On Sunday morning, I arrived in Saint Louis for three days of All-Star festivities.
The Future's Game, consisting of the best minor leaguers in baseball, was slated to start at 1 p.m. An inning and a half had passed before an unexpected storm wiped the players off the field. Three hours later, the game resumed with the World team beating the USA, 7-5.
The Legends & Celebrities took center stage for a game of softball to finish the day. Participants included Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Ozzie Smith, as well as former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight. In the end, amid comedy and drama, the National League edged their American League counterparts, 10-8.
Monday was a bit more eventful. I covered a clinic held by Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and interviewed him afterwards. The former Orioles star was incredibly insightful, talking about the state of baseball today. Later, I went to the player press conferences and got the chance to speak with stars ranging from Hanley Ramirez to Evan Longoria.
I ate a quick, late lunch, and then headed off to the Home Run Derby.
We arrived on the field at Busch Stadium hours before the exhibition. Nevertheless, media was everywhere watching batting practice. I managed to see the players warm up and provided a quick prediction for Tuesday's game.
We took our seats, and of the eight candidates, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols was the obvious fan favorite. However, "El Hombre" as known in St. Louis, failed to meet expectations. He lost in the second round. Surprise candidates Prince Fielder and Nelson Cruz were the finalists (St. Louis native Ryan Howard was also knocked out in the semis). Eventually, the Brewers' first baseman took home the title.
Tuesday was game day, and the atmosphere was unmatched. Before the red carpet show, I talked second half projections at length with MLB Network's Greg Amsinger. The Red Carpet Show served as an opening highlight to a fantastic evening.
The 80th Annual All-Star Game did not disappoint. Manager Joe Maddon & Company won 4-3 in dramatic fashion. Carl Crawford, the game's MVP, robbed a would-be Brad Hawpe home run to keep the score knotted at 3. He also added a single. However, fellow outfielder Curtis Granderson broke the tie, tripling then scoring on Adam Jones's sacrifice fly. The National League threatened in the eighth with men on second and third, but pinch hitter Ryan Howard struck out to end the inning.
The American League locks up World Series homefield advantage and is now 38-40-2 in the Mid-summer Classic.
I am at a loss for words to describe my experiences this week. The St. Louis fans' devotion to the Cardinals franchise and to the game of baseball leave one in agreement that it is the best baseball town in America.