Ben Zobrist understands what home-field advantage means in the World Series after experiencing all that energy last year at Kauffman Stadium. More than 40,000 fans felt so much pent-up excitement around the Kansas City Royals after Madison Bumgarner's Game 7 MVP performance for the San Francisco Giants the previous October.
The Royals slowed down a New York Mets team that looked like a runaway train while sweeping the Cubs during the National League Championship Series. Alex Gordon hammered a Jeurys Familia quick pitch in the bottom of the ninth for a game-tying homer against the Mets closer, and the Royals would win Game 1 in 14 innings and head to New York only two victories away from their first world championship since 1985.
So when Major League Baseball unveiled the All-Star rosters on Tuesday night, the seven Cubs chosen won't just be getting some national exposure, marketing opportunities and fun in the San Diego sun next week.
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The fan ballot yielded the entire starting infield — Anthony Rizzo, Zobrist, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant — plus outfielder Dexter Fowler while the players voted in pitcher Jake Arrieta and Mets manager Terry Collins selected pitcher Jon Lester. Together, they could impact where the World Series begins in October.
"Certainly, you think about it," said Zobrist, who earned his third All-Star selection. "You want that home-field advantage if you get there."
"The All-Star Game matters," said Arrieta, a first-time pick who's at least in the conversation to start the showcase event. "As much as you want to enjoy your time out there and stay relaxed and have fun, there's still emphasis on winning the ballgame. The mindset is going to be enjoy the moments leading up to the game. But then when the game starts and we're in between the lines, we're trying to win the game."
That's yet another culture shift for Rizzo, who led the NL fan voting and will be making his third straight All-Star trip and returning to Petco Park, where he flopped during his big-league debut with the Padres in 2011, setting up a franchise-altering trade for Theo Epstein's front office.
"My first time there, I was just happy to be there," Rizzo said. "I don't think our team was anywhere in contention. The last two years, we're expecting to go deep in the playoffs. We want to win the game, no doubt. We want home-field advantage in the World Series."
A 52-31 team can think like that, even if it's hard to find a player who thinks a made-for-TV exhibition should influence the World Series.
"I'm not big on that mattering," Zobrist said. "I wish it didn't, to be honest, because I think the All-Star Game is an individual game. It's for individual accomplishments. It's for the fans to see a collection of great individuals - and not really for the team.
"For the (final) score to really matter, team-wise, I'm not big on that. (For) the team that gets to the World Series, I wish it was just that team's play that gave them home-field advantage or not."
Imagine the electricity inside Wrigley Field if the Cubs hosted their first World Series event since a Game 7 loss to the Detroit Tigers in 1945, the year World War II ended and back when Harry S. Truman ran the White House.
That helps explain why Zobrist turned down more guaranteed money elsewhere and signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Cubs, hoping to be part of the team that ends a century-and-counting championship drought.
"We have an incredible fan base, an incredible fan engine that's in our corner," Zobrist said. "With that, we become the benefactors. That's why people want to play for the Cubs."