NEW YORK -- American League or National League?
That question is at the heart of Major League Baseball's new "I Will Win" ad campaign for the 83rd All-Star Game, coming July 10 to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano of the Yankees and Matt Joyce of the Rays sat in front of 15 TV screens at the MLB Fan Cave and watched on Tuesday as the first ad spot, called "The Pledge," was screened during the live All-Star Leadoff event.
In the first spot, some of the game's biggest stars pledged their loyalty to either league and discuss their desire to win the Midsummer Classic and earn home-field advantage in the World Series for their league. This is the 10th year that the rule has impacted the All-Star Game, and in each of the last three years it has helped lead to a World Series title: Yankees in 2009, Giants in '10 and Cardinals in '11.
"It's kind of undisputed: The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is the All-Star Game. It's the only one that means anything, right? It's for home-field advantage," said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business.
"Last year, that was on display in a way we couldn't even have scripted. We had Prince Fielder hitting the game-winning home run against C.J. Wilson of the Texas Rangers, giving the National League home-field advantage against C.J. Wilson in the World Series. We all know what happened with David Freese in Game 6, and what happened with the home-field advantage for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7.
"It never has been more evident how important Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is, to its fans, to its clubs, and most importantly to players, when it comes down to winning the world championship."
In addition to Kemp and Granderson, the campaign includes such stars as Jose Bautista, Fielder, Freese, Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, David Ortiz, Hunter Pence, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, Shane Victorino and Wilson.
"We're competitors. Once we step onto the field and play, your natural instincts to win come forth," Granderson said. "No matter how our relationship is during batting practice, in the clubhouse, all joking and laughing ... when we step in the batter's box, we're trying to get a hit. When the ball is hit to us, we're trying to catch it. Every one of those pitchers is trying to strike us out. We're all trying to play our best to help our team win."
Those spots will debut on MLB.com, MLB Network, FOX, ESPN and TBS. FOX broadcasts the All-Star Game and World Series, and this will be the 14th Midsummer Classic it has televised. Ed Goren, vice chairman of FOX Sports Media Group, said the All-Star Game is "very special to all of us through the FOX family," and shared Brosnan's view on the event's nonpareil status.
"We do a lot of television sports, we do other All-Star Games, and there is no question that the baseball All-Star Game is head and shoulders above all the rest," Goren said. "As far as a television event, year-in, year-out, it is the highest-rated show in all of television during the summer.
"In recent years, I really think the intensity has elevated. The campaign certainly touches on that. When all is said and done, it's the players who make it happen."
There also will be an online extension of "I Will Win" at MLBFanCave.com, where fans can "pledge" allegiance to the AL or NL with results updating in real-time.
"Home-field advantage is definitely an advantage," Kemp said. "We're out there playing as hard as we can to win the games and they're trying to do the same, so it's a battle."