July 17, 2011
The MLB All-Star Game is a once in a lifetime type of opportunity for most people involved. Most fans, are fans of the home team, and won't travel to go to another one. And for a lot of players that make it to the All-Star Game, it's the only one they'll get to play in, for their entire career. For me, I hope it is not a once in a lifetime opportunity, because I had a blast!
I arrived in Phoenix for All-Star Sunday, which was The Futures Game and the Celebrity Softball Game. There were a lot of young stars there for The Futures Game, none more popular than Bryce Harper. There were a lot of big time stars for the Celebrity Softball Game as well, such as Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Ernie Banks, and other great players like Luis Gonzalez and Mike Piazza. There were also non-baseball celebrities such as Nick Jonas and Larry Fitzgerald. Security was lenient, which allowed fans to get as close to the field and the players as they liked. I feel like that was very nice, and helped me to get autographs from Bryce Harper and Ozzie Smith (but unfortunately not Mike Piazza, despite my best efforts).
Monday, I went to check out FanFest at the nearby convention center. I was fortunate enough to get a picture with Mandy Moore, and got to see some former and current baseball players, such as Cal Ripken Jr., Gaylord Perry and Miguel Cabrera. I think all baseball fans should check out FanFest when the All-Star game comes to their city, even if they do not attend the game itself, or any of the other festivities. FanFest is a great place for young kids and for big kids (aka adults). There are all sorts of fun activities to partake in, such as batting cages, interactive games, and autograph tables. There is also a lot of free stuff given away, and there are tables for collectors to purchase memorabilia.
After FanFest, I headed to the Chase Field for the Home Run Derby. On this day, ushers were very strict, and fans were required to stay in there ticketed seats. Despite this, the bleachers were still PACKED for batting practice. Fortunately, I came prepared with a plethora of jerseys and hats, and managed to obtain 2 baseballs. The Derby itself was fun, but I found it very unfortunate that the majority of the crowd, which were Diamondbacks fans, booed bother Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. I believe that is uncalled for at an event, when we are here to celebrate some of the best players in the game.
Tuesday was the main event, the 2011 MLB All-Star Game. First, there was a red carpet show, which was basically a parade, in which many of the players were shuttled into the stadium down the red carpet. In the stadium, security allowed all fans to watch batting practice from the bleachers, and thanks to a bright yellow Pirates Willie Stargell jersey, I got Kevin Correia to toss me an All-Star commemorative ball.
There were all sorts of past and present baseball superstars in attendance for this game. I happened to be sitting on the club level, and in the luxury box behind me, was Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Ernie Banks and Larry Fitzgerald. I too asked myself "Which of these is not like the other," but nevertheless, it was very exciting to see this. As was the case in the home run derby, most fans in attendance were Diamondbacks fans. But this time, the boos that those fans were serenading Prince Fielder with, quickly turned to cheers when he launched a 3-run homer off of C.J. Wilson, which ultimately helped lead the NL to victory and the MVP for Prince.
After the game, I rushed down to the NL dugout in an attempt to get something, ANYTHING, from a player. There were bats, hats, and other items being away. Unfortunately, I failed to get anything, before all but one player disappeared- the MVP himself, Prince Fielder. Luckily for me, I was directly behind the entrance to the dugout where Prince had to enter, and I was prepared with a Prince Fielder shirt and Brewers hat.
When Prince finally returned to the dugout, about 15 minutes after the game ended and he was done being interviewed, he noticed me and gave a head nod and pointed at me. I waited for the perfect moment when he was close enough and I could yell loud enough above the other fans. I asked him for a his batting gloves, and with the help of a photographer, he emerged from the dugout, and tossed them right to me.
I am the proud owner of a pair of batting gloves that the 2011 MLB All-Star game MVP used to hit the decisive home run.
I'm glad I finally decided to go to an All-Star game. I hope I have the opportunity to continue to go. And I suggest to all fans that have not yet gone to one, that you go. It's pretty much the only time you will be able to go to a baseball game and wear the gear of a team from a different city, and not get berated (except of course if you wear Yankees gear in Baltimore).
Ben Weil is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.