Angels manager Brad Ausmus did a double take at one of the microphone flags in front of him Wednesday. It belonged to the Angels’ radio partner, only this time there was no team name or AM channel number.
Two stickers had been slapped on instead.
VOTE LA STELLA. VOTE TROUT.
“You can thank our social media team for that,” the team reporter said, laughing. “It’s fancy.”
When it came to this week’s MLB All-Star “election,” as the league branded it, the second part of this year’s new two-round voting procedure for the Midsummer Classic, the Angels didn’t cut any corners. After it was announced last Friday that superstar center fielder Mike Trout and sudden-star second baseman Tommy La Stella were finalists for All-Star starting spots, the team pulled out all the stops.
During a 28-hour window from Wednesday morning to Thursday afternoon, the online voting polls reopened for fans to choose one of three finalists at each position, and nine total in the outfield, per league. Trout was leading vote-getter of all players in the second round, easily locking up his seventh straight start in the All-Star game and eighth appearance overall.
“It makes you feel good,” Trout said. “You put in all the hard work. You play to win but you also play for all the fans coming to the ballpark to enjoy a baseball game. Enjoy the passion you have for the game. To be voted in and be the highest vote-getter, it means a lot to me.”
The redesigned mic flag was just one example of the Angels’ blitz campaign. On Wednesday, freshly printed posters of La Stella’s face dotted the ballpark and his name flashed onto the scoreboard between most innings.
The Angels promoted their surging second baseman relentlessly on Twitter as well. They tried to engage Cubs fans, many of whom still have a soft spot for the 30-year-old journeyman after his four-year stint in Chicago. Social media staffers direct-messaged La Stella’s alma mater, Coastal Carolina, to organize cross promotion, including throwback videos of his college home runs. Shohei Ohtani posed for a Twitter picture holding one of the posters, while another image of him high-fiving La Stella was posted just in time for Japanese fans waking up on the other side of the world Thursday afternoon.
“It’s certainly unusual,” said La Stella, who doesn’t even have an active Twitter account. “I’m not used to it, but it’s better than no attention.”
Most of the schemes were born inside an Angel Stadium office, where the club’s three-person social media team brainstorms and writes ideas — “mostly bad ideas,” joked one of the social media staffers — on a whiteboard. They knew Trout, a two-time MVP, would be a shoo-in for the All-Star game. So this week, roughly 80% of their social media content focused on La Stella.
“Five-tool player,” Skaggs, wearing an “I Voted” T-shirt, called him. “The best tool is his personality, though. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of fire.”
On that last point, everybody with the Angels seems to agree. This is La Stella’s first season in Anaheim since arriving via an offseason trade, but already he’s become a favorite — both to fans, and his own team.
“Good things should happen to good people,” Ausmus said of La Stella, who could still go to Cleveland as an All-Star reserve. “He does it every day, pregame, in the dugout. He’s got great one-liners.”
When La Stella showed up at spring training, suiting up for a third team in his six-year career, he was quiet. Reserved.
“I think he was just feeling his way around some of his new teammates,” Ausmus said.
But as La Stella’s bat caught fire, he started to open up behind the scenes too, quickly becoming an easy-to-root-for teammate in the Angels’ upbeat clubhouse.
“I just appreciate all the support from everybody,” La Stella said. “All the fans, all the people back home. Family and friends from across the country. It was cool.”
The Angels are holding out hope he makes the All-Star team as a reserve. Their social media team has a graphic ready to post should he be chosen.
“He needs to be in there,” Trout said. “He’s having a career year. He obviously believes in himself and we believe in him as a team. He just comes in every day and puts in work and it’s showing. I’m happy for him. He’s helping this ballclub a lot.”