All Star Game: Home Run Derby, FanFest, and More

20130715_204015The National League had three hits and was shutout 3-0 in the All Star Game. The Home Run Derby winner wasn’t an All Star. Chris Rock was a no-show for the Celebrity Softball Game. None of that prevented me from having a great time these past few days as the Mets hosted their first All Star Game since 1964.

Tickets were sold as strips that included multiple events. My dad got us tickets and we attended the events mentioned above as well as FanFest on Friday and the Futures Game on Sunday. The FanFest took place at the Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan; more than 400,000 square feet were dedicated to baseball. I had been to FanFest when the Yankees hosted in 2008 and was excited to return. Here’s what I saw and did:

  • Hats from every minor league team. I heard it wasn’t easy tracking all of them down for the exhibit.
  • Replicas of the lockers of several MLB players. Bryce Harper’s had a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal and the TV show Duck Dynasty on DVD. Props to Adrian Gonzalez for his Independence Day DVD. And since it wouldn’t be right if an exhibit was without a corporate sponsor, every player had a Samsung Galaxy phone and Beats by Dre headphones.
  • An awesome Negro League exhibit; various trophies—Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, etc.—on display; autograph sessions with former stars.gold glove
  • Lots of booths with memorabilia and other items for sale. I came across a lot of items for my favorite player, Nolan Ryan, including this gem:bloody nolan
  • Steal a base, steal a taco. I was disappointed my friend Boyle, despite his bum knee, didn’t give it a shot.
  • Batting cages. I’ve been expecting a call from the Mets after smacking an 80-mph fastball on my last swing in the batting cage.

The Sunday events at Citi Field were better than I expected. The Futures Game, won by the United States team over the World 4-2, featured minor leaguers from Low-A ball all the way up to Triple-A. I’ll be saving my program and keeping an eye out for these rising stars, though I learned that the Fall Stars Game in Arizona in November is a much better indicator of future MLB success.

I’ll admit I was planning to leave the stadium before the baseball legends and celebrity softball game, but when presented with the opportunity to sit behind the plate, it was more than worthwhile.

  • Kevin James stretched a single into a double with a head-first dive into second, an image that may never leave my mind. “When God blesses you with natural gifts like speed and agility, you have to take advantage of them,” James said while accepting the co-MVP award.
  • The pitcher-catcher-batter combinations were incredible. Frank Thomas on the mound, Ashanti behind the plate, and George Lopez at bat is not something you see every day. Jennie Finch pitching to Miss America was a photo-worthy moment, as was perhaps the greatest battery in baseball history, Finch and Mike Piazza:finch piazza
  • Rickey Henderson hit a home run that easily cleared the temporary fence and almost went over the actual Citi Field wall. He flipped his bat and spun out of the box, smiling all the way around the bases. Rickey Henderson is awesome.
  • Darryl Strawberry’s play—both offensively and in the field—was so subpar that it took all my power not to heckle him Bart Simpson-style.
  • WFAN’s Craig Carton was bad as well. Who filled out the lineup card thinking he should play shortstop and bat second? Does anyone take the Taco Bell Legends and Celebrity Softball Game seriously anymore?
  • The Big Hurt would have come to the plate representing the tying run had Bernie Williams been able to get on base. Instead, Bernie popped out to Piazza to end the game. The roles were reversed from the final out of an equally important game, the clinching game of the 2000 World Series, when Williams caught Piazza’s fly ball.
  • My personal highlight was meeting singer/actress Ashanti after the game. While it goes against everything I wrote in yesterday’s story, it was a thrill to chat with her for a couple of minutes and get a photo, even if she was on the other side of the netting behind home plate. While my younger brother, Steve, decided to play the Biggest Fan card—claiming Coach Carter was his favorite movie and congratulating her on her play despite her hitting, fielding, and baserunning gaffes—my connection with the R&B singer/actress was more sincere and, as a result, much deeper.ashanti

Last year I wrote about having lost interest in the Home Run Derby. I am happy to report that attending the event live on Monday night was great fun; I was never bored. In 90-degree heat that felt like 105, Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes became the first non-All Star to win the Derby, beating Bryce Harper in the finals. Our seats were in fair territory, under the Pepsi Porch and above the Modell’s sign in right field.* It would have taken a low trajectory rocket to reach our section; only a handful made it there in batting practice and just one during the actual Derby. Even so, we had a great view of all the homers.

