Red Carpet parade no ordinary event

Red Carpet parade no ordinary event

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dodgers catcher Russell Martin was all stocked up with a box of crowd-pleasing swag in the back of his assigned white Chevrolet Silverado, just waiting for late-inning batterymate Takashi Saito and family to climb aboard for one unforgettable ride to an All-Star Game.

"People love us here," Martin deadpanned. "Oh, we're going to be real popular."

Under ordinary circumstances, a Dodgers player going to the rival Giants' ballpark might want to be a little more low-key. But this was no ordinary circumstance. This was one of Major League Baseball's newest and most popular traditions, the MLB All-Star Game Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet. It was the third year for this parade, which let everyone around see the stars close up and took the American and National League All-Stars, managers and their families down The Embarcadero and King Street toward AT&T Park for the 8 p.m. ET Midsummer Classic.

"I'm not gonna drive. You don't want me to drive. I'm from Boston," joked actor/comedian and diehard Red Sox fan Dane Cook, as he boarded the passenger side of David Ortiz's vehicle.

The Streets of San Francisco were safe. Dane Cook was riding shotgun.

"It's great, because it lets fans see a different perspective of players away from the field," said NL starting third baseman David Wright of the Mets. "I enjoy it, as long as it's good weather, not too hot, perfect just like here. Last year Paulie [Mets teammate Paul Lo Duca] was throwing Baby Ruths at me while we were driving, but this year I brought my brother, so we're enjoying it together this time."

The Red Carpet was, indeed, a red carpet. It started at Townsend and King Streets, and ran the remaining length of the parade route. The fabric stretched for more than 2,000 feet and was made of 100 percent recyclable material. In fact, "green" was very much a theme for an event known for its redness. The parade vehicles included 65, 2007 Chevrolet Silverados and two Chevrolet Impalas, and all vehicles have FlexFuel capability -- which means they can burn E85 ethanol, unleaded gasoline, or a combination.

"It's to get people closer to the players they love," said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president, business, for Major League Baseball. "How much closer can you get than four feet away? I'd say it's kind of a combination of red carpet and Mardi Gras. [It is] fun for everyone involved."

In addition to current All-Star players and their families, 2007 Hall of Fame inductees Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. also rode in the parade. Gwynn, a 16-time All-Star, said it was a lot different than how he used to get to a Midsummer Classic. So how did he usually arrive for these events?

"Like everybody else -- take a cab. Get there early," he said. "So walking here today, I'm completely stunned. It's probably cool, being treated like the Oscars. In a cab, you're trying to hurry in. Now you can wave to fans on the way.

All-Star Game Coverage

"I'm a baseball player, myself. I just thought I was like everybody else, except I play baseball. Maybe that's the mentality today. I don't get to hang with them as much, but the game's a little different already since I've left it. The game's being played at a high level now. [Chase] Utley, [Ryan] Howard, Russell Martin, Prince [Fielder] ... some good young players starting to establish themselves. Maybe these guys will end the losing streak and get things turned around."

It remained to be seen whether the NL would end that drought of All-Star victories, which dates back to a 1996 victory. But one thing is certain. They all arrived. Thousands of people in the streets of San Francisco could vouch for that.

"It's great to see the players, and to see them interacting with us," said Allen Young, an Indians fan living in Tampa, Fla. Specifically, he is a Grady Sizemore fan. Suddenly, Sizemore's truck arrived from the right side, and Young got his camera ready. Then the moment was at hand, and Sizemore's truck rolled slowly by.

"That was great," Young said, "but I had it on zoom. Great picture of his eye!"

Yeah, lots of fans can relate. Sometimes you get the shot. Sometimes you wait 'til next year.

Next year, the Red Carpet parade will be in New York, as the 79th All-Star Game will be coming to Yankee Stadium. That should be quite a parade.

This event was once again free and open to the public. Fans were lined up all along the route, as stars and family members tossed them that swag that players like Martin were stocking up on in the green room.

As for that scene in the green room, you just kind of have to be there. One NL public relations manager joked that the NL had the advantage because most of the swag was depleted by the time the AL got there. Just seeing Indians starter C.C. Sabathia hoisting a huge box of All-Star logo gear, you might have been a little uncomfortable as an Indians fan. But it was all to load up those trucks and throw it out to the crowd, part of the fun.

"I like the free stuff," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said in the middle of the wild green room scene. "You know the saying: 'If it's free, I'll take three!' Seriously, this looks really good, a great opportunity. I'm tired. They keep you busy at these things. I took my son to see a movie Sunday night because I hadn't seen my family in two weeks. You try to do everything. It's a nice chance to all be together for a while."

"It's absolutely tremendous," AL manager Jim Leyland of the Tigers added as he prepared for his own bon voyage down the streets of San Francisco. "It's first-class all the way, a thrill for my family. We don't get many times during the season when we can spend time with our family, and when we can bring them to this, they really enjoy it. For us, it's that extra time to just be around them, and you can't know how much that means."

Leyland's starting pitcher on Tuesday, Dan Haren of the A's, echoed that sentiment as he arrived in the green room with his new bride. "It's nice," he said. "It seems like every year it keeps getting better and better. It's always done first-class. It's nice to get around other families, and just have places to sit down and relax. It's a great time."

FOX Sports Net produced and aired the MLB All-Star Game Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet nationwide from 7-8 p.m. ET as a lead-in to the live national network broadcast of the 78th All-Star Game.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.