Louisville prepares to host minor league baseball's best

By Caton Bredar - bio  | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Local business owners are hoping for a boost from the return of a major sporting event to Louisville. Wednesday, some of the biggest names in minor league baseball will be playing in the AAA All-Star Game at Louisville Slugger Field. It's the first time in 20 years the game is returning Louisville. WAVE 3's Caton Bredar talked to officials from the Louisville Bats at the Kentucky International Convention Center where they are getting ready for Fan Fest and for the big event.

Something that is all play for the attendees is a lot of work at the ballpark. Saturday afternoon, Bats employees were hard at work at Kentucky International Convention Center getting things ready for thousands of fans that would be coming for Fan Fest.

"We're just getting all the vendors in here, getting up all the interactive games for the kids to play," explains Megan Dimond, PR Director for the Bats. "There's going to be speed pitch, there's a band that's going to be playing this weekend, and  then autograph sessions with players who are coming in, so it should be a great three days."

Ribbon cutting ceremonies for Fan Fest take place at noon Sunday, and activities continue on Monday and Tuesday as a lead up to Wednesday night's big game. Fans can watch mascots compete in a mock Home Run Wiffle Ball Derby on a simulated diamond as a prelude to Monday night's real Home Run Derby at Slugger Field. There's also a preview of the sport's next generation of stars.

"The players that are coming in are pretty much the major league stars of the future," Dimond says. "So, you're going to see the future Derek Jeter's, the future Manny Ramirez's. Roger Clemens played in this game."

While Fan Fest offers the opportunity to learn everything related to minor league baseball, officials are hopeful the All Star Game and related events will offer a boost to local hotels and restaurants.  Even more importantly, a national audience will have a chance to see Louisville as a true, major league town.

Bats' Director of Stadium Operations, Scott Shoemaker explains, "It's good exposure. You've got 30 some odd team managers coming into town."

"It's a huge honor," Dimond adds. "Cities work try to get it. We're showing off our city to people who have never seen it before."

While slow early, requests for tickets are now pouring in according to team officials, who say they are right at expectations.

"As you get closer to any large event, it gets better and better," says Shoemaker. "The phones were ringing off the hook last week to get tickets."

"The All-Star Game is almost sold out," says Dimond. "We've got a few bleachers and the lawn left. And then we'll start selling standing room only once that's gone. For the Home Run Derby, we still have a few field reserved seats left."

The chance to see the AAA All-Star game is a rare opportunity according to Dimond, with most stadiums only hosting the event once.

"We (Louisville) hosted it in 1991, but that's not the norm," she says. "We're the first International League city to host this event twice. So, it's pretty much a once in a lifetime kind of thing, just like the Ryder Cup in the fall. It doesn't happen to cities very often."