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Vote Sam Fuld!

All-Star voting us underway again in the MLB, sparking the return of team-run election campaigns. One particularly unlikely candidate -- or, at least he was unlikely this time last year -- is Sam Fuld, the Rays starting left fielder. Fuld came to the Tampa Bay Rays in the off season trade sending Matt Garza and Fernando Perez to the Chicago Cubs. At the time of the trade, most pundits -- and Fuld himself -- predicted the New Hampshire native would be the fourth outfielder -- a defensive replacement and a pinch runner at most.

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Oddly enough, the man whom Fuld would have likely pinch-run for -- Manny Ramirez -- retired suddenly, opening a window for the 29-year-old outfielder to walk through (height joke). In the early going this season, Sam Fuld has done nothing but impress, and his statistics confirm it: He owns a .350/.411/.525 slash line, while also stealing 10 bases and playing outstanding defense.

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As of yesterday, Fuld had 22 points on the ESPN Web Gem leaderboard, putting him 10 points ahead of the next nearest fielder (according to the Rays game notes). His outstanding play has led to outstanding renown, as his Legend has become a full-on Internet meme. Earlier today, in fact, Sam Fuld even created his own Twitter account, and a few days ago, another user created a VoteSamFuld account. Fuld's account is pending verification, but David Price is already following the user, so we can safely assume it is indeed the Stanford econ grad's account.

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If the Rays can somehow get Fuld into the All-Star game, it would no doubt be a great boost for the team's publicity. There have already been suggestions that Fuld's popularity has encouraged greater ticket sales -- which were improved in the last home stand (though still well below league average). And All-Star game appearance could help the team's ticket sales even more -- as well as guarantee a Disney movie about this veritable Rudy 2.0.

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And one last thing: Vote Sam Fuld!

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Click here to vote for the 2011 MLB All-Star team.

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Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.