After over a year of talking the talk, the Royals and the Kansas City community are more than ready to walk the walk and strut the beauty and entertainment value our little neck of the woods has to offer as Kansas City hosts the 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday at one of the game's oldest and most popular venues, Kauffman Stadium.
While the current season may not yet be "Our Time" for the Royals, everyone who is supporting or involved in putting on the many ancillary events and festivities that are tied to the actual annual exhibition of MLB all-stars seems to be going out of their way to affirm that this is absolutely "Our Time" to showcase for all the world to see the best our great city has to offer.
The list of events and activities, including FanFest, which features current and former Royals players, autograph sessions, games for young and old, MLB exhibits and hordes of licensed merchandise, is too long to list here. In addition to all the commercial aspects of having the All-Star Game in Kansas City, there are also a long list of philanthropic projects around town in conjunction with the game that benefit the Kansas City community and beyond. Major League Baseball, in a press release, described the week-long collection of charitable activities as the "most extensive lasting legacy endeavor in MLB All-Star Week history."
This will be Kansas City's third time to host the Midsummer Classic and the second time for Kauffman Stadium. The 1973 All-Star Game was held at what was then called Royals Stadium, the first year the ballpark opened. The major league All-Stars played the first of two games that were played in 1960, at old Municipal Stadium in downtown Kansas City (from 1960-62, two All-Star Games were played every year).
The American League leads in the National League in All-Star Game wins all time 42-38, but the NL all-stars have won both games that have been played in Kansas City (5-3 in 1960 and 7-1 in 1973). Designated-hitter Billy Butler will be making his first All-Star Game appearance as Kansas City's lone representative on the 2012 AL All-Star squad.
Butler is one of 14 first-time All-Stars making their debut appearance in this year's game.
There are some who believe shortstop Alcides Escobar was more deserving, but the nod went to Butler, who was the Most Valuable Player in the 2006 Futures game that was part of the pre-All-Star Game events the year the game was hosted by the NL Pittsburgh Pirates at then six-year-old PNC Park. Butler is batting .287, with a team-high 16 home runs and 48 runs batted in. Escobar lead the Royals in hitting with a .307 average and in hits with 87 in 78 games.
There is a controversy brewing with the Home Run Derby competition over why the Royals' Butler was passed over in setting the lineup of AL participants in the popular slugging contest. You would think that it would make a lot of sense to include a hometown participant. And to make matters worse, New York Yankee Robinson Cano, the winner of the Home Run Derby competition a year ago when the game was played in Phoenix and the captain of this year's AL Derby participants, allegedly said if a Royals' position player was selected to the 2012 All-Star team, he would be included in the competition.
Obviously Cano was not good to his word, which more than likely is going to bring out the local boo birds when the AL All-Star second baseman is announced to the crowd in both the Home Run Derby contest as well in the All-Star Game itself. This whole issue and how it easily could have been avoided is a separate story all to itself, but suffice it to say that Butler and the Royals are much better served in the short and long term by not having him compete in the contest.
First of all, Butler candidly is not of the same slugging caliber of the rest of the home run competitors and, second, by swinging for the fences in this competition in cavernous Kauffman Stadium, there is a good chance that it could have a negative effect on the Kansas City designated hitter's swing mechanics when the regular season resumes after the All-Star break. And that's something the Royals cannot afford to happen.
Back to the All-Star Game itself, the Texas Rangers lead all teams with five All-Star selections, three as starters (outfielder Josh Hamilton, third baseman Andrian Beltre and catcher Mike Napoli). Four San Francisco Giants head the NL roster, including three in starting positions (catcher Buster Posey, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielder and former KC Royal Melky Cabrera).
When the game was last played in Kansas City, in 1973, three Royals made the AL team, two as starters. Amos Otis, who was the first Kansas City Royal ever to be selected to the All-Star Game (in 1970), started in center field, and John Mayberry was the starter at first base in place of the injured Dick Allen of the Chicago White Sox. Cookie Rojas, the Royals' second baseman in the early part of the 1970s, was the third Royal to be named to the All-Star team in 1973.
With three All-Star Games, Kansas City moves into a tie with Milwaukee, San Francisco, Houston and Anaheim for cities that have hosted the Midsummer Classic three times. Only 10 other major-league cities have hosted the game more times. Between the Yankees, Mets and the former Giant and Dodgers, New York City has been the site for the most All-Star Games with eight, and it will become nine next summer when the game is held at Citi Field, home of the Mets. The game was held at old Yankee Stadium four times, the most of any one ballpark.
Chicago has hosted the game seven times (three times at old Comiskey Park, three at Wrigley Field and one at U.S. Cellular Field), and Cleveland, Pittsburgh and St. Louis have been the site for five All-Star Games each. Boston, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati and Philadelphia each have hosted four MLB All-Star Games. For being one of the smallest markets in Major League Baseball, Kansas City is in good company considering the number of times the All-Star Game has been played here.
Eight active major league ballparks have never hosted an All-Star Game: Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies), Petco Park in San Diego, Nationals Park (Washington Nationals), the Minnesota Twins's Target Field and newly opened Marlins Park in Miami.