Billy Hamilton looks to flash his speed at the All Star Futures Game tomorrow. Photo courtesy of Ricky Bassman.

All Star Week is Here

All Star week is upon us with all its pomp and circumstance.  I had the privilege to take part in some of the festivities a few years ago and had a wonderful time learning more about the history of the game and celebrating today’s stars.  One of the true misfortunes Cincinnati has suffered is the inability to lure the premier showcase of baseball.  For now though, all eyes are on the beautiful Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals and of the 2012 MLB All Star Game.  For me the All Star experience centers around 5 events:

  • All Star Game (obvious I suppose)
  • All Star FanFest
  • All Star Futures Game
  • Legends and Celebrity Softball Game
  • Home Run Derby

Each of these events are special in there own way and I would like to offer a little perspective on them based on my own experience in 2006 when the All Star Game came to PNC Park.

First off, if you have any chance to go to Fan Fest in any town where the ASG is coming to visit, spend your money and go.  I had so much fun with my daughter and she wasn’t even really a baseball fan.  My boys who love the game would be in heaven.  The league goes all out to make the game accessible to fans of all levels of sofistication.  It is truly a fun experience.

The All Star Futures game is next and without a doubt it is my favorite event each year.  This year with the inclusion of Billy Hamilton on the US squad and Kyle Lotzkar on the international roster it becomes even more compelling.  The game will be broadcast at 5PM on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com so everyone can see Billy up close and personal.  Billy will be faced with a serious challenge facing top competition and undoubtedly better arms behind the plate to challenge his blazing speed.  Billy is fast but does make mental errors occasionally such as during the Reds futures game at the beginning of this season when he beat Devin Mesoraco‘s pitch out to second but over slid the base and was tagged out anyway.  Lotzkar overmatched his competition in advanced A ball and earned a promotion to Pensacola but has struggled a bit in AA posting a 4-3 record and a 4.72 ERA.  The concern with Kyle is he has regressed in his last four starts going 1-2 over just 18.2 IP while allowing 18 earned runs.

As for Billy he sits on 104 stolen bases as I write this article.  It boggles the mind.

The next event presents an interesting opportunity it would appear.  Appearing in the Legends and Celebrity Softball game George Brett, who along with Joe Morgan were my favorite players as a kid, will lead a team with several legendary names.  Billy Hamilton should make it a point to spend what time he can with three of them.

Billy Hamilton looks to flash his speed at the All Star Futures Game tomorrow. Photo courtesy of Ricky Bassman.

Legendary stolen base artist and leadoff hitter, Rickey Henderson and Hall of Fame short stops Barry Larkin (Barry isn’t participating but will be at the game) and Ozzie Smith will all be in attendance and would appear to be storehouses of knowledge and experience for the young speedster.  I hear a lot of speculation from every direction that doesn’t matter indicating Hamilton will not play short stop but will be shifted to second base or center field.  The Reds organization plays him just at short and have consistently stated until he proves unable to succeed at short that he will remain in that position.  My speculation is that most of the center field talk by Reds fans is wishful thinking since the popular wisdom points to the lack of improvement year to year coming from defensive wizard Drew Stubbs.  For my money leave Stubbs where he is and put Billy in left.  Bat Stubbs at the bottom of the batting order like the Big Red Machine once did with Cesar Geronimo.  But I digress…

One last note for a couple of readers who are devoted fans of the TV show Mad Men:  Jon Hamm will be on the field representing the National League in the softball game as well.

The Home Run Derby is next and I must admit that I love the spectacle of this event.  That said, I am always thrilled to see the Derby roster has no Reds players.  While Jay Bruce or Joey Votto may be capable of competing in this event, it is not conducive to future success if you are forced to change your swing to be competitive. An event like this could set Jay back a month or more as he would attempt to correct his path.

Finally there is the All Star Game itself.  I hate to say it but I have not watched many All Star Games over the years.  I am not a fan of Bud Selig’s silly rule granting home field advantage to the winning league as an overreaction to the abomination he perpetrated in 2002 by declaring the game a tie.

What is your favorite part of the All Star experience?  Is it one of these events or is it just the voting itself?  Answer our poll and express your opinion!

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Tags: 2012 All Star Game Barry Larkin Billy Hamilton Cesar Geronimo Cincinnati Reds Devin Mesoraco Drew Stubbs George Brett Jay Bruce Joe Morgan Joey Votto Kansas City Royals Kyle Lotzkar Ozzie Smith Rickey Henderson