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It’s late June, which means that the MLB All-Star break is almost here.  The weekend is full of events (such as the Celebrity Softball game and the Home Run Derby) and culminates in the All-Star Game, where the American and National Leagues battle to determine home field advantage in the World Series. This is quite the incentive for players and managers to go out and do what they normally do on the field.  As we’ve seen in the past with other major league sports, there sometimes just isn’t a drive for players to play. The NBA All Star game has turned into a street ball contest.  The NFL doesn’t have the Superbowl teams playing in it.  Many sports fans are unaware that the NHL even has an all-star game.

In contrast, the Midsummer Classic is quality baseball.  The American League has been historically dominant; last year was the first National League victory in 13 years.  This year’s host is the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ.  It’s the first time ever that there will be a designated hitter in a National League stadium. Here is the best way to find tickets to the MLB All-Star Game and the Fan Fest.

2011 Celebrity Softball Game

Though the split into two teams hasn’t yet been determined, the players have been announced.  Some former MLB players that I’m excited to see in the field are Mike Piazza, Bernie Williams, Ozzie Banks, Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage, Ernie Banks, Fred Lynn, Steve Garvey and Rollie Fingers, as well as recently retired Arizona Diamondbacks Luis Gonzalez and Mark Grace.

Other notable professional athletes will be joining the baseball old-timers: Larry Fitzgerald, an NFL wide-receiver for the Arizona Cardinals and Jennie Finch, an Olympic gold medalist in Women’s Softball, are slated to play.  (Fun fact: Fitzgerald has only held 2 jobs in his entire life: ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings and and his wide-receiver position. Rough life.)

Celebrities:

  • Kate Upton – Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Rookie in 2011
  • Chris Pratt – Actor, “Parks and Recreation” and “Moneyball”
  • Jordin Sparks – Singer, American Idol sensation
  • Chord Overstreet – Actor, “Glee”
  • Jesse Williams – Actor, “Grey’s Anatomy”
  • Amaury Nolasco – Actor, “Southland”
  • James Denton – Actor, “Deseperate Housewives”
  • Tim DeKay – Actor, “White Collar”
  • Paul DiMeo – Designer and Co-host, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
  • Tom Papa – Host, “Marriage Ref”
  • Dave Annable – Actor, “Brothers & Sisters”
  • Jake T. Austin – Actor, “Wizards of Waverly Place”
  • A.J. Calloway – Host, “Extra”
  • Greg Grunberg – Actor, Love Bites” and “Heroes”

2011 Home Run Derby

Chase Field has been in the MLB’s top 5 for scoring from 2005 to 2009.  While that doesn’t mean it’s a “home run hitting park” per se, it does show that the park favors hitters over pitchers. The retractable roof may come into play: if the roof is closed and there is no wind factor, the derby hitters will be tested on pure strength and contact. Wind may not play a large role regardless, due to the general lack of strong winds in Phoenix.  But heat will almost certainly be an issue in all of the events: the average temperature in July is 107 degrees Fahrenheit.  Granted, this isn’t football, but those baseball jerseys can still get hot.

The actual list of players that will be participating hasn’t been yet been announced but here’s my wish list of players for the 2011 Derby:

  • Jose Bautista: With an average of .325 and a slugging percentage of .655, how could you not want to see what this guy can do in the derby. He’s tied with the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira to lead the league in home runs at 23.
  • Mark Teixeira: This may be my Yankees’ fan bias but: if you’re leading the league in homers why wouldn’t you be picked?  Teixeira has proved time and time again that he’s a great hitter and deserves a spot even if his 2011 season average is a spotty .247.
  • Prince Fielder: With 21 home runs, .611 slugging percentage, and a .305 batting average, he is a key part of the Brew Crew’s success.
  • David Ortiz: Big Papi is a hitter. There is no question that he brings an excitement factor to any hitting contest out there.
  • Adrian Gonzalez: He is on a tear this season and has passed Teixeira on the All-Star Ballot for AL starting first baseman. He is batting .361 with 21 home runs and a slugging percentage of .611.

Home Run Derby Lineup

    • David Ortiz (AL Captain)
    • Jose Bautista (AL)
    • Adrian Gonzalez (AL)
    • Robinson Cano ( AL)
    • Prince Fielder (NL Captain)
    • Rickie Weeks (NL)
    • Matt Kemp (NL)
    • Matt Holliday (NL)

Home Run Derby Recap

It originally look as if Adrian Gonzalez was going to take home the derby title but that was before Robinson Cano stepped up to the plate. It may be the best father-son showing ever. Jose Cano, a former MLB player, pitched for the Houston Astros in 1989 not even for 1 season. This was probably the highlight of his career which is ironic because normally someone’s highlight isn’t getting a total of 32 homeruns hit off them in a night. Anyway here is the breakdown of the rounds.

Round 1

  • Adrian Gonzalez: 9
  • Robinson Cano: 8
  • David Ortiz: 5
  • Prince Fielder: 5
  • Matt Holliday: 5
  • Jose Bautista: 4
  • Rickie Weeks: 3
  • Matt Kempt: 2
Round 2
  • Robinson Cano: 12
  • Adrian Gonzalez: 11
  • David Ortiz: 4
  • Prince Fielder: 4
Final Round
  • Robinson Cano: 12
  • Adrian Gonzalez: 11

2011 All-Star Game

The Midsummer Classic is being held in the dry desert heat of Phoenix, Arizona. There is little chance that it will rain but that doesn’t mean the roof will be open at Chase Field. The lineups haven’t been set yet but the ballot voting is pretty clear cut thus far. Here is a list of the teams thus far.

*UPDATED SINCE PLAYERS HAVE DROPPED OUT

National League (Updated Starters)

  • Catcher: Brian McCann
  • First Base: Albert Pujols (injured), Joey Votto (current runner-up) Prince Fielder
  • Second Base: Bardon Phillips, Rickie Weeks (close second) Rickie Weeks
  • Third Base: Placido Polanco Scott Rolen
  • Short Stop: Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes
  • Outfield (top 3): Ryan Braun, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp
  • Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay
Batting Order
  • 1) Rickie Weeks
  • 2) Carlos Beltran (DH)
  • 3) Matt Kemp
  • 4) Prince Fielder
  • 5) Brian McCann
  • 6) Lance Berkman
  • 7) Matt Holliday
  • 8) Troy Tulowitzki
  • 9) Scott Rolen

American League (Updated Starters)

  • Catcher: Russell Martin, Alex Avila
  • First Base: Adrian Gonzalez
  • Second Base: Robinson Cano
  • Third Base: Alex Rodriguez Adrian Beltre
  • Shortstop: Derek Jeter Asdrubal Cabrera
  • Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
  • Outfield (top 5): Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Josh Hamilton
  • Starting Pitcher: Jared Weaver
Batting Order
  • 1) Curtis Granderson
  • 2) Asdrubal Cabrera
  • 3) Adrian Gonzalez
  • 4) Jose Bautista
  • 5) Josh Hamilton
  • 6) Adrian Beltre
  • 7) David Ortiz (DH)
  • 8) Robinson Cano
  • 9) Alex Avila

2011 All-Star Game Tickets

MLB All-Star Game tickets (and other All-Star events) can be purchased at SeatGeek. FanFest tickets are fairly affordable and are able to be purchased for <20$. 2011 Home Run Derby tickets are pretty pricey, especially if you’re hoping to catch a ball – outfield tickets are upward of $200.00.  Tickets to the All-Star Game itself are still rather reasonable as well – $50 for seats near the foul pole in both left and right fields.

Image via Flickr user lisabeephotos