Mike Feder liked the final score from the Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game: 7,839.
That was the all-important attendance number from Monday’s night game, which Feder said exceeded his expectations during a whirlwind three weeks after the Tucson Padres minor-league baseball team purchased the rights to the game in late December and took over operations.
“Three weeks ago when we took over this thing, I was happy to have six (thousand),” said Feder, the Triple-A team’s vice president and general manager.
“The crowd was great. I mean, Jim Click was even here. If Jim Click was here, you know it was a great night.”
The Jim Click Automotive Group was one of the game’s sponsors, which also included Tucson-based Crest Insurance.
Feder and his staff arranged for pregame live music and $2 beer, and all 90 players in the game signed autographs before the game. A couple of negatives: Many fans left at halftime and the vast majority was gone by the end of the game, missing an ending in which the Stripes team threw a touchdown pass with 22 seconds left to beat the Stars 24-21 at Kino Stadium, the home of the Tucson Padres.
How about a Saturday early afternoon game next time?
“I think the fans really had a good time,” Feder said after the game.
“If anything, the cool weather hurt us a little bit and Monday night hurt us a little bit. But over 7,800? Who would have said that three weeks ago?
“A lot of people were really appreciative. So many people came up to me during the game, after the game, and said, ‘Thank you, thanks for doing it.’”
The all-star game, which was being played in Tucson for the first time, appeared to be in doubt last month before the Padres stepped in during what typically would be a somewhat slow time for the organization.
“I’m tired, to be perfectly honest,” Feder said. “At times, part of me said, ‘Why are we doing this?’ But I know we did the right thing.”
Feder’s ties to the community and long history with Tucson as the former general manager of the old Tucson Toros helped give the game local credibility. The turnout Monday night showed potential, but the future of the game mostly spins on Casino Del Sol, Feder said (and some legal wrangling with the previous owners).
“Casino Del Sol. Without them, there is no game,” Feder said. “And they were overjoyed.”
Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey, who helped coach the Stripes team, praised the efforts of Feder and Joe Dan Rogers, the vice president of football operations.
“I can’t tell you how good a job Mike Feder and J.D. Rogers have done putting this together in three weeks. It’s unbelievable,” Tomey said.
Casino Del Sol put up the coaches and the players at its new hotel, and fed them, too.
“I’ve never seen food like that in a game like this, and I’ve been to 18 of these (all-star games),” Tomey said.
For a city that recently lost three spring training teams, the Tucson Sidewinders (the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks), an LPGA tour stop and all manner of minor-league ventures, the all-star game would be a welcome addition to the sports scene.
The rosters mostly consisted of late-round possibilities and free-agent hopefuls, but NFL rosters are dotted with such players, some of them stars — Wes Welker, Arian Foster, Victor Cruz, Tony Romo … even a sixth-rounder named Tom Brady. The hottest quarterback free agent this offseason is former seventh-rounder Matt Flynn.
In a couple of years, if this all-star game sticks around, we’ll be able to say, “Hey, remember when that guy played in Tucson?”
And the game is good for the University of Arizona; seven former Wildcats played in the game. A couple of “U of A” chants broke out Monday night.
“As a player from the U of A to come out and play in a game in Tucson and have this type of environment and this kind of fan base here, I couldn’t have been in a better situation,” said receiver Gino Crump. “It was awesome.”