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Behind the scenes during All-Star Week in San Diego: Tuesday

Behind the scenes during All-Star Week in San Diego: Tuesday

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Editor’s note: Kevin Schindler,, the historian at Lowell Observatory, is also a devoted baseball fan. He is attending this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game Week in San Diego on a Daily Sun press credential to chronicle a behind-the-scenes look at the activities – through the eyes of a fan.

All-Star Game

Seeing Paul Goldschmidt serve as the only Diamondbacks representative in this year’s All-Star Game reminds me of watching these games growing up as a Cleveland Indians fan, and perhaps why I’ve always enjoyed baseball’s All-Star showcase more than any of the other sports. The reason revolves around the fact that every team must have at least one representative. When your team is underperforming or just plain lousy, you know you will still see one of your heroes make an appearance.

During those days when mediocrity meant a good year, that token player often didn’t even get into in the game, so the player introductions were a favorite part of the experience because I knew that for one fleeting moment, the world that was watching knew that Cleveland existed and had someone for which to be proud.

Not that George Hendrick, Dave LaRoche, or Sid Monge didn’t deserve to be there, but they weren’t top players. That’s where the comparison with Goldschmidt stops, because even though he started off a bit slowly this year, he has performed much better in recent weeks and was a worthy addition to the National League team, voted in my his peers of fellow players.

Goldschmidt enjoyed a whirlwind All-Star weekend, one which he shared with his wife and newborn son. On Sunday alone, he rode with his family in the parade that took players from the host hotel to Petco Park. This was just the beginning of a day that saw as much ceremony as baseball.

After arriving at the park, Goldschmidt dressed in a National League practice uniform, highlighted by colors honoring the hometown San Diego Padres with a throwback look of brown and mustard yellow. The combination was hideous years ago, and remains that way today.

Fielding and batting practice amid sea of reporters and VIP’s ended with a team photo on the outfield grass. Later, for player introductions, Goldschmidt stood along the third base line and tipped his cap to the crowd when his name was called. Amidst his fellow players and dozens of representatives from nearby Navy and Marines bases, Goldschmidt saw first-hand how patriotic San Diego is, with a massive flag being unfurled as the National Anthem played. Later, during the 7th inning stretch, he again joined his teammates for the playing of God Bless America.

Goldschmidt came into the game midway through and played the rest of the way. While he didn’t get any hits, he still represented the Diamondbacks in a grand manner that left several fans wearing Arizona gear proud.

Media at the All-Star Game

 

The All-Star Game is all about promoting baseball. To accomplish this, Major League Baseball has issued 2,500 press credentials to accommodate worldwide coverage of All-Star events. The game itself will be broadcast in more than 150 countries and territories by 57 television and radio networks in 14 languages around the globe.

 

Throughout the entire All-Star weekend, media members have explored every nook of San Diego searching for story angles and scoops. In the media rooms at Petco park and the host hotel, veteran sports writers from the “dailies” confidentially and efficiently crank out their stories. For other, less seasoned media members, the quest for story and meeting deadlines can turn frantic, as I’ve seen several times here. One young reporter loudly and triumphantly announced a quote she had collected from Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, while the dozens of other sport writers around her displayed a variety of smiles, representing a variety of reactions, to her outburst.

 

On another occasion, the security station to access the field for media to access the field had bogged down, and a television crew, looking at their watches and repeatedly calling the home office, grew more agitated until they finally collected their gear and sprinted to another location, hoping to gain faster access there.

 

To cover every All-Star activity is impossible, as multiple events often overlap, including player interviews at the host hotel; Fanfest baseball experience at the San Diego Convention Center; block party in the Gaslamp District; dedication of new ball fields in the San Diego area; and of course a concentration of activities at Petco Field, including the Futures Game; Legends and celebrity Softball Game; batting practices; youth competitions; Home Run Derby; and, of course, the game.

