KC ready to shine under All-Star spotlight

KC ready to shine under All-Star spotlight

KANSAS CITY -- Royals owner David Glass helped launch the balloting for the 83rd All-Star Game on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium, site of the 2012 Midsummer Classic, and then remembered the most recent time Kansas City was host to the event.

Glass and his son, Dan, who is now the Royals' president, were at that game on July 24, 1973.

"Johnny Bench hit the longest home run I've ever seen hit in this stadium in the All-Star Game of '73, and I was on a Hall of Fame committee with him a year or so ago," said Glass. "I said, 'Johnny, I was thinking about that home run you hit in Kansas City and how far that one went.' And he sat there a minute and said, 'Yeah, I hit that one pretty good, but let me tell you about a couple of others.'

"Baseball players always remember those that they hit the furthest and were the most dramatic, but it's fun thinking about it and talking to them about it."

Now the balloting begins for players that will make new memories at the All-Star Game on July 10 at Kauffman Stadium. Starting on Friday, fans around the world can cast votes for starters up to 25 times exclusively on MLB.com, online or via their mobile devices, with the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com ballot.

In addition, more than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at the 30 Major League ballparks for in-stadium voting at each on 23 dates. The first votes, fittingly, will be cast on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Last year, a record 32.5 million ballots were cast, making the MLB All-Star balloting program the largest of its kind in pro sports.

"The players in the game will be selected as part of an All-Star balloting program that is the single-largest election in the United States," said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business. "There will be more ballots cast for these players than will be cast in the presidential election."

George Brett, a 13-time All-Star who was elected 10 times by fans to start for the American League, is serving as the All-Star Ambassador and joined Glass and current Royals left fielder Alex Gordon at the ceremonies to begin the balloting.

"When I first heard we were going to host the All-Star Game this year, I thought, 'Boy this is going to be a lot of fun. Go to the game, go to some of the events,'" said Brett. "And then I got the call that I'm the Ambassador, and now I get to go to all the events.

"I'm looking forward to it to help show off our town to the world. It's a town that I'm proud to call home, and I think the people of Kansas City are really going to come out and support this thing and show the world what a great town this is."

Indeed, the dignitaries at Thursday's ceremony expressed pride at being able to show off Kansas City's attributes.

"Kansas City shows itself very, very well," Glass said. "We've got great things here that most people don't realize because we're here in the Midwest, but this will expose us to the rest of the country and people all over the world, so this is pretty exciting.

Gordon is serving as the MLB All-Star FanFest Spokesperson and attended the conference on the Royals' day off.

"This is what I consider my hometown," Gordon said. "Obviously Lincoln, (Neb.), is where I grew up, but I spent the last six years here in the offseasons and the seasons, so this means a lot of me.

"This is my kind of community, so I'm very honored and I'm happy the Royals selected me [as FanFest Spokesperson], so I'm going to promote it and do my best to make it a great week for Kansas City."

There is also considerable economic impact on the city.

"Besides all the excitement that's created by having the All-Star Game here, it generates an economic benefit to Kansas City of upwards of $60 million," Glass said. "Plus a dramatic amount of charitable dollars, and we get to spend the majority of it in our community."

Kansas City mayor Sly James and Jackson County executive Mike Sanders joined in the ceremonies on Thursday. Sanders remembered that in the 1973 All-Star Game, the Royals' Amos Otis singled home Reggie Jackson for the AL's only run in a 7-1 loss to the National League. That was the first year that the current ballpark, then called Royals Stadium, was in operation.

Kauffman Stadium was extensively renovated prior to the 2009 season, improvements that Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to see completed before Kansas City was awarded the Midsummer Classic, and Glass moved to secure it as quickly as possible.

"Kansas City stepped up and we spent a lot of money on a stadium that was already beautiful," Glass said. "We improved it even more. While we're still experiencing the fun of the new stadium and all the fan amenities and all the things that have been added -- go ahead and get everything you can. Cram it into that experience. So the sooner you do it, the better of you are. We get the All-Star Game this year and before long, I'm going to start lobbying Bud to get it again."

After all, All-Star Week has become a huge event.

"Having the All-Star Game is really a big deal," Glass said. "It's probably second to having the World Series here, which is also in our plans."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.