Mets greats help to open 2013 FanFest
Franco, Wilson and Alfonzo take part in ribbon-cutting ceremony
NEW YORK -- Mets greats Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco and Mookie Wilson stood in front of the world's largest baseball, each with a hand on a large pair of scissors. They waited until the surrounding fans counted down from three, then cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of them.
Just like that, the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest was underway.
Hundreds watched the opening ceremonies at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday morning, and thousands more will walk through the doors over the next five days. FanFest is the world's largest interactive baseball theme park, and there are 450,000 square feet filled with exhibits, informational booths and activities.
"Without you, none of this exists," MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan said during the opening ceremonies. "Our wish for you, the Major League clubs' wish for you, the Commissioner's wish for you, is that you come into this interactive exhibit and everybody leaves the All-Star memory we hope you take with you."
The opening ceremonies featured remarks from Brosnan, Wilson, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, New York department of education chancellor Dennis Walcott, and T-Mobile senior vice president of brand and advertising Peter DeLuca.
Students from local high schools formed the color guard, and a New Jersey high schooler sang the national anthem. There were also children at FanFest representing area Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as team mascots from the Red Sox, Twins, Rangers, A's and more.
"This is great," Franco said. "As a kid growing up, you always remember the Midsummer Classic. And now, being part of it and being one of the ambassadors, it's an honor for me."
Some of the booths inside include demo zones to try out baseball gear, a Hometown Heroes exhibit showcasing Mets history, a Hall of Fame exhibit with artifacts flown in from Cooperstown, N.Y., and a Collectors Showcase where fans can trade cards and memorabilia.
There are also multiple turf fields inside, where adults and children alike can participate in T-ball games, hitting, sliding, fielding and pitching clinics, a home run derby and more. Alfonzo, Franco and Dwight Gooden are serving as guest coaches for many of the clinics.
"It's very important for us to get the word out about baseball, especially here in the city to inner-city kids," Franco said. "We're trying to go out there and promote the game as best we can, and what better way is there than to have the All-Star Game here and promote it and get the kids out and enjoy themselves?"
For Wilson, Friday's festivities are all about the fans. Even if they can't make it to Citi Field next week, Wilson wants fans to know that the All-Star Game is not just a one-day event.
"In years past, the All-Star Game was just one day. Now it's a week[-long] event," Wilson said. "It's fan-friendly, people understand where the game is now and how it has evolved. … We have to promote all the game, not just the [All-Star] Game itself."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.