Following are his posts from Sunday and Monday:

Color Run Kicks off All-Star Weekend

During the depths of the Great Depression in 1933, Chicago Tribune sport editor Arch Ward hatched an idea that he thought would help raise the spirit of the downtrodden populace. It involved a grand display of elite Major League Baseball players, a game featuring the best players of the eight American League teams versus their counterparts in the National League. While Ward envisioned a one-time event, this “Game of the Century” surpassed expectations and was repeated the following year, and then the year after that, and the year after that, and quickly became one of baseball’s cherished traditions. Today, the All-Star Game has expanded to well beyond a simple game of nine innings. It now features a Home Run Derby, a parade of players, a baseball carnival to surpass all others and known as Fanfest, a game featuring top Minor League players, a charity softball game with entertainment celebrities and former baseball stars, and much more.

This year, the All-Star Game and its slew of related activities play out in in San Diego, with the majority of events running from Sunday the 10th through Tuesday the 12th. To try and get the most out this baseball fan’s ultimate getaway, I’m trying to participate in as many activities as possible, starting with a 5K “Color Run” to kick off a beautiful day in San Diego (are they ever anything but?)

This Color Run is part of a series of similar events that has become quite popular across the world. They have no winners, no prizes, and are not even timed. The focus is on fun and frivolity rather than competition and PRs. For the San Diego All-Star Color Run, participants walked, danced, and ran along a stunning course that meandered along the waterfront. It began near the Star of India windjammer ship and passed by the USS Midway before curving to the southeast, through Seaport Village and over to Petco Park, site of Tuesday’s All-Star Game. The course then returned via a slightly different route.

The start of the race was staggered, so that participants began anytime between 7 pm and 8:30. I was scheduled to go at 7:30, so at 7 I headed over to the starting line to watch the first wave of runners. Many baseball mascots were there cheering on the crowd, including Fredbird of the Cardinals, Wally the Green Monster of the Red Sox, Bernie Brewer of the Brewers, and Swinging Friar of the Padres. But I was happiest to see our hometown hero, Baxter the Bobcat, revving up the crowd. As the race started, the mascots made way for the runners—all the mascots except one, that is. Good ol’ Baxter moved, all right, but not out of the way. Baxter, with a GoPro camera attached to his very large, furry noggin, took off with the racers and ran like no bobcat ever has.

During the run, volunteers at several different stations sprayed, showered, and otherwise covered participants with colored powder, made of corn-starch. Each station featured a different color, so that by the end, the blues, greens, magantas, and yellows caked most participants with a rainbow of powder.

After finishing, I headed over to the event’s entertainment stage and was happy to again see Baxter, his normally gray fur now a mix of colors that his real-life species could never imagine. He was leading the cheers as loudly as he does at Diamondbacks home games, not seeming to care that he was 350 miles from home. For my part, I walked back to the hotel room, peeled off my pigmented attire, and jumped in the shower for a long scrubbing before heading over to Petco Park to see the Futures and Celebrity Softball games.

Arriving at Petco Park

After this morning’s race and clean-up, I headed over to Petco Filed to spend the remainder of the day watching, talking, and writing about baseball. I first headed through the media entrance to gather the press credentials that would allow me to explore pretty much every part of the ballpark, from the press box to the field and everything in between.

After credential pick-up, I waltzed through the security area and examined a sign listing the various media points of interest. Harboring my inner Yogi Berra, who said, among other nuggets of wisdom, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”, I chose a path to the press room, where the likes of Vin Scully, Roger Angell, Bob Uecker, Dick Enberg, and Peter Gammons have walked.

The room was unassuming, with two sections, both with several rows of tables and plenty of outlets for computers. A supply of soda and snacks sat toward the front of the right section, but walking past this would bring chills to any baseball fan, as the view transitioned from tables and outlets to rows of counters that overlook home plate and the beautiful field of Petco Park. I found a spot here and wrote a few notes, then left the press box to explore more.

