After 12 years in the big leagues, Justin Morneau has finally stumbled onto something that’s more difficult than hitting home runs:
Asking for votes.
“I’ve never been a guy who’s especially fond of talking about myself,” the Colorado Rockies first baseman and former Twins star said Monday. “So this feels a little crazy.”
But Morneau’s natural shyness has been overridden by a desire he’s not trying to hide: He wants to play in Target Field’s first All-Star Game next Tuesday. And if it takes a social-media campaign, if it means calling in favors and, yes, talking about himself, well, hand him the microphone. And the iPad.
“I’ve always tried to be honest, so I’m not going to lie: I really want to be there,” Morneau said about returning to his former home. “To be able to go back to Minnesota, to have an opportunity to stand on that baseline and tip my cap to everybody who treated me so well when I was there, it would mean a lot to me.”
So Morneau, who was traded by the Twins to Pittsburgh last Aug. 31, is contacting friends, fans and family to help get out the online vote at MLB.com. He is one of five candidates for the 34th and final spot on the National League team, along with Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee, Braves outfielder Justin Upton and Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon.
“Everybody in there has played well enough to be there,” said Morneau, who was disappointed not to be elected by his fellow players. “But I think I have, too.”
Morneau entered Monday with a .314 batting average, ranking sixth in the NL, and 59 RBI, second-most in the league. He has hit 13 home runs for Colorado, and his slugging percentage of .518 is also sixth-best.
But he plays in Denver, a smaller market than Chicago or Washington or Atlanta or Miami, which hinders his vote-getting base. Well, unless he has a secret weapon.
“I’m hoping we get Canada behind us, too. ... We’re a proud country and a proud people,” said the British Columbia native, getting into the spirit of stump-speaking. “If I can get Canada behind me, as well as Colorado and Minnesota, hopefully I can get enough. I’ve reached out to guys up there — hopefully they spread the word.”
In Minnesota, one business owner is trying to do the same. Shaun Hagglund, owner of Fan HQ memorabilia and sports apparel store, has set up a “Vote Morneau” area at Ridgedale Mall for fans to gather to vote, with drinks, Internet access and T-shirts provided.
Morneau said he was disappointed that the vote of the players, or the selection by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, didn’t secure him his fifth invitation to the All-Star Game, but he was encouraged by the outpouring of support he has heard. Sunday, he traded texts with Twins closer Glen Perkins — whom he will see this weekend, when the Twins visit Coors Field — and after congratulating him, “I told him to get tweeting” on his behalf. “Let’s wear out some thumbs.”
The first results of balloting, which ends at 3 p.m. Thursday, will be released Tuesday morning. Until then, Morneau is contacting friends in the NHL and on other MLB teams to muster support.
And if he doesn’t get elected? There’s a good chance he will be in Minnesota next week anyway. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is captain of the NL’s Home Run Derby team, and Morneau admits he has been lobbying for a spot. Derby rosters will be announced Tuesday.
“I know the right person to talk to. [And I’ve told him], I know the ballpark, I have the most at-bats there,” Morneau said. “That’s something I have a high level of interest in, too.”