I had never been really into the All-Star game. It was interesting to see who made it, and see all of those players trot out onto the field, but that’s usually as far as my interest went. The Home Run Derby was an interesting diversion, but never a must-see. If I didn’t watch the game, I didn’t really care; especially when it didn’t even count for home field advantage, or when the Mets had no shot of making the World Series. I’d intend to tune in, but rarely prioritized it over anything else until last year. I entered a lottery for tickets, and secured a second-chance opportunity to purchase standing room only tickets. I bought two for $190, which included the Futures game, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star game. I originally tried to sell them, figuring maybe I could make a little profit from it. No one ended up buying them from me so I called in sick to work, and me and my friend drove over to Pittsburgh from New York.
It wasn’t long before my perspective of the game changed. I probably had as much fun at that baseball game as any regular season game at Shea. Because of previous commitments and last-minute decisions, we didn’t leave until Monday morning, missed the Futures game, but arrived with plenty of time for the Home Run Derby. There was plenty of stuff going on outside the stadium. They had a gift shop, and plenty of sponsored booths, from beer, to trivia, to pitching. There were a ton of people around, and tons of opportunities to win prizes, even if most of them were silly. I was handed a keychain with a red and blue Pepsi ball on it, I spun a wheel to win a deck of Chevy playing cards, and answered trivia to win 100 Holiday Inn points. All of this was fun, and we hadn’t even entered the stadium yet.
PNC Park is an excellent baseball stadium. Every seat is a good one, and you can see the game from just about anywhere. The view of the bridges and skyline beyond the outfield is beautiful, as is the stadium itself. Having only a standing room ticket never even bothered me, especially for the Home Run Derby, where I wanted to be on my feet anyway. We positioned ourselves on one of the spiral ramps down the left field line, hoping a home run would end up near us, but happy to watch regardless. We ended up chatting with a couple of Cubs fans, who had made a wager on the Derby, so whenever David Wright hit a home run, we’d all get excited and high-five and cheer. Watching the flight of a home run is one of the most exciting moments in sports. Fans have enjoyed the long ball since Babe Ruth made it popular 90 years ago, and have always enjoyed watching premier sluggers hit the ball over the fences. It’s not the same on television; it’s fun, but the limited view from a camera can’t compare to watching it with your own eyes. At home, the slow pace of the Derby and the time between batters for commercials is boring and leads watchers to get distracted, channel surf, and do other things; immersed in it at the park, it’s entertaining. Even though they’re strangers, fans are always friendly at baseball stadiums. There is always something going on, or someone talking about something interesting.
There were fans from all over during the All-Star festivities. I decided to try to find a fan from every one of the 30 major league teams just to get a sense of everyone that was there. Over the two days I came across plenty of fans, from Anaheim, Kansas City, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Oakland and just about any city that has a major league baseball team. The only team I didn’t see represented was the Colorado Rockies, and I imagine there must have been someone there somewhere that I just didn’t see. It was a wonderful collection of baseball fans from all over the country joined together to watch baseball’s best players, and enjoy the wonderful game of baseball.
On the day of the game, we went to the nearby Penn Brewery before we went to the park; even here baseball was in the air. It turned out our bartender was a Mets fan living in Pittsburgh, so we spent much of the early afternoon drinking these local brews and discussing the Mets with him. We had decided to skip watching the players arrive on the red carpet they’d laid out over one of the bridges, but one of the bartenders friends called and was excited because Jose Reyes waved to her.
We headed back to PNC Park before the game, and checked out the booths outside again before heading inside. We found ourselves a nice perch to watch the game from in left field, and even found some stools that must have been for an unused group area. The game was enjoyable, the mingling of fans from all over excited about different players gives the game a different feel than most other major league games. Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez understandably got the loudest applause, but there isn’t a player that didn’t get cheered. The game wasn’t quite as exciting as being at a home game for a favorite team, but it was still exciting. While at the game it’s easy to forget all the discussion about how much the game should matter, and just root for your league. It’s easy to forget how much the tickets cost, and just watch a baseball game with the fans around you, enjoying some of the greatest ballplayers of the year.
I’ve never previously cared much about the All-Star game, and I couldn’t even tell you much about the games. I remember last year’s though. I remember where I stood, and I remember David Wright’s home run, and Carlos Beltran’s double. I remember that if the lead had stood up, I was going to count it as a Mets win, since they scored all the National League runs. I remember being annoyed at Trevor Hoffman blowing the save, and annoyed with Michael Young for driving in the winning run. The All-Star game loses something when watching it on television, but just like most major league games, there is something special about being there.