NEW YORK -- I'm sitting here in the Yankee Stadium press box more than four hours before tonight's All-Star Game, and it's one of my favorite times of day. Early afternoon, when the ballpark is quiet, with just the very early signs of it stirring to life.
Outside, it's a mob scene here in New York and if you get a chance to be in front of the television and get a look at the pre-game show, from what I'm hearing, you should make sure to see it.
More than 40 Hall of Famers are here for a special pre-game ceremony, and -- careful, spoiler alert -- it sounds like they're going emerge from Monument Park as they're being introduced to the sold-out crowd of some 55,000, and walk across the outfield before taking their positions -- whatever position they played.
Anyway, there are just a few TV folks down on the field now. Actually, they're off to the side, in front of the dugouts. Aside from a couple of groundskeepers, the only folks on the infield are Yankees manager Joe Girardi and his son Dante, 6. Girardi was pitching to Dante a little bit ago, then Dante went out to third base and Girardi hit him several ground balls and pop-ups.
Now Dante is pitching to his pop, though with that little arm, he's not exactly all the way back to the mound. What a nice moment it is, before the big stadium lights come on later and the noise level rises and the stakes get higher.
Yes, this time it counts, again. And here are just a couple of other items as we head toward first pitch:
-- Commissioner Bud Selig, at a lunch with the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America, said he's fully committed to keeping the current format in which the All-Star Game winner decides World Series home-field advantage. "It's restored intensity to the sport," Selig said. "You don't hear people bitching and whining anymore about coming to the game. There was a time in the 1990s where people didn't want to come. Players were gone by the third or fourth inning." Hey Frank Thomas, your ears burning?
-- Selig said he thinks Florida will have a stadium soon. And he said Oakland needs one. "They need a new ballpark. There were people in the '70s who thought they needed a new ballpark, and they got Charley (Finley, the old owner) instead," Selig quipped.
-- He danced around the topic of the Yankees charging up to $2,000 a ticket for games in their new ballpark next year. Yes, you read that right. The lowest ticket in new Yankee Stadium is expected to go for $50. Hey family of four, good luck. "I am sensitive to ticket prices and, for the most part, I'm very proud of what clubs have done," he said. "You always assume the club is sensitive to its local market and knows it's market and will do what works in its market. I'm going to give both the Yankees and Mets their due in that regard. Life had changed. When I ran a club (Milwaukee), in the '70s and '80s I used to sit and agonize for months over a quarter raise (in ticket prices)."
-- Good line from NL manager Clint Hurdle the other day discussing how he put his starting lineup together: "I tried to combine some speed and some power, tried to have length in the lineup, had all that from top to bottom. And you look at the numbers that many of these men have put up, you know, I'm a big fan, I hear a lot about OPS, OBP ... I'm a big fan of G-U-T-S. I like guts."