"The NL has gotten so much better," Darling said. "That's what happens when you get your rear end kicked for so long -- you get better."
It really is hard to believe after watching the NL go 13 consecutive summers without winning the All-Star Game, but in 2013 the senior circuit will try to make it four victories in a row. The dividends are apparent right now as the NL will have home-field advantage again this month in the World Series, going for its third consecutive championship after the Giants won it all in 2010 and the Cardinals won "11 in '11."
That will be an overriding theme when Major League Baseball's All-Star Week comes to Citi Field in 2013, and a key milestone arrived on Thursday for fans who are looking forward to being part of those festivities. Registration for the opportunity to purchase ticket strips and to volunteer for 2013 MLB All-Star events is under way at allstargame.com and mets.com/2013.
Each strip includes one ticket to each All-Star Week event at the ballpark, two MLB All-Star FanFest tickets and one Official All-Star Game program. All-Star Week begins with the FanFest at Javits Center from July 12-16. Taco Bell All-Star Sunday is July 14 and features the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game. All-Star batting practice and the Home Run Derby highlight Gatorade All-Star Workout Day on July 15, and then the granddaddy of all megastar gatherings returns with the 84th All-Star Game on July 16.
Winners for ticket strips will be selected at random to ensure as many fans as possible have the chance to purchase strips. Existing Mets Full Season Ticket and 40-Game Plan Holders, as well as 20-Game and 15-Game Plan Holders who qualified for a strip offer before this past July 10, will receive information in the coming months regarding their opportunity to purchase strips.
With a major influx of fans coming to the Big Apple for the jewel event, 2,000 community volunteers will be sought to assist with All-Star Week and FanFest. Qualified volunteers must be 18 or older as of next June 30, enjoy baseball and volunteering, pass a background check, and be available to work a minimum of three shifts during All-Star Week.
This will mark the second time that the Mets, who are commemorating their 50th anniversary in 2012, will host the Midsummer Classic. Shea Stadium hosted the 1964 All-Star Game, a 7-4 NL victory that featured 21 participating Hall of Famers, including Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, as well as two of MLB's current executive vice presidents, Frank Robinson and Joe Torre.
It will be the ninth All-Star Game in New York, the most of any host city. In 2008, the Yankees hosted in the final year of old Yankee Stadium.
The Futures Game showcases many of the top Minor League prospects and has featured current Mets Matt Harvey (2011), David Wright (2004) and Andres Torres (2002). In addition to Wright, other players who have competed in both the Futures Game and All-Star Game include Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Bryce Harper, Felix Hernandez, Mike Trout, Justin Verlander and Joey Votto.
If the Futures Game is a competitive harbinger of MLB's future, the softball game is the madcap nightcap of a doubleheader on that Sunday. It features stars from film, music, television and entertainment teaming up with former Major Leaguers and former Mets stars immediately following the Futures Game. Past celebrity participants have included Jon Hamm, Jimmy Kimmel, Kate Upton, Marisa Miller, Chris Rock and Jordin Sparks. The game also has featured a collection of Hall of Famers including Ernie Banks, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield -- and it usually revolves around softball legend Jennie Finch on the mound, with much local flavor.
The five-day FanFest is the world's largest interactive baseball fan event, providing an unrivaled experience for fans of all ages. Among its attractions are an exhibit from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, batting cages, clinics from Major League legends, free autograph sessions with former Mets and MLB legends, memorabilia and much more.