Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

All-star prep in full swing

Goldeyes put finishing touches on details of two-day shindig

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As the days tick down closer to the 2014 American Association all-star celebrations, Goldeyes GM Andrew Collier has become a man in perpetual motion.

There's just so much to do before the two-day shindig kicks off at Shaw Park on July 28. The phones keep ringing, new emails keep pinging, and the usual controlled clutter of Collier's desk teeters closer to chaos. There are neat piles of receipts and stacks of all-star ticket packs.

"Things are crazy right now," Collier said with a sheepish grin, offering that as a pre-emptive apology for the interruptions he guessed would follow.

This is the steady drumbeat of all-star prep that has consumed the Goldeyes' recent days. There were flights to book, for instance. Those were a pain, plotting how to bring a few dozen players into Winnipeg on Sunday from 15 other squads across North America, then flying them out to rejoin their teams.

Then there are the details, the little touches to make the whole thing feel pro. Every one of the 40 all-stars gets a gift and a name bar above their locker, so they had to order those. There are parties to organize and airport pickups to arrange.

"Everybody's been working on this since the day we found out," Collier said, rattling off responsibilities they delegated among themselves -- who's working on the media, who's managing the all-star luncheon.

It takes a lot to host an all-star game. Which is why, in part, Winnipeg has the honour of being the first American Association city do it since 2010.

The Fish weren't even in the league back when Wichita hosted the last event, though they'd hosted all-star games in 2001 and 2008 with their former leagues. So when Goldeyes owner and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz raised the idea of doing it again at an American Association owners' meeting, league brass were intrigued.

"They'd had such success hosting all-star games in the past," American Association president Dan Moushon said on Monday from the league headquarters in Durham, N.C. "They've done a fine job with their organization and are a good operation that has a very excellent track record of putting on these events."

But for the Fish, the two-day 2014 American Association all-star celebration is the biggest one yet.

On Monday night at Shaw Park there will be a fan festival, a media skills competition, and a home-run derby. On July 29, there's the all-star luncheon featuring major-league legend Fergie Jenkins (that's almost sold out), a skills camp for kids, and the all-star game itself.

Around all of these events and throughout, there is entertainment: illusionist Brian Glow, bands, and what Collier pledged will be Archangel Fireworks' best light show of the year. ("Better than Canada Day," he swore.) That's what you've gotta do to sell an event like this in indie-league ball.

"If you just try and run a home-run derby, like MLB does, it's not going to work," Collier explained. "We don't have the name draw. We don't have Jose Bautista, guys like that, that everybody knows. So we do it like everything else we do. Yeah, it's baseball, but it's also entertainment."

Of course, Collier hastened to add, "the baseball's gonna be great, too." On that note, at least 10 scouts from major-league organizations have confirmed their attendance, giving Goldeyes all-stars such as Casey Haerther and Tyler Kuhn a confirmed chance to show off their stuff.

Hey, it can work. At the 2008 Northern League all-star game, Goldeyes pitcher Brandon Kintzler got the start in front of a smattering of major-league scouts. A year later, based on what they'd seen in that game -- according to Collier -- the Milwaukee Brewers signed him up. Now, he's pitching in the bigs.

"It means a lot to the players to be in this game," Collier said. "It's a chance for the scouts to come and see the best players that our league has to offer."

Well, when the scouts come, Shaw Park will be ready. All that's left now is to clean up the little details -- oh, and hope the soggy summer, which rained out Monday night's series opener against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, won't be a factor.

"I don't look that far ahead," Collier laughed, of the weather. "It'll just stress me out."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2014 D4

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