amazing," he said. "That's what's great about the game of baseball. One year is terrible for you, then it's totally turned out for you, and you can go out and make an All-Star team thanks to a lot of fans around here.
"Everyone has been so great to me. They've taken me in with open arms from the get-go. I guess this is a good opportunity for me to tell them thanks. I appreciate how much they showed concern for me. I appreciate it, and I love it."
Many of Inge's teammates were around to celebrate, having agreed to take part in the charity function and help raise money.
"I'm really excited for him, just like all the other guys," Verlander said. "What he's done for this team is more than meets the eye, more than the numbers."
Inge had been planning to spend the All-Star break with his family on the western side of the state along Lake Michigan. He'll now be quickly changing those plans and bringing his wife and two kids to St. Louis.
His itinerary is expected to include an appearance for the American League side in the Home Run Derby. Inge said he received a call from Major League Baseball soon after realizing he had won, asking him if he'd be interested in taking part. Inge said last week that he would love to take part, so there was no hesitation.
"I figured it would be something to have fun with," Inge said. "As I grew up as a little kid, I always watched the Home Run Derby. I wouldn't watch the whole game. I couldn't sit there long enough. So I just want to go out there and do that, have fun with it, enjoy it, represent our team the best I can."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.