My summer road trip and 2016 MLB All-Star Game experience came to a close on Tuesday night with a pair of Royals blasting their way to a 4-2 American League victory over the National League and delivering the MVP award to first basemen Eric Hosmer.
It was a perfect culmination of MLB’s week-long extravaganza featuring the game’s brightest stars, which had fans from all across the nation descending to beautiful San Diego to take in the experience.
I got the chance to travel to “America’s Finest City” in style, by driving a brand new Chevrolet Tahoe, which is a gargantuan vehicle of swag where you feel like you’re siting on top of the world. With the wife and kids in tow, driving along the coast, the anticipation of experiencing my first All-Star game was continuing to build.
Upon arrival, there was an infestation of baseball fans everywhere; the All-Star game logo was dawned on street banners, windows, hotel employees’ shirts, merchandise stands and on the gear the tourists were sporting. San Diego was proud to play host to the All-Star Game for the first time since 1992, and rightfully so, as there could not have been a more perfect place.
The festivities for fans and kids were special and played to the nostalgia of yesteryear. One of my favorites had to be FanFest, which was held at the San Diego Convention Center. Merchandise was everywhere and fans had the brown and yellow All-Star Game caps and batting practice jerseys by the armful, which set a record for most merchandise sold in the mid-summer event’s history. There were displays of jerseys, balls, championship rings and bats of players in the Hall of Fame. Seeing a Babe Ruth signed ball from 1919 brought to mind memories from the movie “The Sandlot.” The live auction for these items was reaching astronomical figures.
I caught myself being a spectator at the batting cages and the Chevrolet Youth Baseball mini clinics before kids would get a ‘Make the Game Saving Catch’ experience translated on a green screen to get their own “All-Star moment.” There were multiple setups to increase the fan experience, including one for kids to steal bases, make diving catches in a foam pit, meet and greets with former baseball greats along with a place to pose with The Commissioner’s Trophy (World Series champion), which was highly guarded and had a rule of no touching. Even the two cars, a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro and Chevy Colorado, that Hosmer would have a choice between, were on display for fans to vote for their preference
Even across the street of our hotel, my sons enjoyed the ‘Play Ball’ initiative and ballpark where they gave every kid a free bat, ball, t-shirt and got to play the game under the tutelage of instructors. It was cool just to see kids having fun and enjoying America’s favorite pastime and reminding us of the purest moments of the sport.
If that wasn’t enough, San Diego and baseball fans got the red carpet treatment with the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Parade, where the players rode through the parade and were led by grand marshals and Padres’ greats Trevor Hoffman and Dave Winfield. Fans stood on the sides of the street marveling at their heroes while the players waved and show their admiration for the fans for their support.
The festivities were great but the All-Star Game was on my bucket list, as well as seeing a game in Petco Park. And neither disappointed.
Petco Park is without a doubt the best baseball stadium I’ve ever attended. With the beautiful weather and the Gaslamp District scenery in the background, it set the tone for the mid-summer classic. The stadium is filled with modern attractions, an assortment of local craft beers, and every type of food imaginable including smoked meat. Plus, how can you not love the charm of the Western Metal Supply Co. as the left field foul pole?
When it came time for the pre-game introductions, it was clear that the Padres’ Wil Myers was the belle of the ball. He received the biggest crowd reaction of the night. Every Dodger and Giant were mercilessly booed, leaving the Angels’ Mike Trout as the only non-Padres California player to not get that treatment. Even at an All-Star game, rivalries will not go ignored.
Most of the action came early in the game, with three home runs coming within the first two innings from the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez. The fans also came alive after San Diego’s hometown favorite, Myers, double in the fifth inning. However, those paled in comparison to the cheers that followed the final sendoff of Red Sox legend David Ortiz, who was playing in his final All-Star game.
Cheers erupted further when it was announced the National League batting champ will be now known as the “The Tony Gwynn National League Batting Champion Award.” San Diego loves Gwynn. His statue was constantly surrounded with people posing in front of it and even had flowers on it as a loving memorial.
The game would end, giving the American League its fourth straight victory and fans flooded out of the stadium and into downtown San Diego, decked in their favorite team’s gear, bubbling over from their emotional high. It was infectious. I had it too.
No other sport accomplishes the embodiment of the city that’s playing host, provides an inclusive feeling to its fan base and has respect for the All-Star game itself quite like Major League Baseball. The All-Star Game experience was incredible. It plays to the inner child in you who grew up idolizing and mimicking baseball legends and that love is passed through to the next generation where we all come to share in our love for the game. Even in 2016, as an adult, we welcome new stars and to say goodbye to the old ones.
I can’t wait for next year. I’ll see you in Miami.
Chevrolet and Youth Baseball Additional Factoids:
· The Chevrolet Youth Baseball program has helped raise more than $28 million to aid local teams over the last ten years.
· Additionally, through Chevrolet Youth Baseball, more than 90,000 equipment kits have been donated to teams around the country, nearly 11,000 parks have been renovated and over 111,000 kids received complimentary instruction on baseball fundamentals
· Chevrolet asked all MLB All-Stars to sign the hood of a 50th Anniversary Camaro. The car will be auctioned off on MLB.com after the All-Star Game with all of the proceeds from the auction going toward supporting Play Ball initiatives in the San Diego area.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photos by L.G. Patterson/MLB Photos and Getty Images