Kansas City looks forward to All-Star game

Thursday, April 19, 2012 | 11:04 p.m. CDT
Fans try to catch a foul ball hit by Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday in Kansas City.

KANSAS CITY — Royals owner David Glass still believes his team will be in contention by the All-Star break. If not, the Royals plan to put on a tremendous party anyway.

Glass appeared at Kauffman Stadium for a news conference Thursday to promote the All-Star game, which Kansas City will host for the first time since 1973. The game is scheduled for July 10 at the recently renovated ballpark, still considered among the jewels of Major League Baseball.

If only the team stacked up to the picturesque facility.

The rare public appearance by Glass came in the midst of a 3-9 start and back-to-back home sweeps by the Indians and Tigers, a pair of AL Central rivals. The Royals are on a seven-game skid marked by pitching meltdowns, extra-inning defeats and generally poor play.

"I have a lot of confidence in this team," Glass said. "I'm disappointed in our won-loss record at this point, but I have no concern about the fact that this team will turn it around."

Glass said the All-Star game represents a chance for Kansas City to show off for a national audience and rated the exposure it generates second only to the World Series, something the club has failed to reach since its last playoff berth in 1985.

Expectations were higher than normal this season after a wave of young talent graduated from the minor leagues last year. But already, many fans are bemoaning the same ol' Royals.

"We have a great group — a core group — of young players that we intend to keep together. I think these kids are winners," Glass said. "They think they're winners, I'm looking forward to not just this year but the next few years with these kids."

The Royals, who were off Thursday, begin a four-game series against Toronto on Friday night.

Even if they fail to climb back into contention by the All-Star break, baseball-starved fans in the City of Fountains can still look forward to the Midsummer Classic.

Kansas City aggressively sought an annual showcase game after extensive renovations to Kauffman Stadium, which opened just months before its last All-Star game. Just about every area of the park has been touched during the construction, though is modernist styling is still evident.

The Royals are making sure to give All-Star weekend a local flair. Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett is serving as an ambassador, while outfielder Alex Gordon is the spokesman for the FanFest, which will be held downtown.

Major League Baseball and the franchise will combine to donate more than $3.5 million to charities in the community, including projects for the Boys & Girls Clubs, renovations to youth baseball fields, a scholarship program and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

"A lot of time has passed in the 40 years since the last All-Star Game here," said MLB vice president Tim Brosnan. "Back then there was a game and not much else."

That's hardly the case anymore.

There is the futures game comprised of minor league players — Brett will manage one of the teams for the second time — along with the celebrity game and the popular home run derby.

Fan voting for the game begins Friday when the Royals host the Blue Jays and expands to other major league ballparks over the next couple of weeks. The starters and reserves for the game are announced July 1.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Jackson County executive Mike Sanders believe the game will leave an economic impact of about $60 million on the metropolitan area.

"This will be a time for Kansas City to shine," James said.

It would help if there was some local flavor in the game itself.

Gordon said one of the goals in the Kansas City clubhouse is to get more than just one player on the American League roster. The Royals came close last season, when reliever Aaron Crow was selected and Gordon landed on the last-chance ballot, though he wasn't voted onto the team.

"I came close last year," he said, "I think the goal for our team is to get more than one player on there. That would mean we're playing well, we're playing better."

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