2023 MLB All-Star Weekend preview
📗 The history
The very first MLB All-Star Game (which was also the first All-Star Game in all of pro sports!) was held in July of 1933. The novel idea came about as a way to boost morale in response to the Great Depression, which had caused major league attendance to plummet.
- Chicago was set to host the Century of Progress International Exposition (aka the Chicago World’s Fair) that summer to celebrate the city’s centennial.
- Chicago’s mayor wanted to add an athletic event to the festivities, and Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward swung for the fences with his idea: a contest featuring the best in the American League (AL) vs. the best in the National League (NL), as voted by the fans and managers, similar to the system that’s used today.
Early editions of the game were wildly popular, but interest steadily waned in the following decades. One memorable attempt to combat the decline in popularity (and have managers and players care about the game) came in 2003 when then-commissioner Bud Selig introduced the “This Time It Counts” initiative under which the winner would also win home field advantage for the World Series. Huge.
- It “put back a little of the sizzle” for 14 years before MLB ditched it in 2016, but there’s still plenty to play for with bragging rights and a pool of prize money on the line.
- As for the all-time head-to-head, the AL holds a slight advantage with a 47-43-2 record. Hey now.
⚾ How it works
So, who gets to be an All-Star? Each team features 32 players — 20 position players and 12 pitchers. The nine starters (a big honor) are decided by fan vote, while the reserves are selected by player ballot, with some selections being made by the Commissioner’s office to ensure each team has at least one representative.
The fan vote to decide the starters consists of two phases of voting. In Phase 1, fans vote for their favorite players at each position, and the top overall vote getters in each league are automatically awarded starting spots.
- This year, LA Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani and Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. (more on them later) received the most votes in the AL and NL, respectively. No surprises there.
As for Phase 2, aka the All-Star Ballot Finals, fans had a choice between the top two Phase 1 finalists at each position in each league, with the winners being named All-Star Game starters.
- The Texas Rangers led the AL with a whopping four starters, while Atlanta and the LA Dodgers boast three apiece in the NL.
The starting pitcher is the only starting role not decided by the fans. Instead, each league’s All-Star Game manager (who, since the event’s inception, has been the winner of last season’s AL and NL pennants) bestows the honor the day before the All-Star Game. Stay tuned.
🎉 The other festivities
The All-Star Game isn’t the only show in town — All-Star weekend features a stacked lineup of additional events to celebrate America’s pastime, ranging from the Celebrity Softball Game (hi, snowboarder Chloe Kim) to the drafting of potential future All-Stars. Here’s more on the marquee events.
HBCU Swingman Classic: Spearheaded by Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., the inaugural event took place on Friday and featured 50 baseball student-athletes from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
- With Black participation in MLB declining and coverage of HBCU programs often lacking, the event will continue to give ball players an opportunity to shine on the national stage for years to come. If you can see it, you can be it.
MLB Draft: For the third consecutive year, the draft will coincide with the All-Star Game, giving the next generation of talent a glimpse of what’s to come. Unlike other major sports, drafted baseball players may not see the big leagues for years (if at all), but some stars in this year’s class could buck that trend.
- The guys to know? Defending NCAA champion LSU’s Dylan Crews (outfielder) and Paul Skenes (pitcher), who’ll likely become the first players from the same school to be selected No. 1 and No. 2 overall. Pittsburgh Pirates, you’re on the clock.
Home Run Derby: Back, back, back — gone! The Derby is the ultimate showcase of power, as the game’s top sluggers (literally) swing for the fences in pursuit of bragging rights…and a cool $1M prize. The format has evolved over the years, but this season’s event features eight big boppers competing in a three-round single-elimination bracket.
- Two-time champ Pete “the Polar Bear” Alonso of the NY Mets is the heavy favorite, but last year’s runner-up Julio Rodríguez — who knocked Alonso out in 2022 — could belt his way to an upset, especially with the hometown Seattle Mariners crowd on his side.
👀 Players to watch
Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels, designated hitter: We likely won’t see this two-way star on the mound on Tuesday, but Ohtani has been putting on an, ahem, show all season long, leading the league with 31 home runs. Fresh off arguably the best month in baseball history, expect even more fireworks from the game’s biggest star.
Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta, outfielder: A four-time All-Star, Acuña continues to rewrite the history books this year, becoming the fastest player to reach 20 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. It’s the stuff of legends.
Luis Arráez, Miami Marlins, second baseman: Speaking of history, Arráez is flirting with a record not seen since 1941: posting a .400 batting average on the season. Hovering at around .388 entering the weekend, the two-time All-Star is a major reason the South Florida squad is so hot right now.
Gerrit Cole, NY Yankees, pitcher: The Evil Empire’s ace has carried the injury-plagued Yanks pitching staff this season, leading the team in strikeouts. That earned him his sixth All-Star nod, the most of any pitcher on the AL roster.
Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks, outfielder: Blink and you’ll miss him. It’s hard to believe Carroll is just a rookie given his hot start, which includes leading the DBacks with 18 home runs. Now the NL Rookie of the Year favorite should start in his first All-Star Game, and he’ll do it in his hometown. How can you not be romantic about baseball?
📺 How to tune in
Clear your cal because there’s a whole lot of baseball fun ahead. The MLB Draft begins tonight at 7 p.m. ET, the Home Run Derby swings into action tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET, and then the grand finale, the All-Star Game, is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, with all of the action airing on ESPN in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. Go ahead, get your game on.