The Flying Squirrels pledged to be different than other minor-league franchises when they came to Richmond in September of 2009. They’re following through, once again, with the events scheduled around the 2019 Eastern League All-Star Game at The Diamond in July.
Most other EL organizations through the years have made the all-star happening a two-day deal. Richmond is stretching that to four.
The Flying Squirrels on Tuesday at The Diamond announced that in the days leading up to the all-star game on Wednesday, July 10, festivities will include Mayor Levar Stoney’s Kickoff at Brown’s Island on Sunday, July 7, and a Country Music Jam at Richmond Raceway’s Virginia Credit Union LIVE!, a 6,000-seat venue, on Monday, July 8.
On Tuesday, July 9, the Squirrels will hold a Celebrity Home Run Derby, which will take place in conjunction with an on-field cocktail party backed by music provided by a DJ. Celebrities will be paired with the EL all-stars in a series of home-run and hitting challenges, with a post-competition concert and fireworks.
The 2019 Eastern League All-Star Week is presented by Genworth.
“We’re thrilled that Genworth is our title sponsor for All-Star Week,” Lou DiBella, the Flying Squirrels president and managing partner, said in a statement released by the team. “Not only do we look forward to creating fun-filled experiences for our fans and neighbors, but also for the thousands that will visit Richmond for these events. We can’t wait for all to experience our booming hometown and we look forward to showing people the best of minor league baseball in the Eastern League, while sharing the thriving culture of the Richmond region.”
Mayor Levar Stoney’s Kickoff at Brown’s Island, free to the public, will include live music, entertainment and selections from Richmond’s nationally recognized food and beverage scene. For the Tuesday All-Star Country Music Jam at Richmond Raceway, the Squirrels will announce at a later date a nationally-known musical act headlining the show.
Players selected to the all-star teams will experience Richmond through excursions made possible through the Squirrels’ partnership with ChamberRVA, Richmond Region Tourism, and local businesses. Options will include visits to King’s Dominion, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Black History Museum. The Eastern Division and Western division all-star teams will each be led by a celebrity manager.
The economic impact of the EL All-Star Game has been estimated at $1.5 million. According to Joe McEacharn, the league president since 2003, that approximation "seems reasonable."
The league finalized Richmond as the site for the 2019 event during meetings at the 2017 EL All-Star Game in Manchester, N.H. Richmond's support of the Flying Squirrels played a major factor in the league's decision, according to McEacharn.
Franchises interested in hosting an EL All-Star Game inform McEacharn, who considers various factors and consults with EL ownership groups and franchise management teams. Then, without a bidding process, the league tries to determine two years in advance which city will host.
The Diamond, Richmond's ballpark for professional baseball since 1985, hasn't been the site of an all-star game since 1992, when the Triple-A All-Star Game - American League affiliates' players vs. National League affiliates' players - was held on the Boulevard. That game was a sellout, 12,186, at a stadium that was modified by the Squirrels to seat 9,560.
Before expressing an interest in hosting the 2019 event, the Squirrels had not been active in pursuing the EL All-Star Game at The Diamond, though the Squirrels are annually among the Double-A attendance leaders. Richmond led the EL with an average attendance of 6,198 last season.
In Richmond's early years as an EL member, team management wanted to concentrate on effectively launching the franchise rather than organizing an All-Star event. Also, the condition of The Diamond was an issue. Since the Squirrels came to town, they have invested millions of dollars in upgrades.
Tickets for All-Star Week will go on sale at a future date. The Flying Squirrels will celebrate their 10th anniversary season in 2019.