9 reasons to look forward to the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI - Baseball crazies (and that includes everybody who stayed up till almost midnight to watch the Home Run Derby), you already know you're gonna love it.

Fans and non-fans, you're gonna love the festival atmosphere, the crowds, the concerts, block parties and entertainment, self-serve beer (Say what?), Fan Fest and other special events, and the fact that Cincinnati will be the center of the baseball universe again, where it belongs.

So put on your "C" cap because we're going to revisit some of the Reds' All-Star history while we look ahead to next year:

1) It's Not Your Father's All-Star Game

If you're not old enough to remember the last All-Star Game here in 1988 at Riverfront Stadium, you're lucky. It was a dud.  There wasn't a Fan Fest to speak of, no Futures game or Celebrity Softball Game, no concerts. The Home Run Derby and All-Star Workout on Monday were rained out (the only time that's happened since the Derby began in 1985). Even the game was a disappointing bore. The NL lost, 2-1. Barry Larkin went 0-for-2. Chris Sabo got to pinch run and stole a base. That was it.

RELATED: See the box score

But flash forward 27 years:

Since Major League Baseball, which controls the All-Star events, will probably follow what it did in Minneapolis this year, we're in store for an excitement-packed five days.

It will start with Fan Fest (Friday through Tuesday) at Duke Energy Center.

Think of it as a giant Reds Fest  - with Reds greats and other baseball legends signing FREE autographs all day long, memorabilia from the Baseball Hall of Fame, celebrities and team mascots and all the fun things (batting cages, interactive features) you find at Reds Fest. Just a lot more of them.

"All 30 teams and all the national sponsors like Nike and Wilson and McGregor and Louisville Slugger will have big booths. It’s like a baseball trade show," said Reds COO Phil Castellini, the club's point man for the 2015 All-Star Game.

There also will be interview sessions, and MLB Network will set up shop for several days.

2) Baseball Meets Bunbury and Buckle Up

The All-Star Game has become part music festival, which will fit in nicely between Cincinnati's newest summer events, Bunbury and Buckle Up.

Minneapolis had an outdoor Saturday night concert by Imagine Dragons and local bands at the University of Minnesota's football stadium as well as a Sunday night VIP party with Nelly at a downtown club.

Castellini says the All-Star Game here will be "bookended" by Bunbury and Buckle Up. If so, that might mean the game will be July 21, because Bunbury is already scheduled for July 11-12. The date of the game has not been announced.

Most of the baseball events in Minneapolis were accompanied by musical acts:

> Minneapolis has Tony Award winner Idina Menzel — the voice behind the “Frozen” movie and hit songs – to sing the national anthem before Tuesday's game. Menzel will also perform Minnesota native Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” as part of an on-field ceremony honoring 30 “All-Star Teachers,” one representing each team.

> Rapper-singer Aloe Blacc performed “Wake Me Up” and “Can You Do This” before the Home Run Derby Monday night. Panic! At the Disco performed Sunday for the Legends and Celebrity Softball games.

➢ Minneapolis also had the "inaugural Pepsi Block Party" outside the stadium on Sunday with local bands. Expect more local music here - probably on Fountain Square or the riverfront parks. And figure on a performance by the Cincinnati Pops or the CSO in there somewhere.

All those events are still in the planning stages.

3) Home Run Derby on Steroids

Are you ready to see a record number of home runs in either the Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game or both?

Have you been wondering if a Home Run Derby at Great American Ball Park would fill the river with baseballs like the Rubber Duck Regatta fills it with yellow rubber duckies at Riverfest?

Castellini has, sort of.

"We’ve been joking. The first thing I thought about was the Home Run Derby," Castellini said. "We’ve heard so much chatter about 'Great American Small Park,' I think that’s an event where maybe the tight confines of our field that many had a problem with will be ideally suited for a great Home Run Derby."

Odds are GABP will produce more homers than Minneapolis' Target Field, which ranks 17th in home runs this season (1.63 per game). GABP ranks fourth (2.35 per game).

RELATED: See home run average for each ballpark

There's no reason to think A's slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who had several tape-measure shots and overpowered Reds third baseman Todd Frazier in the Derby finals, couldn't win for the third year in a row at GABP. He might even hit the "Red hits sign, fan wins Toyota" sign (430 feet) – if not the truck itself (502 feet).

Cespedes or Miami's Giancarlo Stanton or Toronto's Jose Bautista might break the record for longest homer at GABP (535 feet by Adam Dunn in 2004).

RELATED: See longest home runs at GABP

But if you're like me, you want to see two changes in next year's Derby.

➢ Five outs instead of seven or some other way to move it along faster and reduce the time that the league leaders wait until they hit again.

➢ More of baseball's top home-run hitters. Seven of the top 10 – including the top four - skipped this year's Derby. Some players think it messes up their swing or it can lead to fatigue or injury. But Monday's Derby had four players who hit only two homers in the first round and one – LA's Yasiel Puig – who didn't hit any.

RELATED: See major league home run leaders

4. The Return of Pete Rose

WCPO asked the banned Hit King if he thought he would be allowed to participate in MLB events at the All-Star Game here.

"Don't you know? I'm throwing out the first pitch," Rose said straight-faced, then broke into a wide smile that said he was joking.

