Out Amongst the Stars
July 16, 2012 by Jonathan Lowe • Print Story •
There's an anticipation for big events, no matter whether they're in entertainment, politics, or sports. The World Cup, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the Masters, and others create a buzz that boosts the host city's morale and economy, if only for a brief time. That wasn't lost on Kansas City this past week as baseball's All-Star Game (along with all of its pageantry) descended on the Heartland for the second time in three years (it was in St. Louis in 2009).
I actually can attest to that excitement because I was fortunate enough to be in my hometown while the festivities were going on. Working at a radio station in the Twin Cities area, I had the fortune to cover the weekend for my workplace. And through all the running around that getting the soundbite entails, I also had the chance to walk through the crowd a few times over the three-day event.
Whether it was at the Futures Game (Sunday), just before the Home Run Derby (Monday), or at the beginning of the A.S.G. (Tuesday), one thing was clear. The anticipation for this showcase was well worth the wait, well worth the costly renovation, and, most importantly, possibly worth all the losing the home franchise has inflicted on the city over the last two-plus decades.
The smiling children and the exuberant adults created an atmosphere that was prideful and (mostly) pleasant. It was the first opportunity in years to let the country hear their voice, no matter how … misguided … it was. I wasn't at the stadium during the Home Run Derby, so there wasn't a first-hand account of the treatment of AL captain Robinson Cano from me.
But I did see the highlights … with the audio up.
I'll just say this. When you have the current face of the Red Sox (David Ortiz) defending the Yankee player that almost won last year's AL MVP, you might have gone a bit too far. Other than that, it appeared that the city played a fine host to baseball's executives and its most famous faces.
Now, as I sit here, back in the Twin Cities after the trip, there are a couple of things that I wonder about.
Could an All-Star Game conjure up success?
A commentary posted Saturday night on the website of the Kansas City Star puts in in plain English when it comes to Royals owner David Glass. It's time to put up or shut up. But could this plan have been put into motion two years ago (when the ASG in KC was announced)?
Since the 2002 tie in Milwaukee, we've seen 10 Midsummer Classics. Three of these hosts were perennial playoff participants (NY Yankees, St. Louis, and Anaheim). Five others have had hit-and-miss appearances. Of those squads, each one improved their stock after hosting the annual interruption.
The White Sox hosted the game in 2003, followed by Houston in 2004. By October of 2005, both teams were facing each other in the Fall Classic. In 2005, the ASG returned to Detroit for its first appearance at Comerica Park. The next year, and only three after a 119-loss season, the Tigers were vying for their first championship in 22 years.
San Francisco received the honor of hosting the 2007 ASG. That was at the tail end of the Barry Bonds-era Giants. The City by the Bay suffered through two 90-loss years before the current pitching staff turned things around to the tune of a World Championship in 2010. And don't forget last year's Arizona team. After hosting the game's best in July, they shocked the League, winning the NL West in September.
The two franchises that haven't been near the pinnacle of the postseason were the Pirates (2006) and the Royals. However, Pittsburgh might be changing that perception. With this year's team leading the NL Central into the second half, they might continue the trend of success for all-star host cities. That possible scrutiny could be just the thing Kansas City needs to get back to contending status.
Did the right city host the festivities?
In many other years, this question doesn't even get asked. However, the MLB bigwigs had an unusual situation in 2012.
I've had conversations with one of my good friends about this whole process. He's a New Englander born and bred, a Red Sox fan through and through. He believed that Boston should have hosted this year's festivities as a tribute to Fenway Park turning 100-years-old. Instead, Bud Selig went with the franchise that committed to upgrading their facilities. It goes in line with all the other sports leagues across the country. Dangle the carrot of prestige for investing in the shiny new toy.
In this case, the shimmer came off of Kauffman Stadium's $256-million dollar renovation project that provided expanded outfield seating, a new scoreboard, and even new dugouts. It trumped the history of the Babe, Teddy Ballgame, the 2004 "Idiots," and the Green Monster. But it had only been 13 years since Fenway hosted the 1999 weekend, and with more teams (and more stadiums to showcase), the probability of heading back to the same ballpark in the same city without major renovations so quickly has tailed off.
The real dilemma might actually come up in 2014. That will be the next turn for the American League, and Minneapolis' Target Field is in the mix for the game. However, the Cubs hope to switch that order around for their 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field. By then, the Friendly Confines will have gone nearly a quarter-century without hosting the all-stars. Will tradition or renewal win out then?
Beyond the questions I may have about the placement of timing of this past week, one statement fills my thoughts. It's that the All-Star Game truly is the fans experience. No matter what corporate events, TV cameras, or road closures might change the environment of the host city, the fans feel like they're part of the party. They're part of the glamor. They're part of the magic that can occur when the best players of their game come out to play … even in blowout fashion.