MLB All Star Weekend (Extended) is Here
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MLB All Star Weekend (Extended) is Here

The game itself, and everything before it.

The 87th MLB All-Star Game takes place this coming Tuesday, July 12, from Petco Park in San Diego, home of the Padres. The winning league, per usual since 2003, will earn home-field advantage in this fall's World Series. Fans have voted on the starters, the reserves have been announced and the Final Vote to determine each league's last roster player ended today.

But there's more to the MLB All-Star Break than just the game. Yes, there is the Home Run Derby, too, but there are several activities involved this weekend.

Sunday, July 10:
MLB Futures Game (7 p.m. ET on MLB Network)
While the MLB teams finish up their last games before the mid-season break, some of baseball's best minor league stars get the opportunity to kick off the events with the MLB Futures Game. First held in 1999, this game features top prospects hailing from the United States taking on top prospects who come from the rest of the world. The games are the normal nine innings in length, but only two extra innings may be played if necessary, and pitchers are limited to just one inning pitched.

Former Futures Game Larry Doby Award winners (MVPs) include Alfonso Soriano, Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore, Aaron Hill, Billy Butler and Kyle Schwarber (who won the award last year).

Monday, July 11:
Home Run Derby (8 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Time to swing for the fences with the T-Mobile Home Run Derby. This event has been held annually since 1985 (except for 1988, when it was rained out). Last year's event featured an overhaul of the old format -- which was based on "outs," or when players failed to homer. Under this newest format, batters compete in head-to-head matchups with each player having five minutes to make Chris Berman yell "Back-back-back-back" and gone with as many home runs as possible.

An extra minute is granted if a player hits two dingers 420 feet or more, and an extra 30 seconds if he hits one at least 475 feet. A 90-second swing-off, a three-round swing-off and sudden death swing-off, in order, act as tiebreakers.

Inclement weather almost ruined last year's derby in Cincinnati, but it did force MLB to lower the time limit per player from five minutes to four. The new format must have worked, as the derby saw its highest ratings since 2009. This year's participants will be Mark Trumbo (Baltimore Orioles), Corey Seager (Los Angeles Dodgers), Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins), Adam Duvall (Cincinnati Reds), Wil Myers (San Diego Padres), Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies) and defending champion Todd Frazier (Chicago White Sox).

All-Star Legends and Celebrities Softball Game (After the end of the Home Run Derby, ESPN)
This one isn't so much a competitive event with MLB players, as it is a friendly exhibition, but I love it regardless. First held in 2001, this softball game brings together some of the game's greats, and other celebrities, including actors, athletes from outside baseball, musicians and two Wounded Warrior players.

Former players coming for this year's event include Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman. Celebrity participants include SNL cast member Kyle Mooney, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy and U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan.

And yes, I know I didn't give a specific time for the game's start. ESPN list it as 10 p.m., but the derby will go on longer than two hours. Trust me.

Tuesday, July 12:
MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show (4 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Following this all of MLB Network's usual 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. ET programming will be "All-Star" editions)
This show features a lot of interviews and pre-game talk. If you like the glitz and glamour of award ceremony Red Carpet shows or want to see players talk, you might not mind this. If you just want to see the action, this is a show you can skip. The other MLB Network programming should just be the same programs you know, just with a lot of All-Star talk.

MLB All-Star Game (8 p.m. ET on FOX [pregame at 7:30 p.m. ET])
This is THE event. Baseball's brightest and best will shine from the player introductions to the game's final pitch. Everyone wants to see their favorite athletes, but at the same time, they'd like their league to have home-field advantage in the World Series. It could make quite the difference come October.

Also, fun fact: This will be the first MLB All-Star Game to have the designated home team be the opposite league of the stadium's home team. While Petco Park is home to the National League's San Diego Padres, the American League will be the home team, as this is the second straight year an NL park hosts the game, with two consecutive more on the way.

Wednesday, July 13:
The 2016 ESPYs (8 p.m. ET on ABC)
While not directly related to the All-Star Game itself, the day after the game is the only day where none of the North American sports leagues have any games scheduled, meaning many athletes can attend this award ceremony. The ESPYs celebrate the best moments and best athletes in sports within the last year. The 2016 ESPYs will be hosted by WWE superstar John Cena.

That's your guide to the MLB All-Star break. After this, get ready for the Trade Deadline and the second half of the 2016 season.

