Editor’s note: While I was on an airboat, cruising around central Florida swampland, Becca Schaar was at CHS Field soaking in the American Association All-Star Game. She had no cassette-holding, pop-open tape recorder and no trilby hat with a PRESS card shoved into the fabric, but that’s okay. History only remembers those who hold Bill Murray’s cellphone and hat. A couple of quotes are included from an interview I had with Sean Aronson last Thursday.
How do you host a Minor League all-star game? Quick, stop thinking it over!
When the St. Paul Saints were awarded this year’s American Association All-Star Game, they came into loaded with name power: Owner Mike Veeck, whose family has been in baseball top brasses for decades; broadcast and media director Sean Aronson, who has overseen two previous All-Star games (including one in Fort Myers in 2003 that featured Joe Mauer); Bill Murray, who is Bill Murray; and Sister Rosalind, the 86-year-old nun whose massages are as much woven into St. Paul Saints lore as the baseball itself.
“It’s tough during the season, because you’re preparing for games,” said Aronson, “and then we go on the road in Lincoln [the weekend before the All-Star festivities], and you’re coming back and getting ready for a two-day event. I’ve learned from my other two how to be prepared for all the stuff that goes on.”
A celebrity softball game and a home run derby highlighted Monday night’s action. The game itself was played Tuesday night. It all came together in the most Saintly way possible.
Not pictured: baseball.
Aronson recalled broadcasting the 2003 All-Star game … kind of.
“We were webcasting that game,” said Aronson. “There was a terrible lightning storm in the area and it knocked out the power for our webcast, but I just did the game into a tape recorder because I never knew if I’d ever be part of an All-Star game again.”
This year’s All-Star game drew an official attendance of 8,015 — nod-worthy numbers for a team that already draws an average of 4,000 more fans per game than any other in the league. The CHS Field press box was chock full with coverage from across the country, fully-functioning power, and a crew from Fox Sports North Plus.
They were a hard-working group that night, noses to the grindstone, barely letting a glance go toward newbies … but the newbie didn’t go unnoticed by one prominent Saints face.
Schaar: Hi Bill.
Murray: Hi, how are you?
BS: Great, you?
BM: Great! You’re not very tan for a body builder.
BS: Um yeah, shoot. Guess I forgot to oil up!
BM: C’mon! It’s the All-Star game! (Pause) Can you watch my stuff for a sec?
Murray proceeded to the field, where he hugged Sister Rosalind and handed over the Billy P. Baseball Person of the Year Award to her. She was hoisted into the air during the pre-game festivities.
There was a flyover after that, then an anthem, then 36 ounces of beer.
Saints outfielder Alonzo Harris, despite being 5-foot-10 and only 175 pounds, reached the championship round of the home run derby and came within one blast of winning it all. It was ultimately won by Curt Smith of the Lincoln Salt Dogs (actual team name); but, on Tuesday night, they teamed up to score the game’s first run.
Harris was walked on the game’s first at-bat; and, two batters later, was on third base with the bags loaded. Smith came up to bat and was hit by a pitch, sending Harris on a walk back home.
Later that inning, David Rohm of the Winnipeg Goldeyes drove in two runs to secure a 3-0 lead for Team North and paving Easy St. for a 6-1 victory over Team South. Rohm was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
North starting pitcher and St. Paul Saints ace Mark Hamburger was awarded the win after giving up two hits and no runs during his inning of work. South starting pitcher Ryan Beckman, of the Laredo Lemurs (a team name decided on by, ostensibly, real adults), was given the loss.