I stopped at an auxiliary press area closer to the field and set up my computer to write a few more notes, then headed to a concession stand to use my $15 media food credit. By this time the players participating in the Futures Game were warming up on the field so I made my way down to the long tunnel that empties baseball and media official out on the field just to the right of the third base dugout. While some players rotated through the batting cage, others answered questions for media or stood in groups joking around. Meanwhile, former players/ future Hall of Famers Trevor Hoffman and Jim Thome watched the next generation of stars flex their muscles while representatives from ESPN, MLB Network, and dozens of others media outlets captured their stories and pictures.

Back to the press area, I talked with some writers next to me from Scout.com and then prepared for the start of the Futures Game.

Futures Game and Softball

The Futures Game features many top Minor League players, with opposing teams comprised of players from the United States (Team United States) against players from other countries (Team World). Just after returning to the auxiliary press area from the field, I sensed—as I had this morning when seeing Baxter at the Color Run—I was back in Phoenix again watching the Diamondbacks. I felt a presence, then heard it, a voice from the heavens that many Diamondbacks fans know well.

The voice was that of Derrick, the lemonade guy (“Lemonade lemonade, like grandma made”) who is a at DBacks games, spring training games, and about any other sporting event in Arizona. Last year, Derrick was voted as the top vendor in baseball. I walked over to him and asked if last year’s fame translated into some sort of honorary trip to the All-Star Game. “No”, he said. “I just travel around a lot. There’s no baseball in Phoenix this weekend so I came to work here in San Diego.” He added, superfluously, “I stay busy.”

The World Team won the Futures Game, 11-3, with the Diamondbacks only representative, Anthony Banda, giving up laser of a home run. Immediately after the game, baseball mascots, including Baxter of the Diamondbacks, participated in a “mascot Olympics” while officials set up a fence in the middle of the outfield, which is serving as the outfield fence for the Legends and Celebrities Softball Game, featuring baseball Hall-of-Famers such as Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson, and Ozzie Smith; other athletes such as Olympian Jennie Finch and Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and soccer player Landon Donovan; and celebrities including Jaime Fox (dressing up as basketball player LeBron James) and J.K. Simmons.

Entertainment is the name of the softball game, with Fox leading the laughs for the packed stadium of fans, while Terry Crews hot dogged an at bat by taking his shirt off and flexing his pectoral muscles, synchronized with music played over the loudspeakers.

Like the Color Run this morning, there are really no losers in this game, as everyone enjoys a fun, entertaining experience while money is raised for charity. As with any special baseball event anymore, a colorful fireworks show ended the night, a perfect set-up for tomorrow’s full day of baseball.

Managers Announce line-ups

Monday morning at All-Star weekend means media interviews with managers and players. At 10:30, hundreds of media representatives gathered in the Grand Hall at the Manchester Grand Hyatt to hear managers announce starting lineups.

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson kicked off the program by introducing American League manager Ned Yost of the Royals. Robinson was the player-manager of the Indians when I started really following baseball in 1975, and I always enjoy seeing him at these events. Robinson knows something about being an All-Star—he was named to the team 14 times, won the Triple Crown in 1966, and became the only player to win the Most Valuable Player award in both leagues. After he stopped playing, he managed for several different teams and was named American League Manager of the Year in 1989.

Yost shared his line-up, including starting pitcher Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, and National League manager Terry Collins of the New York Mets later unveiled the National League team. The starter for the National League will be Johnny Cueto of the San Francisco Giants.

The managers, Sale and Cueto answered questions from the media—Dominican native Cueto through a Spanish-language interpreter. A poignant moment came when San Diego reporter asked the group if they had any stories about Tony Gwynn, a San Diego Padres legend who later succumbed to cancer, which the Gwynn thought re contracted by years of using dipping tobacco. Sale credited Gwynn with saving his life, because on the day that Gynn died in 2014, Sale decided to quit his habit of using chewing tobacco in honor of Gwynn. Sale hasn’t touched the stuff since.

There’s lots of great baseball stuff here at All-Star weekend, but the Sale story reminds me that the people playing this grand game are as susceptible to life-and-death struggles as the rest of, including legends from Lou Gehrig to Tony Gwynn.

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