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Experiencing the MLB All Star FanFest

This year, with the MLB All Star game being at Yankee Stadium, the MLB All Star FanFest was also brought to New York City. Thanks to my mother’s friend, I procured two free tickets to a night session for people who received tickets exclusively from Bank of America. It was held at the Jakob Javits Center on the West Side of Manhattan, a place used for many conventions. Besides food, everything was free, which was pretty awesome. I attended with my brother and for the most part we had a great time, but wished that we only had more time to spend at the Fest.

MLB had many different areas, exhibits and physical activities to check out. There was a mind-blowing amount of memorabilia. Some of it came in an area of items that apparently were to be auctioned off at a future date. This included autographed jerseys, helmets, balls, replica World Series Trophies (I sure hope the winner of that auction doesn’t pull a Costanza) and more.

It was quite amazing to see the collection that was in place just for a FanFest. Also MLB brought the World Series trophy and World Baseball classic trophy for showing off. Strangely enough, the World Series trophy had a rope that allowed you to get close to pose near it, but the World Baseball Classic trophy was tightly roped off. Guess that World Series trophy just doesn’t carry the same prestige anymore.

MLB also brought down some items from Cooperstown and had a Cooperstown exhibit. That was pretty nifty. It contained jerseys for inducted players and a wall of inducted players in alphabetical order and the year for which they were inducted. They also had seating and a table for an autograph signing that was to take place later.

MLB also had photo opportunity areas. They had a New York Post back cover photo shoot (Sorry Rupert, I don’t like your paper enough to be interested in that. I don’t need gossip about myself and Madonna), a Topps baseball card photo shooting (Where you got your own card. The line for this was long and not moving quickly, so my brother and I passed up on it), a chance to pose in the Yankees team photo (They literally had the photo in 3d Cardboard and you could walk in between each row. Someone must wish they had a syringe to pose next to Giambi with), a stadium photo shot and a leap at the wall for a catch photo shot.

Of course, being that it was MLB, there were some corporate booths. There were a bunch of small Bank of America stands where you could sign up to win tickets to the All Star Game, to a Yankees-Red Sox game or memorabilia and also note what sort of account of theirs would interest you. There was a Gilette booth and also that company that makes those bracelets and necklaces that supposedly give you energy. And Chevrolet had a bunch of cars at the Center.

One of the great areas that was part of the FanFest, and that you’ve probably seen video of here and there, was an interactive entertainment area. This was simply huge and awesome. They had a batting practice area, a batting cage (pitches delivered by pitching machine and more spacious than the BP area), a speed race where you ran from “third” to “home” against a few other people, a radar gun pitching area, and an area where you could try and strike out a hitter on a video screen and also find out how hard you were throwing.

Also there was a Sony Playstation 3 area that had baseball videogames. My brother and I participated in the attempt to strike out a major league hitter and the batting cage. I did not get photos of the pitching booth, sadly. Me throwing 53 mph can’t be that interesting, can it? My brother and I enjoyed it, but felt like the strike zone on the video recognition screen was purposely calibrated small to keep things moving. I’ll get you next time, Darin Erstad. The batting cage was quite fun, as well. You got somewhere between 15 and 20 balls pitched to you and there’s an outfield wall about 50 feet back and a few people fielding the hit balls.

Not bad form from yours truly
Not bad form from yours truly

Also, there was netting to prevent balls from damaging any walls or ceilings or from coming out of the hitting area.

The massive amount of netting and the setting being shown here
The massive amount of netting and the setting being shown here

I wish there would have been better bat selection and the pitching machine would’ve been more consistent about the height of the balls, but those are minor complaints. Also, my brother and I went to the PS3 gaming area and played some MLB 08: The Show. That was enjoyable and that is one solidly produced game. For once, hitting in a game is not drastically easier than it is for MLB hitters. The Fest also had a kiddy interactive entertainment area for toddlers and those who were too small for the pitching events. A very well done section, in my opinion.

The FanFest also had autograph signings from retired players. They had three players signing that night. Wade Boggs, Graig Nettles and one other who escapes my mind at the moment. They gave out items to be autographed for free, also, which was a nice touch. My brother and I did not get a chance to get autographs as they occurred during a one-hour period and we had waited in line for the pitching and batting cage for too long to be able to get autographs.

Finally amongst other things, there was ballpark food and a VIP section that seemed to have a Q&A session going with a retired player. I wish I could’ve entered to find out more, but I could not.

Overall, I feel MLB put out a great experience with the FanFest. Do I have my complaints? Yes. Those would be that it’s too bad there wasn’t a longer period for autograph signings and that the lines for the interactive entertainment moved pretty slowly. However, when it comes down to it, the positives far outweighed the negatives.

Does any other sport with an All Star game that’s actually watched by a good percentage of the fans (thus disqualifying the NFL because that’s a joke of a game, even for an exhibition) have an experience that’s comparable? I believe not. When it comes to memorabilia and photo opportunities, they might be able to. But the interactive entertainment probably could not be mimicked in terms of breadth of activities. MLB, job well done.

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