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Which MLB Team Are You? (Quiz)

Talkin' baseball.

It's just about time for MLB's 2017 regular season to begin.

If you're like me and have been following the game for a long time, things seem a lot different than they did 10-15 years ago. The Yankees are all about their youth once again -- for the first time since the Core Four came up around 1995/1996. The Washington Nationals were still in Montreal before 2005. And yes, most importantly, the Chicago Cubs are the defending World Series champions for the first time in over 100 years.

It's definitely quite the time to be a baseball fan with the ever-changing landscape, and all the new, amazing, young talent coming into the game. So, take this personality quiz and see which MLB team you end up drawing.

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5 Sports Video Game Series That Should Make A Comeback

Because sometimes, today's games just aren't what they used to be.

I'm a gamer, and even more than that, I'm a sports gamer. I try to get my hands on, and play around at least a bit, with each video game of some of the most popular sports video game series.

Unfortunately, sports video game series aren't what they used to be 10 years ago, or even five years ago. Some series have been shut down to poor sales, others killed off because of lawsuits or exclusivity deals, while still others have yet to be heard from again for little to no reason at all.

Here are five video game series that plenty of sports gamers, including myself, miss.

1. NCAA Football series
Okay, let's get this one out of the way. Now, I wasn't as big of an NCAA Football player as some of my fellow peers might be, but I thought it was fun. And it could present quite the challenge of trying to bring a college player through a career before transferring him over to Madden and having him do the same there.


From humble beginnings as Bill Walsh College Football and College Football USA back in the 16-bit era, the series earned the rights to the NCAA's name, brands and logo with NCAA Football 98, released in the summer of 1997. And as the series grew, the accuracy grew -- the schools, the stadiums, the recruiting, the awards, the pre-game traditions, and the sponsored bowl games. Even the players involved in the game -- while not naming players due to that being a violation of NCAA rules -- played just like the ones on the real teams. You knew who they were, and they knew who they were.

Enter the likes of Ed O'Bannon and other lawsuits, and the NCAA pulls its license. While EA ensured they could carry on with just a licensing from the Collegiate License Company -- just losing the rights to the NCAA name, logo and brand -- the series was put on hiatus after the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 pulled their blessings for the game.

And while we know about how complicated and mangled and sometimes downright evil the NCAA can be when it comes to the usage and compensation of athletes -- regardless of whether or not you think they should be paid (Note: In this writer's mind, they shouldn't be paid as employees of the school, but they should be in terms of likeness used) -- admit it, you miss this series. There are plenty of people out there that saw great exuberance when the next NCAA Football game came out, followed by the next Madden NFL game about a month later.

It's often been sworn this series will return, but no sight of it thus far.

2. MVP Baseball series
Man, EA Sports cannot catch a break, can they? Anyways, here is the EA Sports video game series I miss from childhood so much.


The official successor to EA Sports' Triple Play Baseball series, MVP Baseball lasted from 2003 until 2005, bringing with it innovations and modes praised by both fans and critics alike. Getting right off the bat with an innovative hitting and pitching system used since the first game, the 2004 edition became the first-ever baseball video game to include AA and AAA minor league teams for all 30 clubs.

In 2005, that was expanded to Class A-Advanced teams as well. The series also saw dynasty mode, allowing you to be the general manager of the team for an unprecedented 120 years. In 2005, the 30-year owner mode was added too, which saw you able to control promotional dates, stadium prices, and even the stadium itself.

While the series is no longer in production (we'll get to why), online modders have kept the PC version of the final game alive with constantly updated and customizable mods. This series also has had hints of a possible comeback in the future.

3. NFL 2K series
I didn't have much experience with the NFL 2K brand (I played a couple of the MLB 2K games instead...when they first came out...when they were good), but it was the NFL 2K series that gave Visual Concepts a rise to the top and gave Madden a run for its money. Pretty much right from the start, the series showed off popular modes including create-a-team, create-a-player and create-a-play, in addition to major graphical and audio advances.


And with the jump from Dreamcast to the PS2 and Xbox with NFL 2K3, also came a deal with ESPN that gave a "real" feel to it (especially in NFL 2K5, where Chris Berman, Trey Wingo and Mel Kiper Jr. gave the most realistic newscasts in a sports video game that I know of). In addition, the franchise mode got deeper and more customizable, and it was ahead of other football game series in terms of online play.