Rose said of course, he would love to participate - and then commissioner Bud Selig gave him the OK.

Speaking to baseball writers before the All-Star Game in Minneapolis Tuesday, Selig cleared the way for Rose to join the festivities at Great American Ball Park in 2015.

"That'll be up to the Cincinnati club, and they know what they can do and they can't do," Selig said.

Selig set a precedent in 1999 when he allowed Rose to join other All-Century Team candidates on the field at the All-Star Game in Boston, and later when he allowed him on the field when MLB introduced the All-Century Team that year during the World Series in Atlanta.

Rose got the loudest cheers from the crowd.

It's only fitting for Selig to let Rose enjoy the All-Star spotlight in his hometown again since that is where Rose delivered arguably the most memorable moment in All-Star history - crashing into catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in 1970 at Riverfront Stadium.

Selig allowed Rose to join in two recent on-field ceremonies at GABP – the 25th anniversary of his record-breaking 4,192nd hit in 2010 and the 2013 Big Red Machine Weekend honoring the Great Eight and marking the dedication of Joe Morgan's statue.

Selig is retiring in January and has said he doesn't want to leave Rose's application for reinstatement unresolved for his successor.

But Selig hasn't changed his position, he said Tuesday.

"It's under advisement. That's my standard line."
 

5) Reds Fans Could Stuff the All-Star Ballot Box Again

In 1957, before online voting, Reds fans stuffed the ballot box and voted seven Cincinnati position players (all but first baseman George Crowe) to the National League starting lineup.

Commissioner Ford Frick got so mad he removed outfielders  Gus Bell and Wally Post and gave their starting spots to two guys named Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Frick also took the vote away from the fans the next year and gave it to the players, managers and coaches.

The fans got it back in 1970, but now players and managers pick the pitchers and subs. Still, it's hard to imagine how the Brewers got three starters this year without rigging the vote.

Maybe a Reds fan can figure out how they did it before next year.

6) Self-Serve Beer

Baseball may be onto something big.

Target Field  installed two self-serve beer machines so All-Star  fans  could  pour themselves draft beer with the only self-serve technology in major American sports.

Fans provide identification at a concession stand and purchase a $10, $20 or $40 beer card. The machines offer four brews: Budweiser and Bud Light run $.38 an ounce, while Shock Top and Goose Island 312 cost $.40 an ounce.

Attendants stand by to ensure fans don't overdo it.

The jury is still out.

"That got my attention at the same time it got yours," Castellini said. "We’re looking at that, investigating that. We like to control the distribution.  My first question when I saw it was, ‘How do you control consumption and the under-age stuff?' "

RELATED: Read more about self-serve beer

7) All-Star Game Pulls Fans – and Their Money - from Far and Wide

How would you feel about standing in line at Fans Fest next to a Cubs fan or a Pirates fan? Or sitting at the Futures Game next to a Cardinals fan?

With Cincinnati about five hours driving time from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, and just a little longer from St. Louis and Milwaukee, you're going to see a lot of people wearing foreign caps and T-shirts at an All-Star Game here.

They're baseball fans, too, and they'll bring their families.

If you have an All-Star Game, they will come.

Ray, people will come, Ray.

You can bet hotels, restaurants and the Chamber of Commerce are OK with that.

Of course, that already happens to some extent when the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates play here. But an influx of thousands of fans for several days would energize the local economy like a Billy Hamilton triple.

And wouldn't it be better to have Andrew McCutcheon hitting home runs for your team than against it?

One question, though: Would Reds fans stop booing Yadier Molina even for just one game?

8) See the Stars of Tomorrow and the Celebrities of Today and Yesterday

The Future Stars and Celebrity softball players take the field on Sunday.  If you were in Minneapolis – or just watched the games at home – you would have seen two Reds stars of tomorrow – P  Robert Stephenson and LF Jesse Winkler -  in the one and Vikings' great Adrian Peterson and WNBA star Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx hitting softballs in the other (along with Rickey Henderson, Ozzie Smith, Mike Piazza and entertainers Nelly, James Denton and Andrew Zimmern.)

Stephenson, the Reds' top prospect, might be back in the Futures Game next year or he might be traded or he might be with the Reds, especially if the team trades off some of the pitchers (Leake, Latos, Cueto) it stands to lose in free agency after 2015.

The casual Reds fan who doesn't read every blog or prospectus probably would appreciate the opportunity to see their top minor leaguers in person, not to mention Rangers slugging prospect Joey Gallo knocking out the windshield of a car on Mehring Way.

9) You Might Get to See Red Star on the Big Stage

Baseball fans are always rooting for their players to come through at the big moment (see Todd Frazier) and Reds players have a history of doing that in All-Star Games.

MVPs include Tony Perez (1967), Joe Morgan (1972), George Foster (1976), Ken Griffey Sr. (1980) and Dave Concepcion (1982).

Dave Parker (1985) and Eric Davis (1989) won the Home Run Derby.

And arguably the most memorable moment in All-Star history was Rose crashing into catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in 1970 before his hometown fans at Riverfront Stadium.

Considering that Billy Hamilton and Aroldis Chapman are two of the most exciting players in the game,  it makes you wonder whether one of them might create their own All-Star legend in 2015.
 

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