All-Star Game: S.F. looks to be best yet 

Baseball’s Midsummer Classic should be a blessing to The City’s economy, as it is expected to bring in nearly $65 million to area restaurants, hotels and stores.

The San Francisco Giants and Major League Baseball unveiled Wednesday the week full of events capped off by the 78th All-Star Game on July 10 at AT&T Park —the third such game The City has hosted since the team moved west from New York City in 1958.

The City last hosted baseball’s All-Star Game in 1984, when Giants catcher Bob Brenly and outfielder Chili Davis played for the National League team that beat the American League 3-1 with Montreal Expos pitcher Charlie Lea nabbing the win.

Since then much has changed, such as the introduction of All-Star FanFest, a week-long celebration of the game that attracted roughly 106,000 people during last year’s revelry in Pittsburgh.

Advance ticket sales of the FanFest number in the 50,000 range, which has Mayor Gavin Newsom expecting The City to best Pittsburgh’s 2006 total.

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"It’s not just the All-Star Game; it’s the entire week leading up to the All-Star Game that really unites fans from around the world," Newsom said at a Wednesday press conference. "This game should be, we expect, the biggest yet in All-Star history."

In the last 10 years, Houston in 2004 and Boston 1999 — during the height of Mark McGwire’s and Sammy Sosa’s home run chase of Roger Maris — have each posted a $65 million economic impact to their cities from the All-Star Game. The 1997 game in Cleveland and its $37.6 million was the worst, according to Major League Baseball.

Officials are expecting between 200,000 and 250,000 people to attend some portion of All-Star Game festivities and to spend the equivalent of 15,000 nights at local hotels. League officials also expect roughly 100 million people to tune in to the All-Star Game via television or radio.

"We believe, based upon the last 10 years and certainly based upon last year, that we’ll be better than Pittsburgh, we’ll be better than Detroit. The question is, ‘Will we be better than Houston?’" Newsom said.

Business officials in The City touted the unpaid advertising that the All-Star Game and the attention it brings to town.

"What you get is millions of eyeballs trained on the Bay Area," said John Grubb, spokesman for the Bay Area Council, a business advocacy organization. "This is a big reminder that we’re here and that [travelers] should either visit here or bring their skills and work here."

Hosting the game also means a $4 million boost to local and national charities, as gate receipts and other proceeds from the All-Star workout day on July 9, which includes the popular Home Run Derby, will go to various programs and projects. Roughly $1.9 million will stay local and go to greening projects and field renovations around The City, among others.

For many, baseball evokes youth

Baseball evokes the little boy or little girl in anyone, and after Wednesday’s press conference releasing the list of events for All-Star weekend, Mayor Gavin Newsom remembered how he used to videotape former Giants first baseman Will Clark’s at-bats.

He also recalled his days growing up as a baseball player, touting his 6-foot-3 frame and left-handed toss as the primary qualities of a top-notch first baseman. But nothing was more memorable than the overall spirit of attending a baseball game and high-fiving strangers.

"There’s such a spirit and a vibe and an energy … the sense of connection you have to a team you can share with thousands and thousands of people you’ve never met," Newsom said.

For players, being named to the All-Star Game is one of the highest honors bestowed by fans and peers, but some skip out on the experience to take a few days off, which is incomprehensible, Giants pitcher Barry Zito said.

"It blows my mind sometimes how guys don’t go to the game," Zito said of the honor. "They would rather take three days off — that frustrates me as a player."

The 28-year-old left-hander has played in the Midsummer Classic three times, a far cry from Giants legend Willie Mays, who played in 24 All-Star Games.

Mays, 75, said, as a former player, being a spectator was not all that exciting. "When you’re playing it’s much, much more exciting because you’re out on the field and you’re participating," Mays said.

Asked if he could play in this year’s All-Star Game, Mays joked that a shoulder injury he suffered the other day throwing a curveball would keep him from the action.

But whether they were expected to play in the game or merely watch from the sidelines, everyone touted this year’s All-Star Game at AT&T Park as something special and a great opportunity for The City.

Said Tim Brosnan, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president for business, "It’s an opportunity for this city to shine on the world stage."

All-Star Weekend Events

JULY 6

» FanFest: A five-day event at the Moscone Center that includes daily skills clinics from pro players; exhibits from the Hall of Fame; free autograph sessions from the game’s legends and life-size video batting cages and bullpens.

JULY 8

» The Futures Game: Top minor-league prospects from the American and National leagues face off against one another.

» The Legend & Celebrity Softball Game: Legends of the game and celebrities gather for a "friendly" game.

JULY 9

» Batting practice: Players go through a light workout and take batting practice

» Home Run Derby: The game’s premier power hitters square off in a contest to see who can swat the most home runs.

JULY 10

» Red Carpet Show: An event open to the public in which players will parade through The City in open-air vehicles on their way to the ballpark.

» All-Star Game: The best players from the National and American leagues will face each other for the 78th time in Major League Baseball’s storied history.

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

dsmith@examiner.com

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