All Star Sunday Eyewitness Report: Futures Game and Legends-Celebrity Softball Game

Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper were winners today, despite combining to go 0-8. But how was it for the fans?

Back to back games at Chase Field? That was a first. I've never been to Chase Field for a Dbacks double header, but, then again, I'm pretty sure there's never been a double header like this at Chase Field before. Jenna and I have tickets to all All-Star events in row 35 of section 304, but with the sparse crowd, were able to sit in about row 12 of section 303 with soco and mrssoco -- not nearly tickets as nice as Jim's and mrssnakepit's, but among upper deck spots, noticeably better than our actual seats.

Some comments and pictures (lots and lots of lousy pictures... fair warning!!) after the jump. Sorry about the poor quality; my camera's a 5 or so year old point-and-shoot.

We got to the stadium around 2:30 and, although we lost the socos almost immediately, while walking around the concourse, we soon ran into the Snakepits and talked to them for a little while, where Jim mentioned his reference in the ASG program. Jinnah wanted to wander around the stadium, so from center field, we first saw the official ASG logo carefully carved into the BOBsod.

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You'll notice the World team lining up along the 1st base line and the US team along 3rd, which is, of course, the home dugout at Chase Field. It was clear from the stadium sound effects during the game (not to mention the scoreboard) that the US team was meant to be the home team; I assume it'll be the same way for the NL team on Tuesday. It didn't hurt, either, that the Diamondbacks had two prospects (Tyler Skaggs and Paul Goldschmidt) playing for the US team, and none for the World team.

Soco and I later mused that the World team may NEVER be the home team unless/until Toronto hosts another All Star Game, (the All Star Game has left the US twice, once at the Toronto SkyDome in 1991, and once at Montreal Olympic Stadium in 1982) or unless an MLB team either moves to, or expands to, a foreign country.

Moving on up to our seats in the upper deck, after having caught a brief look at Skaggs warming up in the bullpen, the US team took the field. I was able to catch a shot of the right side of the infield here, showing both Dbacks prospects, with Skaggs throwing warmup pitches and Goldschmidt taking his spot at 1B.

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Neither prospect was particularly sharp on the day, unfortunately. Skaggs, given the honor of starting the game, yielded a one out "double" (though should probably have been ruled a hit and an error, or perhaps even two errors) to Jose Altuve, a player whom multiple people speculated on Twitter might even be as short as me. After a rare (for Skaggs) walk to Yonder Alonso, Tyler got a K and a grounder to end the inning without a run.

Jason Kipnis hit a leadoff home run on a full count to give the US team a quick 1-0 lead, prompting soco to proudly point to his Arizona State University shirt.

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(The pitch just before the homer. ASG logo clearly visible)

Skaggs pitched only an inning but did indeed shut out the World team, and certainly got his cheers from the partisan Dbacks-friendly crowd. But the loudest cheers of all went to the man below, the #50 overall prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, despite having a rough day.

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Big Paul Goldschmidt had a couple of drops/rough catches in the field and went 0-4 with a grounder, strikeout, and two deep flies, the first of which legitimately seemed like it might leave the park off the bat. The crowd cheered the US' cleanup hitter anyway, but let's certainly hope that his subsequent appearances at Chase Field will have better results. Let's hope he feels a little more comfortable playing 1B, too. Here's the man himself seeing his first ever pitch at Chase.

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You will note what snakecharmer referred to in the recap as a "poor showing of fans". That's not really fair, at least, it's not an exclusive thing. The Futures game and Celebrity softball game tend to draw poorly at EVERY ballpark -- like soco, most people can't find it in them to care much about prospects, it would seem. In fact, the Home Run Derby doesn't even usually sell out, although it does draw more interest than Sunday's events. (And the outfield seats are usually packed with fans looking to score a unique souvenir) For the record, I remarked multiple times that I thought the stadium was fairly loud for such a sparse crowd. Here's a shot of the 3B/LF line.

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We'll have to wait and see the actual All Star Game to judge attendance -- despite the stereotype of Dbacks games as drawing poorly, this isn't really any worse than usual. The actual All Star Game ITSELF, the main attraction, had trouble selling out last year in Anaheim. Now THAT, to me, is poor attendance. But I digest.

In case Goldschmidt's performance made you wary, here's the #1 prospect in baseball, Bryce Harper, looking very much like a goblin in his official picture.

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I am assured, however, by both mrssoco and jinnah, that Bryce Harper is extremely attractive in real life. They assured me of this based on seeing him at the Fall League Scorpions-Javelinas game we attended last year. Anyway, all I know is that he played the full game in left field, he hit 3rd in the lineup, but he didn't actually "hit". His line, 0-4 with a K, was exactly the same as Paul's -- but minus the loud flyouts.

With a 6-4 lead in the 9th and nobody on base with 2 outs, the US team really could have let Jacob Turner finish the inning and get the save. Yet, someone in the US team's dugout wanted to get everyone involved before taking the whole team to Peter Piper Pizza after the game. So, the final US pitcher, Matt Harvey, came on to face Reymond Fuentes and get the 27th out.

The official All Star Sunday "guidebook", or whatnot, contained a scorecard, and here is soco's from the game.

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One does have to wonder whether the actual All Star Game will be just as difficult to score, with its typical substitutions every other batter. Towards the end of the game, soco was complaining about running out of space.

