All-Star FanFest underway in Phoenix

All photos by Josh Greene

By Greg Dillard

The 2011 MLB All-Star FanFest is officially underway at the Phoenix Convention Center in Downtown Phoenix.

With 350,000 square feet of interactive baseball entertainment, FanFest provides visitors with an unparalleled baseball experience. The event, which is now in its 21st year, has drawn more than 2,100,000 fans during the past 20 seasons.

The festivities kicked off Friday when thousands of fans flocked to the convention center. Both fans and players were impressed with all FanFest has to offer.

“I’ve never been to one before,” former D-backs pitcher Mike Fetters said. “It’s pretty exciting. I didn’t realize all that’s involved and all the different displays. Kids have got a bunch to do here. I think it’s pretty cool for the adults to see all the different memorabilia. It’s been a fun time.”

FanFest caters to fans of all ages and interests. Whether it’s with The Diamond, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum or the Hometown Heroes, there is no shortage of attractions.

Fans are greeted by the world’s largest baseball as they enter FanFest. The giant ball stretches 12 feet in diameter and is signed by many of the game’s icons including Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter, and Ozzie Smith.

For those fascinated by the national pastime’s history, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a can’t-miss attraction. Game-used jerseys, bats, balls and gloves plus hundreds of artifacts are on display.

There are game-worn jerseys of baseball legends such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, and Harmon Killebrew. There are game-used bats from icons such as Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Gwynn, and plenty more items from baseball’s history.

“I think anybody that comes here and sees it, they get to understand the history of the game,” Fetters said. “It goes way further back than we can even think of. They’ve got the Rookie Leagues, the Negro Leagues and the Hall of Fame guys. They’ve got the World Series. It’s pretty interesting.

The Hall of Fame attraction boasts several D-backs-related items, as well. There is the hat worn by former pitcher Edwin Jackson when he threw his no-hitter last season,  and the cleats worn by Travis Lee during the team’s inaugural game in 1998.

The FanFest experience features even more of an Arizona taste with the Hometown Heroes exhibit where viewers can dive into the rich history of the D-backs. The 2001 World Series trophy is proudly on display along with other memorabilia from the unforgettable World Championship team.

Past D-backs All-Stars, award winners, and prominent players such as Luis Gonzalez and Randy Johnson are also an integral part of the Hometown Heroes attraction. Fans can take their picture with the entire 2011 D-backs squad and learn of the early beginnings of the D-backs franchise. There are 75 D-backs players featured in the exhibit.

Many of those D-backs icons are also coming to FanFest for autograph sessions. Fetters along with Jay Bell, Reggie Sanders and David Dellucci.

“I think that’s what the fans come for,” Fetters said, “the guys that played for the D-backs. The majority of people coming to this are Arizonians. So it’s good that they have recognition with the players that were here before.”

FanFest isn’t just about viewing baseball memorabilia and history. Fans can take it a step further by showcasing their baseball skills. Swing away in the batting cages or uncork your best fastball in the pitching areas. Take the field on the Diamond where daily clinics and appearances from current and former MLB players take place. Fans who think they’re as fast as Justin Upton can swipe bases at the Steal a Base Steal a Taco exhibit.

No matter what your baseball interests are, 2011 MLB All-Star FanFest has it all.

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