Fans, players connect at All-Star FanFest
Visitors can get autographs, participate in clinics, test skills
ANAHEIM -- Major League Baseball's All-Star FanFest has been called "the Disneyland of baseball" for good reason.
After all, it's the world's largest interactive baseball fan event, featuring more than 40 baseball attractions and exhibits at the 450,000-square-foot Anaheim Convention Center.
It kicked off Friday with a record total of 24,917 tickets sold, surpassing the previous mark of 23,511 set in 2009 in St. Louis. The event will be going strong until Tuesday, when the Angels host the 81st MLB All-Star Game at Angel Stadium.
The FanFest is sure to get even better on Monday and Tuesday with several Hall of Famers and current big leaguers scheduled to make appearances, including Hall of Famer Rod Carew and Angels All-Star Torii Hunter, who are serving as spokesmen for the event.
"It's a great experience for all fans," Carew said. "This a great game. I think what Major League Baseball has done, instead of just focusing on the All-Star Game and the players, it's also for fans to be able to come here and participate here at FanFest."
It was certainly exciting for fans on Sunday, with many Hall of Famers hosting autograph sessions, including Luis Aparacio, Dick Williams, Harmon Killebrew, Bob Feller, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Lou Brock and Earl Weaver.
Williams and Cepeda hosted a special Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) clinic, while Jenkins and Brock helped host a pitch, hit and run clinic on the Aquafina Diamond.
Jenkins, who was named an All-Star three times, gave pointers to youngsters on proper pitching mechanics and said it was fun to be in the company of so many other Hall of Famers.
"It's great to come back with the 17 or 18 Hall of Famers we have here participating in different events," Jenkins said. "I think the fans enjoy it, because you give back and interact with the fans."
Other fans were treated to question-and-answer sessions in the All-Star Clubhouse with Perry, Aparacio, Weaver, Brock and Williams.
Perry, who has been a regular at FanFest, said this year's version in Anaheim is the best in its 20 years of existence.
"It seems to be improved every time we come," Perry said. "It's great having a room to talk to the fans with parents and kids there, because we get to answer their questions."
With the first half of the baseball season coming to a close Sunday, a few current big leaguers will be at FanFest on Monday, including the Cardinals' Matt Holliday, who will host an hourlong skills clinic at 10:30 a.m. PT, and the Twins' Orlando Hudson and the Blue Jays' Vernon Wells, who will host a similar hourlong clinic starting at 2 p.m.
FanFest also features attractions about the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Negro Leagues as well as interactive fan-favorites including the Video Bullpen, where fans can step up and test their pitching skills against life-size video images of their favorites players and Taco Bell's Steal a Base, Steal a Taco, in which fans attempt to steal a base while racing their favorite ballplayers.
"I think this event really appeals to families, because there's something for everyone here -- whether you're 7 years old or 70 years old," said Jackie Secaira-Cotto, MLB director of special events. "Baseball is a sport that connects generations."
All FanFest attractions are included in the price of admission, including the autograph sessions. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under, senior citizens and military personnel (children two and under are admitted free). It's open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT until Monday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Tickets can be purchased at www.allstargame.com, at the Angels box office at Angel Stadium or by calling 1-888-FanFest (326-3378).
"Everything is included in the price except for food and souvenirs," Secaira-Cotto said. "So you don't pay for autographs, you don't pay for going into the batting cages and so on. Everything is included so it's a great deal."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.