I woke up after only five hours of sleep, more than an hour before my scheduled wake up call. I was very excited about all the things taking place on this day and couldn't wait to get downtown and start the activities. Eric and I left the motel at 8:30am and arrived downtown shortly before 9:00am.
Our first stop of the day was the All Star FanFest at the Cleveland Convention Center. The FanFest is a traveling baseball extravaganza that shows up at each major baseball event including past All Star weekends and the World Series. There are baseball displays, interactive sections, games, batting cages, souveneir stands, fantasy games, and collectible trading areas. All you had to do to expereience everything was purchase a ticket and enter at your designated time . . . otherwise, you could stay as long as you wanted and do as much as you wanted -- it was all free.
The first thing Eric and I did was record our own fanstasy play by play. We sat down in front of a television, put on headsets, and did commentary for the historic Seattle Mariners game five victory over the New York Yankees in 1995. We probably sounded like complete idiots, but it was the most fun I have had in a long time (I have always wanted to do the commentary for that game) and we each got a copy of the tape to keep.
Eric Sildon and I recording our fantasy Play by Play game.
After finishing with the recording, Eric and I walked around looking for what other areas interested us. We spent some time playing carnival games and trying to win baseball souveneirs but proved unable. We stood in line for a while at the fantasy batting cage, pitching cage and virtual bullpen (you pitch to a computer image of a real player and try to strike him out) but decided it wasn't worth the wait. So, we decided it was time to start looking at the collectibles area.
The collectibles area took up half of the main floor of the convention center. There were hundreds of vendors offering cards, baseballs, uniforms, bats, programs and magazines, posters, helmets, and autographs on anything and everything relating to sports. Eric is a pin collector and spent most of his time trying to add to his collection while I walked around looking at everything and trying to restrain myself from purchasing thousands of dollars in collectibles. I haven't actively collected baseball cards in a few years but I was totally excited all of the selection and almost fell back into my collecting. We ended up spending more than four hours just looking at the collectibles, trading pins, collecting cards, and purchasing items. We met Kathy and her brother Stephen at Fan Fest and formulated plans to spend the afternoon at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Kathy, Stephen, and I misplaced Eric sometime after we left FanFest and were unable to spend any time at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (something that Kathy really wanted to do -- and was sort of angry because we didn't). While Kathy and I looked around the hotel for Eric, we ran into James Carville (a Democratic strategist and political idol of mine) and went back to his room to talk for a while. I have to say that was a huge highlight in my life.
At 4:00pm, we left the hotel on our way to the All Star Pre-Game Party. The party took place in a park next to the Convention center right on the water and featured unlimited food (from all the best restaurants in Cleveland), more free gifts, visits from all the baseball team mascots, and a concert by the Beach Boys. Yes, the Beach Boys.
For more than an hour, I stood next to the stage with Kathy and watched as the Beach Boys performed all of their greatest hits. We sung along with the (considerably older) other fans at the party, screamed out requests for our favorite tunes (Kathy really wanted to hear "Be True To Your School"), and watched in awe as Mike Love and the others came close to use, interacted with us, accepted gifts from the crowd, tossed beach balls, brought kids onto the stage to sing along, and more. I haven't had that much fun at a concert in years. When the concert was over, Kathy and I waited around until the Beach Boys left the stage, trying to get a good luck. Then we went onto the game.
The Beach Boys performing at the All Star Pre-Game Party
I was supposed to be joined in Cleveland by a friend of mine from Washington, D.C. but he was unable to find a flight and I was stuck with an extra ticket. So, on the way to the game we consulted with a police officer about the legal places and prices to sell a ticket and received $100 from a gentlemen looking for a ticket for his wife. Interestingly, the seat next to me (the seat I sold) was never filled during the game, so I was essentially paid for a ticket that was never used. I wonder what happened.
As we walked up to Jacobs Field, you could see from blocks away that the stadium was ready for the big game. Red, White, and Blue bunting hung near ever gate and every entrance to the stadium and there were hundreds of extra attendants and security guards around to usher folks into the ballpark. Demonstrators had gathered outside of the park to protest the use of the likeness of the Indian by the host team. They were a quiet but very emotional group who were very committed to their cause.
I scanned my ticket at the gate and received my free All Star Game seat cushion. When I took my seat (500 level at first base) I watched the grounds crew put the finishing touches on the infield, watering things down to add a rich color to the evening. The National League All Star reserves came onto the field and were introduced. When the starters were introduced, Kenny Lofton, former Cleveland Indians lead-off hitter who currently plays for the Atlanta Braves received a standing ovation. The remainder of the All Stars received mediocre applause. When the American League All Stars were announced a standing ovation was once again given to the home-town favorites manager Mike Hargrove, David Justice, Jim Thome and Sandy Alomar, Jr.. As for the rest, the Seattle Mariners five starters received a warm welcome but Albert Belle, the former Cleveland Indians starter was soundly booed for almost a minute (which he acknowledged and almost seemed to enjoy).
During the introductions, hundreds of volunteers some carrying individual flags, some carrying baloons, and some holding on to a wrapped up flag (one canadian, one American) took positions on the field. The announcments were made and the Canadian National Anthem was sung as a giant Canadian Flag was unfurled and waved by the fifty or so volunteers each holding a section. Moments later, our National Anthem was sung as a giant U.S. flag was unfurled and waved by dozens of volunteers. When both anthems had been sung, thousands of red, white, and blue balloons were released into the sky, fireworks exploded overhead, and a flyover by 4 F-14 jet fighters drowned out all sound.
The field was cleared of debris, time was taken for a television time-out, and the game was ready to begin. The frustratring thing about the All Star Game is that everyone is so talented -- particularly the pitchers -- that there is very little action. This game showcased the pitching talents of both leagues, particularly the American League, and so there was very little scoring. Randy Johnson started things off for the American League pitching two no-hit innings. After he was removed from the game I took a short nap, missing most of third and fourth innings and then woke up when Edgar Martinez drilled a homerun to left field giving the American League the lead 1-0. Javy Lopez lined a solo homerun, also to left field, a few innings later to tie things up. But, it was the two run homerun by Sandy Alomar, Jr. in the seventh inning that proved to be the deciding factor. Alomar was named MVP of the game.
The scoreboard at Jacobs Field announcing the selection of Sandy Alomar, Jr. as MVP of the All Star Game.
We filed out of the stadium, went back to the Marriot to pick up all our stuff, stood in the lobby as the players returned from the game (AL stars were smiling and excited while the NL stars were rushing to get out of the motel and head home). Eric and I made our way back to our motel (in the rain) via the airport (after sitting on the RTA for 30 minutes while intoxicated locals yelled about the delay) only to find that lightning had struck a nearby transformer causing the motel to lose power. Shortly after 2:00am, the manager of the hotel finally let us in to our room (the lack of power had disabled out door keys) and we began packing. The power finally went on, we both went to sleep, and when I awoke in the morning Eric had already left for the airport and was on his way back to Washington, D.c.
I took the shuttle to the aiport,took a short nap by the gate, and boarded a flight back to Chicago. When I got back in Chicago, I had lunch and dinner with my hosts, Scott and Annette Turow and then played baseball and ate ice cream with their daughter Eve. Another full day.