I had been to the Home Run Derby and All Star Game twice (2009 in St Louis and 2011 in Phoenix) and always had a great time. I was tempted to buy a ticket strip for the San Diego festivities but decided I shouldn’t spend the money at the time they went on sale. Of course, since then, I’ve still had the desire to go, and when I found out two good friends would also be visiting from out of town, I decided to get a last minute ticket on StubHub and come down from LA for a day trip to attend just the Fan Fest and Home Run Derby.
If I have to pick only one All Star event, I’ll always pick the Derby because it’s just so much fun to watch the homers soar out of the park. I like seeing the players hanging out and encouraging each other. I like the camaraderie and relaxed vibe.
I played the Stubhub waiting game and I never know when is the best time to jump on tickets there. I only needed a single seat. On the day before the Derby, I could have grabbed a standing room ticket in one of the bleacher-area holding pens/bars for $100. That was the best deal I saw but I waited too long. By Derby morning, the ticket was up to $180. Then I saw another single seat pop up in the premier club behind home plate, about 25 rows back, for below face value at $220 so I grabbed it. I am always torn between wanting to actually see the players swing from a good seat, and wanting to have a chance to catch a ball. In the end I decided I’d rather have a seat than do the standing room area, as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get to the stadium very early to secure a spot.
I drove down to San Diego in the late morning to avoid traffic from LA, and I went straight to the Fan Fest at the convention center. This was similar to other Fan Fests I’ve attended. Tim Raines was posing for photos, as other players had done throughout the various days. There were many baseball activities for the kids, like batting cages and clinics. I enjoyed the Hall of Fame exhibit (including Lou Brock and Grover Cleveland Alexander jerseys) and some of the baseball history exhibits, although they were retreads of past Fan Fests to some degree.
The big draw is always the store. They were giving away pins every hour and people queued up for that. They had a jersey factory set up where fans could custom jerseys with names and numbers. I liked the retro Padres uniform aesthetic they applied to the batting practice jerseys and caps, so I bought the Cardinals cap for the exorbitant cost of $44, then realized it didn’t have the All Star Game patch. I then found out I could have the patch applied for an additional $5! This was a real rip off and people were pissed off, especially because these hats with the patch were $39 on the MLB website. After I walked away with my cap, I looked at it and noticed that the patch had folded slightly during application and you couldn’t read the year, so I took it back. Someone behind me had a similar issue. The clerk explained the situation to her manager who actually rolled her eyes but allowed us to get replacement hats. If we’re paying that much, of course we want it to look right! Still, merchandise was flying off the shelves. We all needed to show the world we’d been there.
It’s a short walk from the convention center to Petco Park, although it was made longer by a security fence that had been erected around more than half the stadium. I loved the view from my seat and enjoyed the waiter service – first time I’ve ever sat in a section that offered it. My seats also came with access to the Premier Club restaurant and bar, but I didn’t avail myself of it. I would have loved to have sat in the Western Metal Supply building seats as many homers went to them, but those seats were pricey.
Fall Out Boy opened the festivities with a few songs, and there was a military jet flyover that I couldn’t see as my seats were under an overhang. The format of the Derby made things go quite fast and created a lot of excitement to see who would advance in each round. Of course the highlight was watching Giancarlo Stanton win and set a new record with 61 homers during the course of the derby. It was just a thing of beauty to watch him crush the ball over and over, and he made it seem effortless.
After the Derby, many fans were enjoying the nightlife in the adjacent Gaslamp Quarter. I had no trouble with traffic as my car was about half a mile away in a lot near the convention center and it took a little while to walk over there. I met my friends at their hotel and didn’t end up getting back home until 1:00 AM but it was worth it! I think San Diego did a great job hosting, and I’m glad I was able to go.
You can check out all my pics here.