But then, money and politicking ruined not one, but two gaming series. NFL 2K5 ripped through Madden 05's sales, as NFL 2K5 was available for just $19.99. Imagine a game for a major console being $19.99 today.

Well, EA didn't like that, and so they signed a deal with the NFL to be the only game developer allowed to use real NFL teams and players, as well as soon grabbing a deal that took away the ESPN-style presentation. 2K Sports responded by signing a deal with MLB that allows them and console manufacturers to produce MLB games, but not any other third party (such as EA Sports).

With that, the MVP Baseball and NFL 2K series were done.

4. NCAA March Madness/NCAA Basketball series
No on-campus sports experience has been better to me than being in the crowd for an NCAA Division-I basketball game, and throughout its lifespan, the NCAA Basketball series (previously known as NCAA March Madness) from EA Sports attempted to create a real college basketball atmosphere in a video game.


The series' dynasty mode allowed a player to take control of a college basketball program for about 30 seasons. With over 300 programs usually in the game a player could choose a large, well-known school with a great program and continue the success, or take a smaller known program and try to change things around and raise spirits. Starting with March Madness 07, smaller -- though greater -- elements were added.

This included more active and crowded audiences for higher prestigious and rivalry games (i.e. a Duke-North Carolina showdown), the ability to upgrade facilities in dynasty mode by meeting goals and expectations, and the ability to interact with the crowd during big game moments.

The franchise was discontinued after NCAA Basketball 10 due to poor sales.

5. NCAA Baseball series
With no MLB license, EA Sports still wanted to produce baseball games. So, they decided to go a completely different route -- college baseball.


NCAA Baseball presented innovations in its own right, despite not being as popular as the MLB games. The "load and fire" batting system introduced in MVP 06, and the "rock and ready" pitching system introduced in MVP 07 would both end up appearing in the MLB: The Show series, both debuting in the 2011 edition.

Create-a-ballpark was also in this mode, and the game saw a lot of presets from MVP Baseball 2005. So, it was clear EA Sports was trying really hard with these games to hold onto its previous audience.

Unfortunately, this series didn't sell as much. The game was discontinued after 2007.

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Stages of the MLB All Star Selection Show

Still not sure why an exhibition decides home field advantage...

We all know about the mid-summer classic. The American League and the National League All Stars square off for the right to home field advantage in the world series. Tonight, ESPN televised the roster selection for those who would be playing in the game.

As fans, there seemed to be three phases to the selection show:

Stage 1: Excitement
So your team sucks this year, but it has one or two good players. This is the one night of the year where the one shining spot on your otherwise gloomy team is put in the limelight.

You sit in anticipation.

Stage 2: Eye Rolling
The starting lineups are revealed. And you realize it's dominated by, like, three or four teams' players.

Remember, your team sucks, so odds are your hometown heroes are not listed.

Stage 3: The Head Crack
Your players weren't named to the team- not even as backups.

But they're awesome! They lead the league in important stuff! This is dumb. Screw you MLB.

Such is life for the average MLB fan. Year after year our favorite players get snubbed, because posterchildren of the league are given more spotlight than they may deserve that year.

The response is always the same: "If you care so much, vote your players in!"

I don't disagree.

Here's my thing with the All Star Game: why the hell does an exhibition game- the players in which are determined heavily by fan voting- determine home field advantage during the World Series? Most of the players in the game won't even be in that series, and therefore this sideshow event shouldn't impact it.

That is the only problem I have with the whole thing. I couldn't care less about the roster, it's all for show! I'm not mad.

I could bring up the fact that Adam Eaton Leads all Right Fielders in nearly every defensive category, and has a higher OBP than Carlos Beltran and Mark Trumbo (both All- Stars). In fact, defensively, Beltran and Trumbo rank 143 and 151 out of 152 in defensive WAR. Their defense, statistically, loses games. The only reason those two got in is because they hit a lot of home runs.

I could tell you Eaton leads the league in triples, and has the tenth highest total WAR in the League. I could tell you Eaton got totally snubbed.

But hey, why would I do that? I'm not upset. I don't care about the All-Star Game.

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Summer is the Best Time To Go To a Baseball Game

No matter where you are, it can't be beat.

When I grew up in Connecticut, my church would take a summer trip to the now destroyed Shea Stadium once a year to watch the Mets play. My dad would pay, at most, eight dollars for four tickets and we would see the Mets game. Seeing that the tickets were, at most, eight dollars, the seats were usually in the upper deck.

