By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball home run leader Chris Davis is thrilled about going to his first All-Star game as top vote getter in fan balloting but he has one more wish.
Davis yearns to take part in the Home Run Derby held on the eve of the July 16 Midsummer Classic at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and that wish is almost certain to come true.
"If I'm asked, I will," the 27-year-old slugger told reporters before Sunday's game against the Yankees about joining Home Run Derby captain Robinson Cano's American League long-ball hitting lineup. "If I have the opportunity to, absolutely.
"Just as much as the All-Star game means to me, as a power hitter it's something that I've watched since I was little kid and something that I've always wanted to do. So If I'm asked I definitely want to do it."
Davis received more than eight million votes and is proud to be joined by center fielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy in representing Baltimore in the starting lineup.
It marks the first time three Orioles were All-Star starters since Cal Ripken Jr led a trio into the 1997 lineup.
Davis, who has belted 33 home runs at roughly the halfway mark of the season, is a shoe-in for the derby and the lefty hitting slugger has no worries that competing would adversely affect his swing.
"I have my own Home Run derby every day in BP (batting practice)," he said, drawing laughs from reporters at his locker in the visitors clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.
"Every day in BP we get loose, work on stuff, but in the last few rounds it's about who can hit it further so I've been practicing for a few years."
What is new is the recognition that Davis and his team mates received in voting results announced on Saturday.
Davis overtook last year's Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers as top vote getter in the final week, reaching a total of 8.27 million votes from fans casting ballots at games and online.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he was not surprised.
"I guess they finally counted my votes," the manager joked. "The whole Showalter family. We were the difference makers."
St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, who is batting .346, led the National League fan vote with 6.88 million as one of five Cardinals named to the team.
Davis said he was surprised by the results.
"Last I heard, Cabrera was leading. I knew he was ahead and I thought he would probably run away with it especially the year he's having, the fact that he's in the running for another triple crown," the first baseman said.
Orioles fans obviously threw their spirited support behind the home team players, but players on the once-struggling franchise clearly won support from others.
"Fans throughout the nation were voting," said Davis. "To know that other teams' fans were watching and taking notice, it's an honor."
Starting players were selected by the fans, with player voting and picks by the AL and NL managers completing the squads, which feature 30 players making their first appearance.
"I think our on-field play is being rewarded by the fans of baseball. Starts there," said three-time All-Star Jones, about an Orioles team that ended a string of 14 losing seasons by reaching the playoffs last year and started 48-40 this season.
"You got to do it on the field and we've performed on the field better than in the previous 14 years."
Power-hitting shortstop Hardy, who appeared in the 2007 All-Star game while with the Brewers, said the home-field advantage for the World Series that goes to the winning league gives the All-Star game a little edge.
"It's definitely something to play for," said Hardy, whose Orioles now rate as a possible World Series team. "It makes the game worth winning. It's not like we're just going out there to have fun. We want to win the game."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)