Opinions

An in-person experience at All-Star Week 2023

As someone who has never experienced any sort of MLB All-Star weekend event, I was fortunate enough to have the All-Star experience in my city this year. In this article, I will be going over the events I was able to experience and show what you can look forward to if the all-star game comes to your city.

The biggest plus right off the bat that I will acknowledge is the proximity to all these events that other cities might not be able to replicate. All the games (All-American, HBCU, Futures, Celebrity, Derby, and All-Star) were at T-Mobile Park. The Play Ball Park and the Draft were both at Lumen Field and the convention center across the street. This allows you to kind of go to events back to back on the same day without having to travel all over the city.


Play Ball Park Event

This was the kick-off to the weekend for me. I attended the first day it was open on Saturday the 8th. I was in line for the event and was able to get in right as it was opening. I got to try out many of the booths and games with significantly shorter lines than what I saw later in the day. These games included things like a fast pitch area to see how hard you throw, a batting practice area, and other small fields for kids to play different games with each other.

Although a lot of the games or events are more tailored for kids, there are still plenty of things to do as an adult who is looking for a more relaxed experience. This includes things like memorabilia auctions, art displays, the Baseball HOF exhibit, and many different areas to hear speakers or get autographs. Depending on the speaker or autograph signer, the lines would be a pretty good wait. The cost for the event was either $10 if you did an early preorder a month or so in advance or it was $35 if you bought them either after that early window or the day of the event. The cost of admission got you inside to see all of those things.

Each day of the event had different food items from across the league. The items available on Saturday were the Diamondbacks footlong hotdog, jalapeno popper nachos, and a Dodger Dog while also having the normal stadium food like popcorn and pizza. However, there were still plenty of things to do outside the convention center that did not require payment. This included various food trucks from around Seattle, lawn games, live music, and other promotional booths. Although you did not need paid admission to enter the outside area, you still needed the MLB All-Star Experience App. This app was very useful when it came to the daily schedule, locations of different booths, as well as a unique QR code for each user that was necessary to get into the different events.

As an avid baseball fan, I would certainly recommend checking this out considering the low cost of the event. It might not be for everyone but it is a good way to pass the time if you are planning on attending any of the other events later that day. Highly recommended for anyone with children. I could only imagine going to a big event like when I was a young kid.


Futures Game

I will start by saying the futures game was a bit of a letdown. As someone who tries to have a bit of an eye on the prospects that are coming up, it was awesome to see so many big names play in this game. I think we saw some great performances on the field that were impressive but overall my impression of the event was lackluster. The game was only 7 innings, which I understand with each team only having 9 pitchers, but why not add a couple more guys to each roster and play a full game? The lack of big hits and no home runs kept the energy down in the stadium. The big cheers came for the local Mariners prospects, but other than that, it was pretty typical background baseball noises.

I will say I was surprised to see how many people were in attendance. It felt like when I watched it on TV in the past it did not seem like it was a huge draw, but without an official attendance number, I would say it was probably in the 30k+ range with the stadium looking pretty full. I was able to get my ticket, which included attendance to both this game and the Softball game, for less than $20 in the top levels of the stadium. This is another event that might not be for everyone, but with the low price point, I would recommend attending as well. Even if you don’t know a ton about prospects, you might get to see a few players who are the potential future of your organization.


Celebrity Softball Game

This was honestly the biggest surprise for me when it came to the events I went to. I remember watching as a kid and seeing all these big names and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. As I get older it’s less of a draw to watch retired athletes or celebrities with no athletic ability try and hit a ball. However, this was such a fun event. I think the crazy atmosphere of the crowd and the huge offensive output made it very enjoyable. While I don’t know if I would ever attend another one in the future or watch it on TV, it is something that I would recommend going to see at least once, especially given the low cost.


Draft

I was able to secure a reservation for the draft on Sunday. Attending the draft was possible in two different ways. Either you could be attending the Play Ball Park on that day and you get free access or you can separately reserve a general admission spot into the draft for free. This might be different in a future city if they don’t hold the draft in the same spot as the Park.