The two times I went to see the Yankees play, again, the seats tend to be far enough away that my dad's binoculars were as glued to him as my glove was to me hoping that David Wright, Carlos Beltran, or Jason Giambi would hit the highest foul ball in MLB History.

After working all this year to save up money for the summer, I decided to travel to Maryland to visit my older sister. After buying train tickets (it was cheaper than flying), I thought about things we could do, like visit nearby Washington D.C. or try the Maryland seafood.

It was during this time that I remembered she lived 20 minutes from Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Not being at a MLB game since 2008, I had to go to an Orioles game. However, a three straight road series crossed that dream off the list.

Okay, the Nationals then.

I bought the tickets only a couple days before the game, but still found great seats next to the left field foul pole, right in home run territory. After an 8 a.m. wake up and hour long metro ride to the stadium, we sat down in our seats an hour before game time. In that hour, we got up, looked for a game program and got cheese fries (which I almost immediately spilled on my white shirt).

After the pregame Independence Day ceremony, it was finally game time. I can't really tell you what happened though because my sister spent most of the game asking me about players, complaining that the game is boring, and on her phone playing with her apps. Essentially, all the issues baseball faces today with speed, technology, and interest.

Despite the perfect seat for catching a home run ball, Max Scherzer and Junior Guerra were pitching. A lone home run from the Brewers backup catcher about fifty feet away from us and that was the offense of the game. By the end of the game, the Brewers won 1-0, Bryce Harper went 0-for-3, and we took cover with a bunch of Nats fans from the rain.

Though nothing will beat going to the old Yankee Stadium in 2008 and watching a great game ending in a game winning hit from Robinson Cano, any MLB game I go to is always going to be a memorable and fun experience.

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What to Watch for in Sports this Week (7/11)

All-Star festivities are in full swing.

After a super week in sports, UFC 200, Wimbledon Final, NBA Summer League, UEFA Euro Finals, among other things, we're now going into a bit of a lull in sports on television. That doesn't mean that there isn't anything to watch this week. It's just a tough week to follow after everything we witnessed in the past seven days.

So without further ado, here is what to watch for in this week in sports.

Monday, July 11
T-Mobile Home Run Derby (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Homers, homers, homers, HOMERS! That's the name of the game on Monday night. While some people are going to be cynical about the way these batters mess up their swing in this competition, for one night, enjoy the festivities, listen to Chris Berman yell "Back, back, back, back, back, back, GOOOOONNNNEEE!!!"

If you're still not convinced, here's a video of Yoenis Cespedes crushing balls at the 2014 Derby.

NBA Summer League: Sacramento Kings vs New Orleans Pelicans (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Okay, this is not the full Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans squad facing off against each other, but if the Lakers win a few days ago doesn't tell you that NBA Summer League basketball can be fun, I don't know what else to tell you.

If you're a basketball fan, this is a great time period to see the young bloods of the NBA get their turn on the big stage and build up hype for the upcoming 2016-2017 season.

Tuesday, July 12
MLB All-Star Game American vs National (8 p.m. ET, FOX)
It's the MLB's All-Star game and really a lot of people are not exactly thrilled for it. It doesn't seem that many are excited for the actual game, seeing as their favorite players don't play the whole game, despite it deciding home field advantage in the World Series.

But in the end, it's summer. It's baseball. We all should just enjoy it the day after watching the Home Run Derby on Monday. While there's no overarching story in this year's game like Derek Jeter's final All-Star game, it should still be a fun game to watch.

Wednesday, July 13
The ESPY's (8 p.m. ET on ABC)
It's the one night of the year all the world's biggest athletes are in one room to celebrate their accomplishments (as if their monstrous salaries weren't enough celebration). It's the award show for athletes. There have been great, transcendent moments like Jimmy V's speech in 1993 and Stuart Scott's in 2014.

If nothing else this year, we will all be in for some laughs because John Cena is the host. Cue the memes.

Saturday, July 16
MLS: Colorado Rapids vs Sporting Kansas City (9 p.m. ET)
If you became a soccer fan after watching the UEFA Euro Final between France and Portugal and want to watch more soccer, then Major League Soccer is here for you. The Rapids and Sporting Kansas City are in the playoffs in the Western Conference if the season ended today. The Rapids are struggling a bit, winning only one game out of their last five. Kansas City, on the other hand, just got into the top six and will continue their great play as of late.