The good news, however, is that the US team won today -- AGAIN, in case you weren't watching the women's national soccer team's harrowing victory over Brazil. It's the 8th win in 13 years for the US team, and a switch to a more logical NL prospects vs. AL prospects would seem to balance the odds a bit more in the future. One also does have to feel a little for Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the #2 overall prospect in baseball, who missed this, the minor league all star game to top all minor league all star games, because he was called up to the Majors a few days ago. On the other hand, one DOESN'T really have to feel for him, because... you know, he's now a Major League Baseball player. Tough life.

Like every other baseball team, the US players of tomorrow celebrate victory by lining up, just like their heroes in the Majors.

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For some of those prospects, some of their childhood heroes were about to play on the same grass -- names like Rickey Henderson, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, and Dbacks fan favorites colorful broadcaster Mark Grace and All Star Summer ambassador Luis Gonzalez. If the Futures game wasn't, perhaps, the most seriously-managed game ever, the Celebrity softball game was just about as expected, with a focus on fun, rather than competition, and I'm pretty sure that the players had even more fun than the fans, which is saying a lot.

While Athletics infield prospect Grant Green, playing in his second straight Futures game, was awarded the MVP award for his pinch double and later home run, the hard-working Diamondbacks' grounds crew prepared to shrink the field for the softball game.

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Soco and jinnah and I took the brief opportunity to head down to forage for food, leaving our valuables with the trustworthy mrssoco. After getting some personal pizzas, Jenna and I stopped in at one of the team shops to get Justin Upton ASG shirts and a cap for the future babysoco. Jenna also got an Adrian Gonzalez ASG shirt to wear to the Home Run Derby tomorrow. (She IS a Red Sox fan, after all) Total price, including All Star Game markup and minus our usual 15% off, was something on the order of $105. Good thing we'd budgeted out the wazoo for this weekend.

Like the Futures game, when the rosters were announced, the loudest cheers came for players with local connections. Larry Fitzgerald received roars from the crowd, and Luis Gonzalez got the loudest applause and a standing ovation. I couldn't tell you whether Mark Grace broadcast the Dbacks-Cardinals game today, because I wasn't watching. But he was certainly here, as he's been mentioning on air all season, and got his fair share of cheers.

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Also getting a loud and warm welcome was Jennie Finch, who pitched the whole game for the National League team. As former University of Arizona Wildcats don't usually get cheered like that in Phoenix, I can assume that the crowd was recognizing her as both a collegiate, Olympic, and professional softball legend AND a celebrity. Jennie, however, can't be TOO happy with her line of 3 runs allowed in only 5 innings of work, despite earning the win. Even having given birth to her second child 2 weeks ago, I tend to think she PROBABLY could have put a little more mustard on her pitches, still, as could have 64 year old Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, who pitched the game for the AL team.

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The "National League team" was the home team once again, and played from the Diamondbacks' dugout.

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Some folks were definitely only here for the ride, like former Cubs great Ernie Banks, who was officially part of the NL team but didn't actually play the field or get a plate appearance. The crowd gave him a loud welcome, not surprising, as approximately one in every three Arizonans moved here from Chicago. True story. Just ask the US Census Bureau. It's science. Or something.

Oddly, Banks didn't actually wear a Cubs hat.

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As this was a softball game in Arizona, yes, they did have a pool in right field, believe it or not. The inflatable kiddie pool was clearly ordered to exacting scale and placed TO THE INCH to represent the actual pool at Chase Field. Yup.

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For what it's worth, although nobody actually hit a ball into it, the crowd and players were informed that any homers smacked into the pool would be worth their normal run value + 4 extra runs. Finch, there talking with her batterymate Mike Piazza, wouldn't end up needing them, despite giving up 3 runs in the top of the 1st.

Good times were had by all, even jinnah, who was annoyed that half of the AL team seemed to be comprised of celebrity Yankees fans, and actual Yankees like Bernie Williams. Still, she enjoyed herself. And yes, for those of you who haven't met me in person, that's me sitting next to her.

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The socos appear to be having fun, too. Mrssoco was most excited by the appearance of someone named Chord Overstreet, who had a strong assist to double up an AL runner while wearing a Brewers cap, and both her and jinnah were pleased that Tim Dekay of White Collar was there representing the Red Sox.

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Among the many lighthearted moments included this unannounced appearance by Matt Williams, who must've landed at Sky Harbor and immediately had a police escort to Chase, according to soco. Matty looked very much like, steroids or not, he could still crush a baseball -- or at least a softball, and he reached via hit in his only plate appearance. The crowd loved that, too.

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Major League Soccer player Carlos Bocanegra prepared to bat in the top of the 4th inning, but instead, Jennie Finch gave him a soccer ball and the entire infield defense for the NL lined up in front of the mound as if to block a penalty kick. The kickball stunt got him a single when Ozzie Smith dropped his popup, but then he returned to the plate for an actual at-bat, hitting an actual single.

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Local legend Luis Gonzalez won the MVP award for hitting a home run, providing extra margin to the NL team. Afterwards, Gonzo and Henderson each hit in the "home run challenge", along with a celebrity from each team. Nick Jonas, shown below, hit exactly as many homers as Rickey, (one apiece) and Gonzo beat them singlehandedly, for the final victory by the good guys (NL) of the night.

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All in all, we had a great time, and would certainly do it again. Questions? Comments? More pictures from the games? Post 'em here.

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