MLB pumps up All-Star Game volume
Major League Baseball is making its longest list of changes to the All-Star Game in nearly a decade, further enlarging the scope of the midsummer classic as it reaches San Diego next month.
The core ballpark events scheduled for July 10-12 at Petco Park will be joined this year by an array of new and updated components, including:
■ An All-Star concert series that grows from one show to three over the course of two days, featuring Gwen Stefani, OneRepublic and Tori Kelly at San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park South.
|Imagine Dragons played the first ASG stadium concert in 2014.
■ The first phase of a multiyear revamp of FanFest to incorporate more technology and interactive attractions, as well as a new overall look.
■ The creation of a new Play Ball Park that will serve as the All-Star week focal point for youth baseball engagement efforts, a fixture of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s tenure. The park will feature six days of programming involving MLB, USA Baseball, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, the Positive Coaching Alliance and other league partners.
■ Tweaks to the timed format for the Home Run Derby that made its successful debut last year in Cincinnati. The specifics around the additional Derby changes have yet to be announced, but the timed rounds last year at Great American Ball Park inserted new drama in what had become to many observers a tired event.
■ The incorporation of Mexico into the event through the host club Padres’ relationships with youth baseball and fan and community groups in the Tijuana area, just over the border from San Diego.
MLB over the years has sought to grow the range of All-Star Game events. Two years ago in Minneapolis it introduced the first All-Star Color Run, its first stadium concert with Imagine Dragons at TCF Bank Stadium, and an expanded range of community events and charitable donations.
This year amplifies that spirit of change and rivals some of the shifts seen for the 2008 game at the prior Yankee Stadium, which saw MLB’s first All-Star Concert with Bon Jovi in Central Park and the advent of a new operational model for the event.
“There’s going to be a very festive feel to all of this,” said Marla Miller, MLB senior vice president of special events. “What we’ve done is continue to find ways for more people to touch baseball and be a part of this event in some form.”
This year’s All-Star Game home of San Diego continues a run of games in smaller markets that has included Cincinnati last year, Minneapolis in 2014 and Kansas City in 2012. But unlike those Midwest hubs, San Diego has lots of experience playing host to prominent events and is a popular tourist destination. The NFL has staged three Super Bowls at Qualcomm Stadium, and the downtown San Diego Convention Center, site of FanFest, is home to Comic-Con International, which starts July 21 and draws more than 130,000 people each year.
The All-Star Game, however, arrives at a period of turbulence for the host club Padres, who last week stood in last place in the NL West Division. A large roster shake-up conducted over the past two years has not proved successful, prompting owner Ron Fowler recently to call the club “miserable failures” on a local radio show. A group of blogs covering the Padres recently called for the firing of team President and Chief Executive Mike Dee, but he retains the full support of club ownership.