Voting for baseball's All-Star Game begins on Wednesday. But don't expect to see those familiar paper ballots at any big-league ballpark on that day -- or any other day this season.
Major League Baseball has phased out paper ballots in favor of online voting only. Fans who happily recall punching out the names of their favorite players instead will have to log on to MLB.com.
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Baseball is the last sport to go online only for its All-Star Game voting. A league spokesman said 80 percent of the voting was done online in 2014 and MLB had to dispose of 16 million unused paper ballots. So while nostalgia might take a hit, the environment should get a boost.
And as anyone who has ever filled out a paper ballot can tell you, no more hanging or dangling tiny pieces of paper will collect on your lap as you try to fill one out while juggling a soda and hot dog at the ballgame.
Still, is something being lost? For a sport that is trying to entice younger fans, perhaps going online-only is the generationally correct move. But it might take something away from the ballpark experience, especially for those who remember when ushers used to hand out the ballots and then collect them late in the game.
Even some of today's major- leaguers say they'll miss the paper ballots.
"I think that it's cool to be able to do that," Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. "I understand the other side of it, but there's something to be said about doing something physically. If I'm guessing, I would say it doesn't sound like the smartest thing to do. But I'm fairly confident they've analyzed that. They have people who are a lot smarter that deal with those things."
Headley, who grew up in Fountain, Colorado, saw his first big-league game in Denver when the Colorado Rockies were born. He always voted for an original Rockie who happened to be a third baseman.
"I always voted for Vinny Castilla because every time I was at a game, he'd hit two or three home runs," Headley said. "It was unbelievable. I probably saw him play five times and I feel like every time he'd hit a couple homers."
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira grew up as a shortstop, but most of the players he recalls voting for played first base.
"I always voted for Don Mattingly and Cal Ripken," said Teixeira, who grew up in Maryland and went to Orioles games. "I had different guys around the league I enjoyed watching play. I always liked Will Clark. I loved Eddie Murray, too. Eddie Murray's the reason I'm a switch hitter. Subconsciously, I really liked first basemen. I guess you gravitate toward the kind of player you want to be."
Mets rightfielder Curtis Granderson, who went to high school in the south Chicago suburb of Lansing, Illinois, would always fill his ballots with players from his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox. With two exceptions: Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith.
"You voted for the local team because you saw them more, so there were a lot of White Sox players that I voted for," Granderson said. "Griffey was the other big name outside of that, and Ozzie Smith."
Granderson said he sees why online voting is important, especially for those who can't make it to a game when school is in session. "I think it'll be good," he said. "I wish I would have had the option back then. That would have been cool."
Mets outfielder John Mayberry Jr. probably would have voted for his father, John Mayberry Sr., if he had had the chance. But the elder Mayberry (a two-time All-Star) retired from a 15-year career in 1982, a year before his son was born.
Mayberry Jr., who grew up in Kansas City, said he was an enthusiastic ballot-puncher as a kid. But even he sees the logic of going online-only.
"I guess it might help with recycling," he said. "And it might save the moms of today a hassle. I used to get 20 ballots and take my time and fill them out in all sorts of different ways. Include guys in certain ones and not in others. I would bring them home. I had every intention of filling them out and returning them. I was a kid. I don't know how many of them actually got there."