  • Pitbull performed on the field before the event. Is there anyone better for a free, 15-minute show?
  • We debated whether someone would put a ball into the upper deck in left field, something never done before in a game. The right-handed Cespedes launched three into the seats there. His winning homer smashed off the batter’s eye in dead center.
  • It was so hot, I’m really not sure if Harper’s mohawk was being held up by gel or sweat.
  • David Wright captained the National League team and admitted after his first round exit that he doesn’t belong in the Derby. But hey, he beat Robinson Cano and that was the most important thing.

*Yes, I did bring a baseball glove. It went against one of my baseball stadium rules: No man over the age of 12 should bring a glove to a game. I decided an exception can be made for the Home Run Derby.

The All Star Red Carpet Parade went down 80,000 square feet of red carpet on 42nd Street from 6th-3rd Avenues yesterday afternoon, passing right in front of my office. I went down to the street to check it out; it was about as exciting as you’d imagine people riding by slowly in trucks while waving would be.

  • The truck carrying Yadier Molina came to a stop in front of a large group of Mets fans, then started inching forward much slower than the rest of the parade. Molina hit the home run that eliminated the Mets from the playoffs in 2006. “Step on it!” someone yelled. “Get that bum out of here!”
  • A few fans, at least for a moment, mistook Pittburgh’s Jason Grilli for R.A. Dickey.
  • A double-decker sightseeing bus came down the street and I thought it had made a wrong turn. Then I spotted Doc Gooden and David Wright, who also appeared on the side of the bus, sitting in the back.wright and gooden
  • There is an art to yelling at sporting events, and it’s not as easy as you think. Just because your claim is accurate or even amusing doesn’t mean it should be screamed at a player. This, aimed at former Met Robin Ventura, could have used some editing: “Robin, you were a great pick-up! We haven’t had many good free agent acquisitions but you were one of the few!” By the time the guy mumbled something about Jason Bay, Ventura’s truck was two blocks away.
  • If the parade taught me anything, it’s that there are a lot of All Stars. When I saw Mariano Rivera’s truck I figured he was closing things out, but wait, here comes Grant Balfour. And Salvador Perez. And a dozen others. It was never-ending.

The 84th Major League Baseball All Star Game was last night. It was the largest crowd in Citi Field history. The Mets last hosted in 1964, the year Shea Stadium opened. The American League won 3-0, the first All Star Game shutout since…last year. It was the first time the National League was shutout since 1990. The NL’s three hits were tied for the second-fewest in ASG history.

  • Mets fans will get 30 percent off tickets for two homestands thanks to Wright’s performance in the Home Run Derby and Matt Harvey’s three strikeouts in the All Star Game (see Harvey, the game’s starting pitcher, stretch while the other players are introduced, below). Had Wright won the Derby, fans could have seen rapper Nas in concert—in addition to a Mets game—on Friday for $7.matt harvey
  • In a very weird mascot race, some Minnesota mascot (below; blue with horns) won despite running 20 yards in the wrong direction at the start. The fix was in, I’d say: MLB used his victory to announce next year’s All Star Game is in—yup, you guessed it—MINNESOTA.

    mascots

  • A fan in a Cano jersey ran on to the field in the later innings and was tackled hard despite attempting to surrender. Not a good night to be wearing a Cano jersey: the actual player got plunked in the knee by Matt Harvey in his first at-bat.
  • How about those shiny shoes the players were wearing? Hey, give me a break—the NL alone had five 1-2-3 innings. I needed to photograph something.

    shiny shoes

  • Prince Fielder’s triple was reminiscent of Kevin James’ double.
  • Rivera won the MVP, which seemed about as fixed as the mascot race. But I’m not a hater: Mo’s scoreless eighth inning was his ninth career inning of relief in All Star Games; he’s never given up an earned run.

On the 7 train to Citi last night I overheard a kid, probably about 10-year-old, say, “Dad, can I ask you a favor? Can we stay until the end of the 9th inning this time?” That’s certainly not a question my brothers or I ever had to ask our dad. Steve’s first-ever game, when he was 4, lasted 13 innings (and four hours). My dad once threatened to ban my mom from going with us again after she made us leave early one time.

We were in our seats from start to finish last night just as we were for the previous days, and we had a blast. Thanks, Dad. I can’t wait for the game to return to the Mets’ stadium in 50 years.*

*Which I assume will be on the planet Mercury.

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