Players go Hollywood in red-carpet parade
Route turns Happiest Place on Earth into baseball country
ANAHEIM -- Adam Wainwright had a pink girl's backpack in each hand, several hours before he was expected to take the mound at some point Tuesday night for the National League.
He and his wife, Jenny, along with their daughters, Baylie (3) and Morgan (1), were about to board the back of a big Chevy truck and head for Disneyland through a parade route of adoring baseball fans, and Mickey Mouse, in Major League Baseball's sixth annual Red Carpet Show presented by Chevy.
The only other parade Wainwright ever rode in was in 2006, finishing at Busch Stadium after he helped lead the Cardinals to a World Series title. This time, the hurler and his family joined other All-Stars and their families at the Anaheim Marriott and then the red-carpet route went to the famous nearby theme park, where players then said goodbye to their co-riders and were whisked to Angel Stadium to suit up for the 81st All-Star Game.
Once they got to Disney, if they wished, Jenny and the girls would be free to enjoy "It's A Small World," the Dumbo Elephant ride, Main Street and any other attractions within the park. It was up to the family members at the point, since they were in Disneyland already anyway.
"I can only expect it's going to be that big or bigger, probably," Wainwright said as they left other American League and NL stars in the staging area. "The fans have been showing up and making us feel really awesome. It's special for me to get on there with my family. It's something they can always remember, not just me."
The parade concept began in 2005 outside Comerica Park in Detroit, a way for players to be transported to the game, while letting fans get a close-up look at their MLB favorites. It was such a success that it became an immediate tradition. Parades were held in 2006 in Pittsburgh, dramatically crossing over the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the way to PNC Park, then in 2007 along the piers heading to San Francisco's AT&T Park, then in 2008 up Sixth Avenue in New York, then last year beside the Arch in downtown St. Louis.
Giants closer Brian Wilson was in the unforgettable 2008 parade, and he said at the staging area that he was looking forward to the ride into Disneyland.
"It's pretty awesome," Wilson said before hopping into a Chevy and standing up in the flatbed. It's not like you had to actually look for his truck's nameplate to know it was him, given his signature mohawk that flapped in the breeze.
"It's sweet, the crowd gets into it. This kind of time is for the fans, it's for us to just showcase and have a good time. They get to watch and get involved."
This particular Red Carpet parade was twinged with bittersweet sadness, presenting a sometimes-surreal setting. On Tuesday morning, only hours later, players learned of legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner's death. The Yankees led all clubs with eight All-Star selections this time, and they also came here with the AL manager, Joe Girardi. So it was a long rollout of Yankee-occupied vehicles, all in a happy-time parade headed for The Happiest Place On Earth -- a stark contradiction on a day of mourning especially in the Yankee family.
"This is my first time -- I haven't been an All-Star in nine years, so they hadn't done it when I was in this game before," said Yankees three-time All-Star pitcher Andy Pettitte as he boarded with family. Right after arriving at the ballpark, he joined teammates Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, along with Girardi, in a press conference at the ballpark to talk about The Boss.
Torii Hunter of the host Angels has been extra-busy this week, immersing himself in every part of the All-Star experience. He said the parade "adds a lot" to the Midsummer Classic.
"It adds a little celebrity-ism," the AL outfielder said. "You see the red carpet out there in LA somewhere, it makes it more professional. Guys get to dress up, fans get to see their favorite players -- it's great for the game of baseball and it's great for the fans.
"These fans are right there. You get to see A-Rod or Derek Jeter and Evan Longoria. You see him and he makes contact with you. The kids love it. It's so much fun."
City of Anaheim mayor Curt Pringle said: "This is a wonderful opportunity for fans to enjoy the All-Star Summer and see their favorite players up close as they travel down Harbor Blvd."
Tim Brosnan, executive vice president, business, for MLB, said the event "gives fans the opportunity to see their favorite MLB stars in a unique way and brings fans closer to the game. In addition to the people of Anaheim, we are thrilled to bring the event into the Disneyland Resort to share this celebration of Major League Baseball with their guests from across America and around the world."
"Disneyland Resort is thrilled to participate in the MLB All-Star Game festivities and help shine the spotlight on the entire Anaheim Resort Area," added George Kalogridis, President, Disneyland Resort. "With the Midsummer Classic here in our own backyard, I can't imagine a more perfect All-Star Game parade route than one that concludes on Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland park and allows our guests to join in the celebration."
Next July, you can expect to see the same kind of vehicles tooling through the thoroughfares of Phoenix. This is now a highly anticipated part of sports' most famous All-Star extravaganza.
"We are glad the MLB All-Stars will ride in style in Chevrolets for the 6th year in a row," said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Chevrolet Marketing, in a statement before the parade began. "Watching the MLB stars will be a memorable experience for baseball fans around the world, who catch the All-Star Red Carpet Show."
Building up to the excitement of the All-Star Game, MLB has conducted a wide variety of special events and charitable activities for fans both inside and outside of Angel Stadium. At the ballpark, the events included All-Star Sunday, featuring the XM All-Star Futures Game and the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, and Gatorade All-Star Workout Day on Monday featuring the State Farm Home Run Derby won by David Ortiz of the Red Sox.
Outside of the ballpark, fans had an opportunity to experience All-Star Summer through a variety of special events, including All-Star FanFest, the five-day interactive fan festival; the All-Star Game Charity 5K & Fun Run that drew more than 9,000 runners raising more than $200,000 for four charities and included a complete run around the Angel Stadium warning track; and the parade.
As part of the theme involving Disney in this year's event, fans in the Southern California are enjoying the ability to find large Mickey Mouse statues all over the region, each representing different clubs and themes as per previous All-Star Weeks. Forever Collectibles replicas of the 7 1/2-foot-tall statues are now available at the MLB.com Shop, and you can collect all 36 of them.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau de Sport, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.