FLORENCE, Ky. — OK, it won't include Reds legends, Todd Frazier Home Run Derby magic or Mike Trout showing why he's maybe the best in the game, but much like last year, our region is in the midst another all-star summer.
While it's not quite as high-profile, it does boast some Florence flair.
The Frontier League All-Star Game will be played at UC Health Stadium, home of the Florence Freedom, on July 13. And to salute the city's iconic water tower, this will be known as the Y'All-Star Game.
The Frontier League, in its 24th season of play, consists of 12 teams scattered across the Midwest.
Similar to Major League Baseball’s All-star game, the best players from all 12 Frontier League teams get together to showcase their talents in the Freedom’s UC Health Stadium, that averages around 2,250 fans per game.
The Florence Freedom staff has been preparing for the week’s worth of All-Star game events for more than six months.
“It’s a lot of coordination between getting hotel rooms booked for the visiting members of the league that are coming into town,” said Josh Anderson, vice president and general manager of the Florence Freedom. “Obviously the players that are coming into town, getting all of these events lined up. It’s a three-day long process of events.”
The three days of events surrounding the Y’All-Star Game are meant to urge fan interaction and attract a bigger draw to All-Star week festivities. Aside from the actual game, events will include a battle of the sexes softball game, a pro-am homerun derby and a bourbon fest with fireworks display the night of the game.
“Obviously the Frontier League is not as big of a draw as a Major League Baseball All-Star game, but we get to showcase Northern Kentucky,” Anderson said.
The Florence Freedom aim to attract the casual baseball fan through family entertainment and affordable game night experiences.
“We do have ‘die-hard’ fans,” said Anderson, “but it is more common at this level for fans to have fun with the entire entertainment package than just the on-field baseball product.”
While the Frontier League doesn't boast household names, these are professional baseball players who in many cases are not major prospects, but they are hanging on to hopes of playing professionally at a high level. Still, sometimes players emerge and work their way up to the Major Leagues.
Even though the league is not affiliated with Major League Baseball, 34 players from the Florence Freedom alone have signed with big league teams.
There are 11 former Florence players on active minor league baseball rosters. Pitcher Steve Delabar, who played with the Reds earlier this season, is the one of two former Freedom players who has seen time in the majors. Chris Jakubauskas, who was signed by the Seattle Mariners in 2003, is no longer active.
Back For an Encore
This isn't the first time Florence has hosted the event. During the Freedom’s first tenure as All-Star host in 2007, the team sold about 4,700 tickets, with actual seating in the UC Health Stadium being just over 3,600 seats. This overflow of support meant that more than 1,000 tickets were standing room only.
That’s also part of the reason the city was again chosen to host the All-Star game.
“We love Florence,” said Bill Lee, the commissioner of the Frontier League. “It is a great market, and the facilities are great. Ever since we came there I personally have built some great relationships with folks in Florence, and they have become the fabric of the town.”
Most of the tickets sold for the 2007 game and this year’s Y’All-Star Game are from nearby Kentucky counties, with 40 percent of fans from Boone County and 30 percent from Kenton County. Another 25 percent are coming from Ohio and five percent are from other various regions.
Fans are already excited to witness this year’s events.
“I like the ball park. It’s always a nice ball park,” said Tom Davin, a Florence Freedom fan who plans on attending the Y’All-Star game. “They’ve got family entertainment, and the crowds are nice. It’s a good time.”
If You Go
What: Frontier League Y'All-Star Game
When: 7:05 p.m. July 13 (other festivities planned for July 11-12)
Where: UC Health Stadium, 7950 Freedom Way, Florence, Ky.
Tickets: Start at $15 and can be purchased at www.FlorenceFreedom.com