Saturday, March 25, 2006

MLB stars to visit Pittsburgh in style

MLB stars to visit Pittsburgh in style When baseball's elite players cluster in July, they needn't worry about tapping into their All-Star bonuses for taxicab or limo fare to reach PNC Park.

As part of the Hollywood-style, star-studded events surrounding the 77th edition of Major League Baseball's mid-summer classic, the 64 All-Stars from the National and American Leagues will parade in convertibles on a red carpet from the Byham Theater across the Clemente Bridge to the ballpark.
Have them walk. And, these guys might be heros for the pill-popping culture, but they are not worthy of any idol status for me and my family. Hell no.

If you want to see a real cavalcade of stars, go to the city league baseball championships -- or a WPIAL baseball championships, if not softball.

I hate it when we rob our kids of basics -- like rec centers, ball fields, and swim pools. Then we heap frills on those that don't need them. It is another example of miss-placed priorities. And, it is another example of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer.

We should celebrate the game. Games have players. Big deal.

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Anonymous said...

MLB stars to visit Pittsburgh in style
Red carpet just part of welcome to All-Star Game

Saturday, March 25, 2006
By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When baseball's elite players cluster in July, they needn't worry about tapping into their All-Star bonuses for taxicab or limo fare to reach PNC Park.

All-Star Game events scheduled

Pirates' season-ticket sales surge

As part of the Hollywood-style, star-studded events surrounding the 77th edition of Major League Baseball's mid-summer classic, the 64 All-Stars from the National and American Leagues will parade in convertibles on a red carpet from the Byham Theater across the Clemente Bridge to the ballpark.

The cavalcade of stars, introduced last year in Detroit, is but one example of the evolution of an event returning to Pittsburgh for the first time since 1994 and for the fifth time since 1944. Back in the day, ballplayers could ride the trolley to Forbes Field, both of which are as extinct as steelmaking inside the city limits.

"It's more than just a game. It's five days of events, some of which extend beyond the ballpark," said Marla Miller, MLB's senior vice president of special events. "People who can't get to the festivities will be able to actually see the players and their wives parading on a red carpet like they were arriving at the Oscars. We're going to showcase the city. We're going to decorate it in ways never seen before."

The game, which has become one of the premier sporting events in the world, will be held on Tuesday, July 11. Related festivities include the John Hancock All-Star FanFest at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center beginning on Friday, July 7; the Taco Bell All-Star Sunday that includes the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game and the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity Softball Game; and the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day coupled with the Century 21 All-Star Home Run Derby.

Of all the details still to be made public, the ones concerning ticket availability and prices are the most tantalizing. Those nuggets will be announced at a news conference on April 28, the day balloting begins among fans choosing the eight starting players on each team.

But the roughly 11,000 or so fans who have Pirates' season tickets or qualifying partial plans, which are still available for purchase, will have priority for All-Star tickets. Notifications are being mailed out now, and the response will help determine how many tickets will be sold at-large through a public lottery. Last year, 2,000 tickets were made available out of 60,000 requests.

"Is it ever as much as people would like? That's always the question," said Ms. Miller, who will be in the city Wednesday and Thursday for another round of planning meetings with the Pirates and the city. "We do feel strongly that season ticket-holders are the group that should be rewarded for their support and love of the game."

Premium prices will be charged for some premium seats in the Home Plate Club and club level sections. But for the most part, costs are expected to be in the range they were last year in Detroit -- $150 to $250 for a game ticket; $175 for the Home Run Derby; and $50 for the Futures Games, which features top minor leaguers representing the stars of tomorrow. FanFest tickets range from $20 for adults to $15 for military personnel, senior citizens and children under 12; the same tickets were $16 and $12 last year.

"Ticket prices will be in the same range as last year," Ms. Miller said. "We're not looking to increase ticket prices significantly."

Whatever the price, demand will exceed the supply of 40,536 tickets. Some web sites that specialize in special events are already offering game tickets starting at $575. An all-inclusive Grand Slam ticket can be had for $3,060 to $3,755.

Baseball markets its appeal to the passions of generations. In Pittsburgh's case, organized baseball dates to the Civil War. The city has had a franchise in the National League since 1877, the spring after George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry were wiped out attacking a Sioux village.

Part of that generational appeal is reflected in the honorary spokesmen for the All-Star game -- Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski and current player Jason Bay, the rookie of the year in 2004 whose bat is already on display in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Last year's honorary dignitaries were Hall of Famer Al Kaline and current player Pudge Rodriguez.

Duties for singing The National Anthem and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch have yet to be determined, although MLB is focused on an artist who will appeal to the 18-to-29 demographic. When the game was played in 1994 at Three Rivers Stadium, Meat Loaf sang and the late Willie Stargell tossed out the first ball.

