Beginning Friday, the legends of the past, the big names of the present and the budding stars of the future will descend upon Pittsburgh for the greatest celebration of baseball that the National Pastime has ever enjoyed.
From the opening of FanFest on Friday to last pitch of the 77th Midsummer Classic at PNC Park on Tuesday, the baseball extravaganza that is All-Star Week will provide wall-to-wall thrills and lasting memories for fans of all ages.
Let's take a look at the many All-Star activities that will be available this exciting extended weekend in Pittsburgh.
The doors of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center will open at 9 a.m. ET on Friday for the start of baseball's annual interactive fan experience.
Highlights of the 2006 FanFest include:
A full infield diamond that will serve as the site of various hitting, fielding, pitching and baserunning clinics throughout the weekend. Many of the daily seminars will be hosted by current and former big leaguers, including Jason Bay, Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr., Harmon Killebrew, Juan Marichal, Bill Mazeroski, Fred Lynn, Luis Aparicio and Bob Feller.
State-of-the-art video batting cages that will give fans an opportunity to experience what it is like to hit against the game's best pitchers, and a bullpen where fans can test their stuff against video images of top sluggers.
An area where fans can create their own baseball cards, make a personalized cover of Sports Weekly, pose with the World Series trophy and call their own sportscast as they do the play-by-play of a memorable moment in baseball history.
A collection of artifacts and photos from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Steeltown Heroes, a tribute to Pirates greats from the past and present.
An exhibit celebrating the contribution of Negro League stars and Pittsburgh's rich Negro League history.
Free personalized autographs from Major League Baseball greats such as Feller, Killebrew, Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Jim Leyland, Bill Madlock, Phil Niekro, Al Oliver, Buck O'Neil, Dave Parker, Gaylord Perry, Manny Sanguillen, Chuck Tanner and Earl Weaver.
A live auction Tuesday for more than 600 lots of baseball memorabilia.
FanFest Cyber Ballpark, a chance to test your skills on MLB computer and video games.
FanFest will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET on Friday through Monday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET on All-Star Tuesday. Daily tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, military personnel and children (3-12). Family four- to seven-packs are also available at a discounted rate. Tickets can be purchased online at pirates.com and MLB.com or by phone at 877-893-2827.
FanFest also will be available at MLB.com, with live streaming video from the event airing from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET every night. This will include Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig's Town Hall Chat at 2 p.m. ET on All-Star Tuesday. You can watch it all by simply clicking the "BaseballChannel.TV" link on the MLB.com Mulimedia Guide page. "
Sunday: Futures Game and Legends and Celebrities Softball Classic
The top American Minor League prospects will square off against their counterparts from around the world in the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game, which will be held at PNC Park on Sunday, July 9 at 4 p.m. ET.
The game will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast live on MLB Radio. You can catch a live pregame show, hosted by Jonathan Mayo and Lisa Winston, at 3 p.m. on MLB.TV.
Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the 30 Major League Clubs and Baseball America, selected the 25-man rosters for each team. Each Major League organization is represented and the World Team features players from 11 different countries and territories.
A total of eight members of the MLB.com preseason Top-50 prospects will participate, including infielders Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks), Howie Kendrick (Angels), Alex Gordon (Royals), and Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies); outfielder Billy Butler (Royals); and pitchers Phil Hughes (Yankees), and Homer Bailey (Reds) of the United States Team. In addition, Pittsburgh-area natives and Pirates prospects Neil Walker and Josh Sharpless are also members of the US squad.
Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, a native of Canada, will skipper the world team. Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter will manage the U.S. club.
MLB.com will again have a reporter in each dugout fielding e-mail questions from fans and getting real-time responses from players on the World and U.S. teams during the Futures Game.
After the seven-inning Futures Game is completed, platinum-selling musical group O.A.R. will perform a two-song set on the field before leaving the stage for the Taco Bell Legends and Celebrities Softball Game, which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised Monday night on ESPN immediately following coverage of the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby.
Celebrities who are scheduled to participate include former Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Franco Harris, actor and director Rob Reiner, James Denton of "Desperate Housewives," talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, actress Sarah Silverman and musician Cowboy Troy.
Among the baseball legends who will see action are Pirates Hall of Famer and 1960 World Series hero Mazeroski, fellow Cooperstown inductees Carter, Fingers, Ernie Banks, Dave Winfield and Ozzie Smith, past All-Stars Dawson, Lynn, Harold Reynolds, Tommy John, and John Kruk, and former Pirates All-Stars Parker, Madlock and Gossage.
Tickets for Taco Bell All-Star Sunday can be purchased by online at www.pirates.com and mlb.com or by telephone at 888-FANFEST (326-3378).
Monday: All-Star Workout Day and Home Run Derby
Fans will have their first chance to see the 2006 All Star Teams in action on Monday during Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at PNC Park. Gates open at 4 p.m. ET.
Both teams will take their cuts in batting practice, and souvenirs are sure to be flying into the stands and out onto the river walk behind the right field Clemente Wall. Following BP, Grammy-nominated country duo Big and Rich will perform two songs on the field at PNC Park.
At 8 p.m. ET, it's on to the main event of the night: the Home Run Derby, which will be televised on ESPN and broadcast live on MLB Radio.
After taking on a global theme last year in Detroit, with participants representing eight different countries, the Derby will return to its traditional format of four representatives from each league. The eight sluggers who have committed to participate in the event are Red Sox DH David Ortiz, Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus, White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye, Mets third baseman David Wright, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, Marlins outfielder Miguel Cabrera and Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada.
"I look at it the same way a basketball player would look at taking part in the slam dunk contest," Howard said. "It would be cool to take part in that."
Unfortunately for the hometown fans, Bucs slugger Bay has decided not to participate in the Derby this year after failing to hit one out of Comerica Park for Canada in 2005.
"They asked me more than once," said Bay, "and I said 'No.'"
Tuesday: 77th All-Star Game
On Tuesday night, 32 of the best players from each league will square off at PNC Park for the 77th Midsummer Classic, which will be shown live at 8 p.m. ET on FOX and can be heard live at MLB Radio.
Houston manager Phil Garner, a popular former Pirates player, will look to lead the National League to its first win since 1996. In the visiting dugout, Ozzie Guillen, skipper of the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox, will attempt to give the Junior Circuit home-field advantage in the World Series for the fourth consecutive year.
The NL starters, as voted in by the fans, are Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and third baseman Wright, outfielders Bay, Carlos Beltran of the Mets and Alfonso Soriano of the Nationals, and Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca. Bay is the first Pirates player to be voted in as an All-Star starter since Andy Van Slyke in 1993.
In the AL, fans selected Ortiz at first base, Red Sox second baseman Mark Loretta, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Rodriguez, outfielders Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels, Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners and Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox, and Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
The 32nd and final players added to each roster, as selected by fans during the Monster All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com, were catcher A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox and first baseman Nomar Garciaparra of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.