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Put Ells on the All-Star squad


   Another career achievement is ready to be plucked by Jacoby Ellsbury. He's in line to make his first Major League All-Star game this summer.
   The Madras product and Red Sox center fielder has been key to the Sox's resurgence after a 2-10 start. Since then, they're 31-16. Ells has hit .337 since April 27, following that teamwide slow start. He also leads the Major Leagues in stolen bases.
   (See our sports page this week for more details on Ellsbury's push for the All-Star game).
   Ellsbury is more productive than plenty of players making a lot more money (an argument that will be harder to make next season as next year he's due for a new contract). Judging by jersey sales, he's among the most popular players among fans in the majors. He's been much more consistent offensively than three of his generally more highly regarded teammates -- Justin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford. Of Red Sox position players, only first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is more deserving of an All-Star nod.
   After a nightmare 2010 -- in which broken ribs limited him to just 18 games, and slow recovery drew questions about toughness from teammates and fans alike -- 2011 could be sweet redemption for Ellsbury.
   He's hovered around .300 for the year for the past few weeks. If he can get over it and stay there, continue to steal bases and score runs at an impressive clip, the former White Buffalo should be on the American League All-Star team.
   And we local fans can take part in the fun. For decades, baseball has led the way in pro sports in fan voting for All-Star teams. Anyone else remember those pre-Internet days of punch card ballots? Now, of course, it's online. Go to www.mlb.com, click on All-Star Game Ballot, and you're there. You can vote up to 25 times per email address, and revoting is easy.
   If, say, 1,000 county residents can get motivated to vote for Ellsbury 25 times, then that will mean (excuse me while I test my U of O math skills) 25,000 votes.
   Twenty-five thousand. About as many fans who go see the Texas Ranger play one home game, who could vote for their two hometown outfielders, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz -- two players ahead of Ellsbury in the current All-Star voting, but far behind him in statistical output. If each of those fans goes home and votes 25 times, that's 725,000 votes.
   It's tough for us small-town folks to compete in this modern era.
   One of these days -- possibly after Ellsbury finishes a hall of fame career, hopefully before that -- Madras should have two large entering-town billboards of Jacoby, each reading "Welcome to Madras, Where Major League Great Jacoby Ellsbury was Born and Raised." Put one of him hitting on the south end of town, and one of him playing outfield, or running the bases, on the north end.
   My aunt lives in Yukon, Okla., where they proudly put in paint "Home of Garth Brooks." If Ellsbury's career continues to roll out as it has (World Series title, stolen base champ, All-Star?), Madras should be eager to give him the same treatment.
   Towns do that for themselves, not necessarily for the individual honored. It connects the community to the achievements of one of its own. Ellsbury is one of the most popular players in Major League baseball. The town should celebrate that and capitalize on that. If nothing else, such welcoming billboards could brand the town with something other than a "great place to stop and get gas."
   I probably shouldn't suggest this, though. About a year ago I wrote here that the city should paint its Adams Drive water tower with a Welcome to Madras message, turn it into an attractive landmark, ala what Redmond did to its tower along the bypass. The Madras tower was all rusted out and in need of a paint job. It was painted shortly thereafter -- a disappearing silver that made it blend in even more to the surrounding hillside, rendering it more invisible than ever.
   So forget about the Ellsbury billboards. I guess those green population signs that the state gives out do just fine.