If you (a) live in the St. Louis area (b) are a fan of Major League Baseball or (c) watch any shows on the Fox network you're probably aware that the MLB All-Star game is being played on Tuesday. This year St. Louis is hosting the event, which has morphed into a multi-day extravaganza of activities. A ticket to the All Star Game includes admission to a Futures Game with up-and-coming minor league players, the Celebrity Softball Game, and the Home Run Derby. If you weren't lucky enough to get a ticket, there are other MLB-sanctioned activities that you can pay to participate in. FanFest is a conglomeration of exhibits, hands-on activities, and shopping opportunities, and this year for the first time there's a charity 5K run and fun run. However, a quick reading of yesterday's newspaper showed there were a lot of other entertainment downtown with a baseball theme that didn't cost a lot of money, so we decided to take advantage of them.
Shortly after we left home we stopped at Mobil on the Run for a cup of coffee. They have a promotion that if the Cardinals score more than six runs the day before (which they had) you can get a coffee, fountain drink, or frozen drink for a quarter. After we loaded up on our caffeine we headed downtown.
Our first stop was the grassy area under the Gateway Arch. The Perfectos Vintage Base Ball team was playing. They use baseball rules from 1860, and their equipment and uniforms are appropriate for the time (including no gloves). It was very interesting. The players who weren't on the field were nice enough to talk about the game and answer our questions. The only thing that detracted from the vintage feel was the sound checks for the concert later in the evening in the background.
All of the streets leading into the Arch grounds were blocked off, so we didn't have to fight the traffic on our way to the Kiener Plaza area for lunch. After lunch we took a short break from baseball-related fun and shopped at a sidewalk sale along Locust Street on our way to the Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library to see an African-American baseball exhibit. It was the opening reception for the exhibit "Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience". The exhibit, which is based on a permanent exhibition at the Baseball Hall of Fame on Cooperstown, was composed of panels that featured photographs of teams, players, and artifacts of African-American baseball players in the late 18th and 19th century. The reception portion had drinks and refreshments, including the baseball game staple Cracker Jacks.
Our next activity didn't involve much walking because it was also in the library. We went to a book discussion and signing by Joe Posnanski, who is a sports columnist in Kansas City. He wrote a book called The Soul of Baseball: A Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America where he details his travels with the legendary Negro League player during the 2005 baseball season. The program was very interesting, and Tony ended up buying a book to have signed. I'm looking forward to reading it after he's done. After we finished at the library we meandered back towards the area around Busch Stadium, stopping at City Grocers to buy a snack.
What would a modern major sporting event be without corporate sponsors? Our next stop was the area next to Busch Stadium (where the old stadium stood before it was demolished in 2005). The two-block area was a mecca for all things sponsored. There were two sections. At the first, the State Farm name was predominantly displayed on everything. They're sponsoring the Home Run Derby on Monday, and you could get in line to try your luck at a fan home run derby on a softball-sized field. There was also an inflatable t-ball game for young children and a pitching cage where you could test the speed of your fastball. We answered a few marketing questions and got a prize-I chose an umbrella and Tony brought home a commemorative baseball. We also had our pictures taken with a cardboard cutout of Albert Pujols.
From there we moved over to the next block and got some free swag at the Sponsor Zone, including another photo-this one in front of a green screen that came out of the printer with us standing at home plate in Busch Stadium, free tacos from Taco Bell, and a towel dunked in ice water from the Anheuser-Busch area. (They also had a nice area set up with the Cardinals game on TV and a big cooling fan.)
The end of the night found us back under the Arch grounds for a free charity concert by Sheryl Crow and Elvis Costello. When we arrived there was plenty of grass area available to spread our blanket, but by the time the concert started the grounds were completely packed. After the concert and two encores there was a short unannounced fireworks display which was a nice surprise.
On the way home we stopped at Mobil On The Run again, this time for a cheap frozen drink. Somehow that seemed like an appropriate way to end a great day.