Tom Greene | July 11th, 2019
16 miles. Two days. An amazing experience. The 2019 All-Star Game provided a great lineup of things to do for fans anywhere from 10 to 100… and even the youngsters got a thrill out of the mascots there! While I was not credentialed to go to this event (I hope my writing can get to the right people at some point), I had a great time experiencing the nation focusing on one city and one event. Cleveland had a couple years to prepare for this and they knocked it out of the park. Of course, not everyone was satisfied, but that’s not realistic. Let me tell you what I got out of this great event.
Play Ball! Park
This year, for the first time in All-Star Game history, Major League Baseball set up a “Play Ball! Park”, which was a major fan fest for all fans to attend. This was a great idea by commissioner Rob Manfred and the 30 clubs, as not everyone can afford the $300+ it takes to get into Progressive Field (or any other All-Star Game). And no, I couldn’t afford that price either. Our @jball0202 didn’t quite have the funds for it (nor did I ask).
What was included at Play Ball! Park? Fancy you ask! A lot of things! There were outside and inside areas in this park, hosted at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland.
On the outside, which was free admission, there was a stage that hosted fans, mascots, as well as celebs performing certain things or playing different games. Someone could sit there all day and enjoy those festivities. Also, an area which had posts listing all the All-Star players, starter and reserve. Behind that was a small makeshift ball field that allowed kids, nine at a time, to play pick-up ball and get a lot of exercise. Behind that was an area where people of all ages could take batting practice, hitting a ball off a tee. Also, there were areas where BP could be taken off a pitching machine and a Pitching area where you could test how fast your fastball was. A lot of these things you could see at almost any Major League Stadium.
And that’s only one side of the outside.
On the other side, there were food trucks… food trucks galore! You could have lunch on one side of the park and burn it off on the other. Oh, yes, and there was a Zipline, which one of my friends did, for a $35 fee. Pricey, but worth it for a lot of people.
Now, the inside.
The inside of the Convention Center had a varied fee, dependent on what day you went. On Monday (when I went), it was $25. You may leave and re-enter. On the inside, there were food stands and a park, like the outside. But, the varied fee you had to pay was very well worth it. There were exhibits for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame, for those that can’t go to either. Also, a lot of video game experiences were available, including MLB The Show ’19, and a VR experience. As an observer, I noticed fans and kids coming out in droves to get their chance to experience them. At one point, the VR Experience line closed as there was a seven-hour wait in line. The pouring of fans is something the MLB will have to consider for next All-Star Game, as a critique.
Home Run Derby/All-Star Game
At the time of the Derby and Game (Sadly, I was not in town on game night, but the experience for the Derby was just as spectacular), the town was hopping. Panini’s, the Bar outside Progressive Field, was hopping with guests, scalpers flooded the corners of the park and people were crowded inside and outside the park to watch Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Joc Pederson, and Pete Alonso swing for the fences in the Derby. Inside the park was amazing. Where I was, outside the park, also was amazing. The Indians staff, including Bridget Linton, did a great job entertaining fans in a mock Home Run Derby, inviting young fans to hit a rubber ball with a Wiffle bat to fans in the plaza. Whether you were inside or outside the park, you were entertained. Despite me not being in town on Tuesday, I was very much entertained.
Media, Media, Media!
With a huge national event such as the All-Star Game, there’s no doubt that media is everywhere, and man, did I experience that!
If you’re interested in working in sports, like I am, networking is a major part of the game. Whether it’s on the local or national level, always take time to get to know media members. You never know, they can help you reach the level you want to get to. It all takes time.
With that being said, at Play Ball! Park, there was local Cleveland media as well as national media all around, covering all sides of the park as well as the game. Not all national media was there as there are other events around the country, but ESPN, FOX, MLB Network and media from other nations were there covering the event. In simply one day of walking around, I got to meet Trey Wingo (@wingoz), Mike Golic Sr. (@espngolic) and Jr. (@MGolicJR57) (ESPN), Shannon Ford (@Shannon__Ford), Kelsey Wingert (@KelsWingert), Abby Hornacek (@abbyhornacek) (FOX Sports/FOX Nation), Jackie Redmond (@Jackie_Redmond) (MLB/NHL Network), Jason Benetti (@jasonbenetti)(ESPN/NBCSN Chicago), Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) (The Athletic DET/Tigers), Bridget Linton (@Bridget_Linton) (ESPN Cleveland/Indians host), Jennie Finch (@jenniefinch) (USA Softball) and Kelly Crull (@Kelly_Crull) (NBCSN Chicago). That’s certainly a lot of people, and there were more I wish I could have seen.
Another critique of Play Ball! Park was the distance it was from Progressive Field. Kelly Crull told me that it was something that was unlike other All-Star Games, and an inconvenience for media, as the distance was over a mile from the stadium. For the future, the MLB should consider that.
The Point of it all
Writing about an experience is very unique, as you’re retelling the story of your experience as only you can tell it. Someone can watch all the hours of coverage a network provides the experience, and it can feel as if you are there. But, the only way to truly experience an event is to go to it in person. I’m very glad I got to do that. And, I hope this article reaches the right people to where I can experience it again.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images