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The Stars Shine Brightly in the Desert

BASEBALLPARKS.COM attends the 2011 mid-season classic at Chase Field

Due to a combination of factors (the economy's woes, star players bailing out, the high price of tickets), the demand for seats at 2011's All Star Game festivities seemed to be less than in past years. Consequently, when the Diamondbacks announced that they were making thousands of seats available to the general public just six weeks ahead of the game, I jumped on the opportunity and grabbed a couple of tickets on the D-backs' site for face value -- plus the utterly criminal service charges tacked on by TicketMaster, of course.

But then I decided to get greedy, and bought another pair of tickets with the intent of selling them for a profit. One of my stupider ideas. Ever. I had to lower my price and lower my price and lower my price ... and finally sold them online the day before the game for about 75% of what I paid for them. My advice: leave the ticket re-selling to the professionals who know what they're doing.

But even with hundreds of tickets remaining unsold on the secondary market as the game arrived, that didn't put a damper on the enthusiasm of the fans. They roared their approval -- and disapproval -- of the batters in the Home Run Derby. They flocked to the FanFest activities at the nearby Convention Center. They stood in the brutal mid-day sun to witness the "red carpet" parade of the players. And they loved the pageantry of the All Star Game itself.

So come along with us as we show you what these festivities looked like!

Bigger and bigger every year

It seems that the annual FanFest grows each year. This indoor event is usually held in the convention center in the All Star Game city for several days leading up to the big game, and that was indeed the case in Phoenix. Thankfully, the ballpark and the convention center were only two blocks apart.

And what did fans encounter once inside the cavernous facility? Lots. For the collector, there were numerous vendors with baseball cards, pins, autographed bats and photos and more. Autograph seekers could wait in line to obtain signatures from many past stars. There was even an expanded "combine" area where kids could try hitting, fielding and running the bases ... and there was even an area where youngsters could perfect their technique for sliding into a base.

And there were several live broadcasts going on. One found Peter Gammons being interviewed on MLB Radio (above left).

Celebrities weren't only behind the microphones. For example, I spotted baseball fan and actor James Denton (famous for his character on Desperate Housewives) in the souvenir shop (above center).

There was even an area dedicated to couples uniting in holy matrimony (above right), as a series of weddings took place on a make-shift ball field in the middle of the FanFest madness.

Bombs away

Over at Chase Field, Adrian Gonzalez got the Home Run Derby started with a bang (above left). On the right is Prince Fielder smacking one into the right-field seats. Robinson Cano won the event, besting Gonzalez in the final round.

Red carpet, red-hot pavement

A "red carpet" parade has proven popular in All Star Game host cities in the past, none moreso than the parade up Broadway when the ASG was played at Yankee Stadium in 2009. When the concept was brought to Phoenix, MLB had the good sense to limit its route to less than half a mile. The reason? Did you know that it gets warm in July in Arizona? There was very little shade to be found by the parade attendees, and let me tell you that the pavement in downtown Phoenix was extremely hot! The bottoms of my feet were killing me just from walking on the blistering sidewalks.

And it was hot for the players, being driven slowly by the crowds down a red-carpet-covered street. The right-hand shot above shows reliever Brian Wilson, whose facial hair has garnered more attention than any bearded athlete in history.

American League manager Ron Washington, who famously once said "That's how baseball go," got to ride in a convertible, while the players rode in the backs of pickups. On the right side above, pitcher C.J. Wilson shrugged at a fan who had yelled out to him.

Go to Page 2 of the All Star Game photo essay