Twelve years ago, the All-Star Gala at Heinz Hall featured Tony Bennett in front of an audience of 3,500. The entertainment hasn't been determined yet, but the gala will be at the Convention Center for an audience of 5,000.

Although no overall theme has been announced yet for the five-day event, the portion of FanFest devoted to Hometown Heroes in other cities will carry the special designation of Steeltown Heroes to honor the city's baseball history.

Events are also planned to recall players from the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays of the old Negro League along with players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Sean Gibson of McKees Rocks, great-grandson of the late Josh Gibson, has organized a gala through the Heinz History Center called "Remember The History." He is working to line up an A-list speaker for the tribute on Sunday, July 9.

Also on Sunday, a group led by state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland, will dedicate a historical marker in Oakland at the site of Forbes Field.

The Pittsburgh Symphony is expected to hold an All-Star concert, and a pre-game concert featuring contemporary music will be held at the Chevrolet Amphitheater in Station Square.

FanFest merits a special distinction this year and not just because it's billed as the largest baseball event in the world or the next best thing to being inside a ballpark. A baseball theme park, FanFest turns 16 years old this summer. And this is the first year it returns to a city a second time.

In 1994, the convention center was too small to accommodate baseball and a gathering of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quarter Singing in America, so FanFest was split between the convention hall and Point State Park.

This time, FanFest will cover 400,000 square feet under one roof but within sight and walking distance of PNC Park.

"FanFest has evolved quite a bit," said Morgan Littlefield, MLB's director of special events. "It's almost as if Pittsburgh has grown with us. I never thought I'd be so excited about an exhibit hall, but it's gorgeous."

Ms. Littlefield was at the convention center during this year's PirateFest, held the weekend before the Super Bowl in Detroit. She got a sampling of how passionate football fans are when she met a couple touring the show with their grandson, who was named Steeler.

"Pittsburgh is such a great sports town. People were so fired up," she said.

Recent history has been less than stellar for the Pirates and their fans, however. A franchise record of 13 straight losing seasons has dovetailed with economic disparity and an offensive boom fueled by steroids even as overall baseball attendance keeps reaching new heights.

If it weren't for PNC Park, the Pirates would likely have gone the way of the old Montreal Expos. The ballpark has drawn nothing but raves as a venue and will be on display as much as the city at All-Star time.

While the economic impact of the event is oft-debated, a formula devised by the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus estimates the event will be worth $52.3 million to the region.

Former Mayor Tom Murphy, the driving force behind ballpark construction, said the boost to the city's image is immeasurable.

"On the night of the All-Star game, with 100 million people watching, a lot of people will have a different view than they've had of Pittsburgh," Mr. Murphy said. "What's that worth? It's priceless."

In addition to promotions that are heavy on the All-Star theme, ballpark workers will wear All-Star logos on their caps beginning with opening day. All-Star jerseys will be worn as the game draws nearer.

A couple of changes to the ballpark are required to accommodate the 2,000 or so media who will attend the game.

In the area behind center field, a third tier is being added to the camera perches because so many more photographers will be on hand.

In the main concourse, 16 auxiliary broadcast booths will be built.

And an auxiliary press box will be noticeable down the right field line. Instead of the area serving as the Pirates Cove, it will seat 400 media and will require work stations and wireless connections.

In the bowels of the ballpark, every inch, every room and every closet of the service tunnel will serve some All-Star function. Plans include entry and exit to the field for VIPs and mascots, workrooms for productions, interview rooms for Fox Sports and ESPN and a commissioner's holding room in the event of inclement weather.

Additionally, security will be of paramount concern. With Pittsburgh police acting as coordinating agency, security will include elements of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Pennsylvania State Police and the U.S. military, especially the Coast Guard with its jurisdiction on the three rivers.

Meanwhile, about 2,000 All-Star volunteers have already signed up to help with events and the influx of visitors. Additional volunteers can register through the Pirates' web site ( but are advised to do so soon.

The All-Star game will have an impact in ways not readily seen.

The Allegheny Conference and the Convention and Visitors Bureau will be available to discuss economic and business issues with visiting media interested in the story of Pittsburgh.

And baseball's national sponsors will enjoy some local recreational opportunities. A fantasy camp for sponsors will be held at Falconi Field, home of the Washington Wild Things, with a championship game between the two finalists to be played at PNC Park the day after the All-Star game. In addition, sponsors will enjoy a golf outing at Fox Chapel Country Club.

"It's going to be a tremendous event for the region," said Patty Paytas, vice president of communications for the Pirates. "It's Major League Baseball's event, and the Pirates will serve as the host. But it's Pittsburgh's game."

(Robert Dvorchak can be reached at or 412-263-1959.)