NEW YORK – Though we’re just 20 games into the young season and temperatures in New York have struggled to surpass 50 degrees, Wednesday marked the official start of “All-Star Summer” in New York City. The Mets and Major League Baseball hosted a press conference at New York’s City Hall with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to announce the commencement of balloting (“Vote Early, Vote Often”) and to highlight some of the major initiatives around the 2013 Midsummer Classic to be played at Citi Field on July 16.
Joining Hizzoner for the festivities were Tim Brosnan, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Business; six-time National League All-Star third baseman David (“Captain America”) Wright of the Mets; and former Mets players (and current Club Ambassadors) Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco and Mookie Wilson. Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz of the Mets also attended and Mets announcers Gary Cohen and Howie Rose facilitated a question and answer session with the players.
“Are they all going to help make it a great time?” Mayor Bloomberg quipped in his opening remarks before channeling his inner Tug McGraw. “Ya gotta believe!”
The press conference introduced details regarding all the events surrounding the All-Star Game including the always popular T-Mobile All-Star FanFest (July 12-16 at the Javits Center), the Chevrolet All-Star Red Carpet Show which will travel across 42nd Street in Manhattan before the game, Taco Bell All-Star Sunday at Citi Field (including the Futures Game and Legends and Celebrity Softball game) as well as the charitable initiatives MLB will be undertaking in the New York City area (more than $4 million planned to assist Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, cancer research, RBI programs and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, among others).
Mayor Bloomberg also highlighted the economic impact of the All-Star Game on the area. And if anybody knows about money in New York City, it’s Mayor Mike.
“We know that the All-Star Game and the events surrounding it are going to be an economic grand slam for our city,” Bloomberg said. “We expect them to have something like $191 million impact on our economy with 176,000 new visitors, reporters and fans flocking to our city. The game will also put New York City in front of a worldwide television and internet audience in excess of 30 million viewers. That’s the kind of massive media exposure money can’t buy.”
Another important component of the press conference was the release of the names on the All-Star Game Ballot. Voting will take place starting as early as April 24 and continuing as late as June 28. No, I’m not going to get into a discussion of some of the more ludicrous names that appear on the ballot – cough cough, Delmon Young, Mark Teixeira, Hanley Ramirez, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson – to name a few of those who have yet to have a single at-bat this season. Not to mention those whose names do not appear on the ballot at all, including Alex Rodriguez and surprise Yankee contributor Vernon Wells. I understand that some of these decisions were due to timing issues, but it is always hilarious to parse the ballots.
Now that we’ve taken care of some of the most important information, let’s take a look at some of the funnier, quirkier and under the radar moments from the press conference you may not have read about.
-When Mets radio announcer Howie Rose introduced longtime Met Mookie Wilson (one of the team’s ambassadors), there was an audible “moooooo” in the crowd, prompting Rose to add, “They were mooing, by the way.” This was certainly the first instance of “mooing” at any press conference I’ve attended. The perpetrator of the moo did not identify his or herself.
-MLB’s Brosnan encouraged fans to vote for their favorite players. “And remember, vote early and often for David. He needs to be there.” A voter corruption joke at City Hall! This was admittedly hilarious and the room, comprised of a mix of MLB writers and City Hall beat reporters, cracked up.
-Former Mets closer and four-time All-Star John Franco was clearly in the spirit when he joked, “I already voted for David 15 times.“ Brosnan even joked that Franco, who never appeared in an All-Star Game in New York, had inquired about a write-in option for the ballot.
-The Mets captain really wants to be starting at third base for this year’s game at Citi Field (you hear that, San Francisco Giants fans? Stay off the internet). “I’ve been very lucky and very fortunate to play in six All-Star Games,” Wright said. “But I’d gladly trade all six of them to participate in this year’s.”
-While beloved in New York for his heroics during the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson admitted, “I’ve never been fortunate enough -- correction --I’ve never been good enough to actually participate in an All-Star Game.” Wilson rolled his eyes at the mention of the Buckner play. He’s been hearing about it nonstop for 27 years.
-Mayor Bloomberg declared New York City the “sports capital of America,” reciting a litany of accomplishments (new stadiums for the Yankees, Mets, Giants/Jets), signature events (MLB All-Star Game 2013, Super Bowl XLVIII, NBA All-Star Game 2015, NCAA Tournament regional finals at MSG 2014) to go along with the annual U.S. Open and New York Marathon. “I don’t know any other city that can come close to that list of accomplishments,” Bloomberg said. “We really are the sports capital of America.” Go big or go home.
-David Wright admitted that he keeps the All-Star ballots with his name on it, even if he doesn’t make the team. “I have every single ballot, even the games that I wasn’t fortunate enough to play in…I make sure to grab a few every year whether I make it or not just to keep it because you’ll look back on it one day and that’s pretty special.” Aw, David, you really are a superhero, aren’t you?
-Mayor Bloomberg’s World Series prediction: “This year we’re going to have a World Series between the Mets and the Yankees which will go seven games and be decided at the end of nine innings and New York will be the winner.” When an intrepid reporter asked him to pick the winner, Bloomberg didn’t hesitate when he responded, “New York.” Well played, Mayor Bloomberg, well played.
-My favorite moment of the entire hour came when a reporter asked Edgardo Alfonso a question in Spanish. Alfonso seemed surprised but answered easily (I confess I have no idea what was asked or what Alfonso’s answer was). Bloomberg, who enjoys speaking Spanish during his press conferences (“For our Spanish-speaking New Yorkers”), turned to Alfonso and deadpanned, “Tu español es bueno.” El Bloombito would be so proud.
When the Yankees hosted the All-Star Game in 2008, New York City did a great job putting on a show. As a baseball fan and a denizen of New York, I’m looking forward to the Mets All-Star Summer 2013. Now if it would only warm up.
All information about the All-Star Game and events in the New York area can be found at www.allstargame.com.
Photo credit: MLB Photos