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MLB All-Star Game 2011: How MLB Can Improve the All-Star Break

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MLB All-Star Game 2011: How MLB Can Improve the All-Star Break
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Most are still excited for tonight’s MLB All-Star Game, but many are heading into the event with negative connotations as superstar after superstar bows out of the event. Even the most beloved (or most hated), Derek Jeter, has decided to spend his time off in Miami instead of attending the festivities.

At this point, the MLB All-Star Game is starting to resemble the NFL Pro Bowl. Everyone wants to be named an All-Star, but not everybody wants to participate in the festivities. It’s a shame, as this deprives the fans of the chance to see their superstars.

There’s a reason the NBA and NHL All-Star breaks are so beloved—because they actually hold an All-Star break! It’s time Bud Selig and Major League Baseball take it up a notch. Baseball has the opportunity to surpass the NBA and NHL events with ease. They can bring back immense interest in their All-Star break.

Personally, I loved last night’s Home Run Derby. There were great story lines and exciting moments throughout the three-hour broadcast. The problem for many, for some odd reason, was that it took three hours, which could be difficult for individuals who have to be up early the next day for work.

MLB needs to transfer its Home Run Derby, and its All-Star break in general, into an All-Star weekend just like NBA and NHL do. Right off the bat, interest will be piqued. It just slides off the tongue better—All-Star weekend. It just fits.

It feels like a vacation, and it gives the fans every opportunity to catch every second of the action without having to worry about their weekday nine-to-five job. Instead of Sunday to Tuesday, we need to begin the festivities on Friday.

David Stern and the NBA have it right. I’m sorry if it feels a bit copycat, but it’s quite a simple formula, and NBA executives understand that. They shine the brightest lights throughout the weekend and make it into a grand spectacle.

The MLB Futures Game is quickly gaining momentum. Fans have more access to the top prospects now more than ever—and we want to see our future stars of tomorrow today. Instead of placing the Futures Game in between the last 4:00 p.m. EST game and Sunday Night Baseball, we need to switch it to 8:00 p.m. EST on Friday night. Give these young athletes a chance to shine with prime-time lights.

Saturday is when we get crazy.

Nobody wants to stay up on a Monday night until 1:00 a.m. to see the Celebrity and Legends Softball game. It may not be high on others' priority lists, but I always enjoy seeing celebrities and legends mix it up.

The NBA's counterpart is a great part of the NBA All-Star weekend, and it actually kicks off the entire event prior to the Rookie-Sophomore game on Friday evening. Instead of airing the Celebrity and Legends game after the Home Run Derby, kick off All-Star Saturday with the event in the afternoon.

After that, the real fun begins. Like the NBA does and the NFL used to do, we have a set of Skills Challenges. We take the best of the best specialists and put them through individual drills.

We kick things off with the Rocket-Arm competition, in which we take the top five pitchers and see who can clock the highest on the radar gun in five pitches.

Next, we have our distance competition. We pit the top outfielders against one another to see who can make the most accurate throw to home plate.

We then move to the infield, where we see which infielder can field troublesome grounders the quickest, smoothest and most efficiently while making the most accurate throw to first base.

Better yet, we could do a double-play competition to spice it up and get more superstars involved. We have four teams—two from the AL and two from the NL—each equipped with a first baseman, second baseman and shortstop to see which combination can put together the most spectacular but efficient double play.

We could see Asdrubal Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Paul Konerko square off against Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Phillips and Prince Fielder.

Finally, we top off this section with the fastest-man competition. We take the elite base stealers in the game and see who can round the bases the fastest. Who wouldn’t love to see Jose Reyes, Andrew McCutchen, Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki and the elite specialists tear up the base paths?

These four events then bring us to the classic slug fest at 8:00 p.m. EST to cap off the night.

We’ve debated over the week which event is better, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest or the MLB Home Run Derby. As much as I adore the Dunk Contest, the Derby has a unique aura and just never gets old. The Derby is the perfect way to cap off a Saturday filled with All-Star events to give the fans everything they want.

Finally, we cap off the weekend with the All-Star game Sunday night at 8:00 p.m.

We can resume baseball activities on the following Tuesday or Wednesday, but at least this gives everybody what they want. It gives the players the ability to participate in exciting and competitive events that fans would love to see. It gives the fans the opportunity to see their favorite superstars in different drills that showcase their specialties.

We all thrive for more interaction. Major League Baseball needs to make the All-Star break an extended weekend full of festivities to give everybody a taste of what they want. NBA has the blueprint for a supremely successful All-Star weekend, and it is up to MLB to run away with it.

We, the fans, desperately want to see our favorite superstars participate throughout All-Star weekend. This is our opportunity.

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