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Countdown begins for '09 All-Star Game

Countdown begins for '09 All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- Cardinals, you are on the clock.

At Yankee Stadium, they're cleaning up and reminiscing, looking back at the 79th All-Star Game and the farewell festivities for the House That Ruth Built. But in St. Louis, it's time to start thinking about the 2009 Midsummer Classic, which is set for July 14, 2009, at new Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.

Actually, it's been time for a while now.

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The Cardinals and the city and county of St. Louis sent a large delegation to New York for the week's events in order to get a firsthand look at what goes into producing baseball's biggest spectacle. Along with numerous representatives of the Cardinals, the group included St. Louis mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis county executive Charlie Dooley.

They attended a breakfast meeting on Tuesday morning that constituted the official "handoff," and on Tuesday afternoon, most of the team representatives toured Yankee Stadium. The tour, hosted by a Major League Baseball official, gave the Cards a look at just how much work goes into getting a stadium ready for the big game.

The public countdown to the 2009 All-Star Game will get rolling in about three weeks. On Aug. 5, prior to the Cardinals' Tuesday night game against the Dodgers, the club plans to unveil the logo for the '09 game as well as plenty of other details. Behind the scenes, though, preparations have already begun.

It's not that new Busch Stadium hasn't seen some big moments. In its first season, the downtown ballyard hosted a World Series, and although there were some hitches, the series mostly went off well. But even a World Series doesn't quite match what goes into an All-Star Game.

"I think this is exponentially bigger," said Dan Farrell, the Cardinals' senior vice president of sales and marketing, who was the highest-ranking team official on the tour. "They have all their sponsorship elements that they plan for the whole year. Many more sponsors, more tickets, more activation on your concourses. This is the show that they plan all year."

Also on the tour were vice president of stadium operations Joe Abernathy, vice president of ticket sales Joe Strohm, and representatives of many other divisions of the club.

The 2009 contest will be the fifth in St. Louis, but the first in new Busch Stadium -- and in fact the first in 43 years. The last one, in 1966 at the previous Busch Stadium, was a classic, started by Denny McLain and Sandy Koufax. Maury Wills' 10th-inning single delivered a 2-1 win for the National League on a scorching hot day.

The American League triumphed, 6-5, in 1957 at Sportsmans Park, and 5-2 in 1948 at Sportsmans Park -- though the '48 game featured a home run by Stan Musial, the greatest Cardinal of them all. The first All-Star Game in St. Louis was a 4-0 NL win at Sportsmans Park in 1940.

And now the work for the next edition is under way.

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

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