Build it and they will come....
PITTSBURGH -- Baseball might abandon its long-standing policy of alternating All-Star sites between National League and American League cities and award the 2007 game to another NL city, commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday.
Minutes after officially announcing Pittsburgh would host its second All-Star game in 12 years in 2006, Selig said he expects to reveal the 2007, 2008 and 2009 sites later this summer.
PNC Park will be the '06 All-Star field of dreams.
With San Francisco, Arizona, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and San Diego all playing in new or relatively new ballparks and St. Louis to follow in 2006, one NL city would have to wait until 2018 for an All-Star game should baseball stay with its traditional but no-longer mandatory rotation.
By contrast, only the refurbished Anaheim Angels ballpark and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg won't have been All-Star sites among the newer AL parks, once Detroit stages the 2005 game.
"I don't believe that it [the rotation] is as important as it used to be," Selig said. "I think the important thing is to try to be fair. In a perfect world, you would alternate NL and AL, but it's more important to reward franchises, I think, that really need to have the game because of their venue. There are so many great new ballparks, and that's the nice part."
The hard part, he said, it deciding which cities must wait, especially when teams such as Kansas City already have waited more than 30 years for a game.
"What I'd like to do even during the course of this summer is to at least award the games for 2007, 2008 and 2009 so they have enough time to get to work on it," Selig said. "There are a lot of cities that have new ballparks and have an intense desire to have an All-Star game. I'll just have to be as fair as possible."
Phoenix and San Francisco also wanted the 2006 game, which was awarded to Pittsburgh partly to pump up the Pirates' slumping attendance. Their average crowd has dropped by 10,000 a game since PNC Park opened in 2001, even though the riverfront ballpark is widely regarded as one of baseball's best venues.
Pirates managing general partner Kevin McClatchy was "relentless" in pursuing the game, Selig said, sometimes to the point of being overly intense.
"I made the decision, and I meant what I said that the competition was incredible and there will be a lot of disappointed people," Selig said. "I have to try to be fair. I understand they had only had a game 12 years ago, but they met all the criteria other than that. They have a gorgeous ballpark ... and Kevin McClatchy was about as tenacious as you can get."
With 38,496 seats, PNC Park is the majors' second smallest ballpark to Boston's Fenway Park, and the Pirates hope the demand for All-Star tickets will be so great that season ticket sales will increase dramatically starting next year.
"Why did we get the 2006 All-Star game? Because we have the best ballpark in America," McClatchy said.