SAN DIEGO -- For those of us who have been here to see it, San Diego and the local Major League clubs know how to put on jewel events.For those who haven't, they'll undoubtedly be wowed when the 87th All-Star Game presented by MasterCard and festivities are staged here from
SAN DIEGO -- For those of us who have been here to see it, San Diego and the local Major League clubs know how to put on jewel events.
For those who haven't, they'll undoubtedly be wowed when the 87th All-Star Game presented by MasterCard and festivities are staged here from July 10-12.
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These things only come to town once in a generation, Mike Dee, the president of the Padres, knows.
"That's why we're incredibly excited about hosting it," Dee told MLB.com in an exclusive interview this week at the gem of a ballpark near San Diego Bay, which opened in 2004 and is in its 12th season.
San Diego has the sun, the beautiful weather and the pizzazz, but the event will be significant on many different levels.
First of all, it fulfills an MLB commitment to the fans and voters who overwhelming passed Proposition C, the initiative that approved the ballpark in 1998 at an eventual cost of $456.8 million, only weeks after the Padres were swept by the Yankees in the World Series.
Secondly, aside from the inaugural World Baseball Classic finals in 2006, this is the first major sporting event in San Diego history to be staged downtown.
The MLB All-Star Games of 1978 and '92 were both played in what is now called Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley. So were the World Series in 1984 and '98, plus a trio of Super Bowls in 1988, '98 and 2002.
The 1971 NBA All-Star Game and the '74 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four were staged at the San Diego Sports Arena in the Midway area.
Those were different times, long before the expansion of East Village, the Gaslamp District and the growth of the inner city around the ballpark on the eastern portion of downtown.
San Diego was not far removed from its roots as a sleepy Navy town in 1995 when John Moores purchased the team, and along with club president Larry Lucchino, and Dee -- then a budding sports executive -- launched the ballpark project. Even after the initiative, it took six hard years through the courts to get the project finished.
"I was born on 7th and G Streets just up from the ballpark," said George Mitrovich, a local politico who headed a committee of citizens and businessmen during the push for the ballpark. "That section of the city had never changed in my lifetime, and I knew this was absolutely the right thing to do. The results have been overwhelming.
"The fact is, the building of that ballpark has had a greater effect on this city than the building of a ballpark has had on any city in the world."
The growth began on the waterfront that flanks the ballpark replete with the magnificent San Diego Convention Center and miles of high-rise hotels that will house the visitors in town for the Sunday SiriusXM Future's Game, Monday's Gatorade All-Star Workout Day featuring the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, and the annual Tuesday night All-Star Game.
The Derby and All-Star Game are 5 p.m. PT starts, beginning in the glow of the late afternoon.
"And that's unique," Dee said. "Something that doesn't happen very often."
There will also be local events in the Gaslamp District that borders the ballpark, creating a triangle between Petco and the Convention Center where most of the action during All-Star week will transpire.
The path of the same day All-Star Game parade that has become a popular feature of the annual festivities, will meander from the doors of the Convention Center through the Gaslamp and end at the ballpark.
In addition, the first building housing the Padres Hall of Fame will open on July 1 just behind the famous Western Metal Supply Co. building, the more than century-old empty warehouse that was incorporated into the left-field corner of the ballpark.
There are already 11 members of the Hall, including Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman and Dave Winfield.
"It's just never had a home," Dee said.
The Hall is slated to open before the start of a three-game series against the Yankees, and 10 days prior to All-Star Sunday.
The latest inductees are the late Ken Caminiti and Ted Williams. Williams is an interesting choice since he played his entire 19-year career for the Red Sox, retiring in 1960 with a .344 lifetime batting average.
"But he was born and raised in San Diego, went to Hoover High and played two years [1936-37] for the Minor League Padres in the Pacific Coast League," Dee said.
No argument here.
The Padres have made history before in the All-Star Game. Long before the Home Run Derby and many ancillary events were born, the 1978 game -- at what was then called San Diego Stadium -- was the first to swing the gates open so fans could watch Monday batting practice. An estimated 30,000 turned out for free, and those BP sessions were never closed again.
Future Hall of Famers Winfield and Rollie Fingers were the Padres representatives to the National League squad, which beat the American Leaguers, 7-3, on June 11, 1978. Steve Garvey, then a Dodger, but soon to be a Padre and place an indelible imprint on club history, was the MVP.
On July 14, 1992, the stadium had been expanded and renamed after local sports editor and columnist Jack Murphy. In the NL starting lineup was a trio of Padres -- Gwynn, Fred McGriff and Benito Santiago. On the bench was Tony Fernandez and Gary Sheffield. Seven other players with Padre pedigrees also played in a game the American League won, 13-6.
Ken Griffey Jr., who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame along with Mike Piazza in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 24, was the MVP. Fourteen future Hall of Famers -- seven in each league -- played in that game.
What the future holds for this year's squads is anybody's guess. Two Padres are viable choices: Closer Fernando Rodney, who has converted all 14 of his save opportunities, and first baseman Wil Myers, a .292 hitter with 16 homers and 44 RBIs.
Myers, a second-year Padre, was named an ambassador for the club to the festivities along with Hoffman and Winfield. In that role, Myers will help promote events at all the venues leading up to the game.
"I'm just honored to get this opportunity to be the ambassador," Myers said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help the Padres with that. I haven't seen a schedule of events yet, but I know I will be attending some events."
And about possibly playing in the game, "Obviously that would be a big thing," Myers said with a huge smile.
We can't wait!
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.