The atmosphere at the draft was very exciting. Fans from all over are starting to get into town. Way more jersey representation from across the league than the day before. The honored tradition at any sports draft and booing the commissioner was upheld by those in attendance. Commissioner Manfred was hearing it all night before every pick that he announced. The loudest of boos occurred when he was announcing the pick for Houston.

I think the atmosphere of the event is cool, but it is just a lot of sitting around and waiting for the next pick to be announced. I think the first 15 picks took about 2 hours. If you are a big fan of young prospects then this would be an event for you, but if you’re just looking for a fun event, maybe line this up with the Play Ball Park and you can just check out your team’s pick when you get the chance.

It seems like the league is trying to grow the draft to be more of an event, so I think that they need to make an effort to get the top prospects in person. Of the 28 first-round picks, only 4 or 5 of them were actually in attendance, including none of the top 5. Having those big names in attendance would increase the hype around the event as a whole.


HR Derby

Given the choice between attending the HR Derby and the All-Star game, I choose the derby. I was lucky enough to find a ticket to the derby in the top level of the stadium that was behind home plate for $245 on a third-party app. This is probably the best view from the 300 level and it was significantly cheaper than most of the options I was seeing. The price got down into the $250 range on the day of, but not in a section that would be as good of a viewing experience. The All-Star game tickets got to around $320 but I was not in a financial spot to attend both. Even if the derby was the more expensive of the two, I probably would have picked the derby. As cool as the All-Star game would be, I have seen plenty of baseball games at T-Mobile Park.

The HR Derby was incredible. The stadium was packed. I do not know an official attendance number but with the amount of people in their seats as well as all the people in the concourse, it was probably one of the highest-attended baseball events at the stadium. When Julio Rodriguez had that amazing first round you could hardly hear yourself talk it was so loud in the stadium. A local PNW guy in Adley Rutschman got the crowd going when he switched to hitting right-handed during his bonus time. As someone who has experienced some loud moments recently at T-Mobile Park, with the Cal Raleigh clinch game and ALDS Game 3, this was right up there with the loudest I have ever heard in the stadium. I will say the wind did come out of the sails a bit when Julio lost in the second round but I think the final round with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Randy Arozarena ended the night as well as you could without the hometown guy still in it.


Miscellaneous

I was not able to attend the high school All-American Game, the HBCU Classic, or the All-Star Game. From what I heard, the All-American Game was very similar to the Futures Game: big names, but nothing too big is happening. Also, this event was not even available to the public, which I did not understand. From what I saw and the people I talked to, the HBCU Classic was a great watch and should be something that you should look to attend if they continue the event in the future All-Star weeks. As exciting as the All-Star Game would have been to go to, given the choice between that and the derby, I am personally picking the derby 10/10 times if they are both at a high price point. Even though the All-Star Game looked pretty exciting on TV and certainly had some big moments, I can’t imagine it was anywhere near the level that the HR Derby was at.

I was able to take public transit for all of the events that I attended. This cost me $6 each for the first two days and then was free for those attending the HR Derby or All-Star game. This would vary between cities. Given my past experiences getting gouged for parking costs, I didn’t even try and drive into Seattle. Outside of the stadiums plenty of food vendors were set up as well as restaurants that are already in the area. These were a slightly cheaper option, depending on the place, to things in either stadium. The amount of food or vendors in the area will certainly change depending on how things are laid out around your city’s stadium.

I would say that overall as much as I had to spend, it was worth it for me as such a big baseball fan. An event like this in my hometown is essentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The All-Star game probably won’t be back in Seattle until they potentially build a new stadium, which is probably 20-30 years away. If you want to experience things at a lower cost, I would certainly recommend Play Ball Park and the Futures/Celebrity Game. The cost of the HR Derby and All-Star Game is on a completely different level, but if you are financially able, I would also recommend trying to attend at least one, if not both of them.

I hope I have the opportunity to attend more All-Star weeks across the league but until then I will always have the memories I made from attending at my home ballpark.


Featured Photo: Mariners / Twitter

Michael Fitzpatrick

Michael Fitzpatrick is a former collegiate baseball player who played baseball for over 20 years. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in Sports Psychology. He is an avid baseball fan and a life long Seattle Mariners fan. Hope you enjoy! Twitter: Fitz_God16

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