07/11/2003 12:07 PM ET
Fans get into the spirit of the game
FanFest opens All-Star festivities in Chicago
Buy FanFest tickets
By Damon P. Young / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- It only takes a few minutes inside the John Hancock All-Star FanFest to know you've been transported to baseball nirvana.
Whether you decide to travel down Harold Baines Boulevard, taking your chances in the video batting cages against the likenesses of Randy Johnson, Mark Buehrle or Freddy Garcia, or stroll along Pauk Konerko Way, revisiting some of the game's greatest moments, you'll immediately be overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of America's national pastime.
The John Hancock All-Star FanFest opened its 13th annual "Baseball Heaven on Earth" at Chicago's McCormick Place on Friday, kick-starting Major League Baseball's All-Star festivities surrounding the 74th All-Star Game to be played Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox.
With more than 300,000 square feet of interactive games, exhibits, memorabilia, merchandise and other baseball-themed attractions, there is truly something for every baseball fan, no matter how young or young at heart. Officials expect more than 100,000 fans to visit FanFest over the course of the next five days.
"We just wanted them to have a good time and enjoy the experience," said Tom Miller, while his sons -- Tyler, 3 1/2, and Trent, 2 -- took hacks at the batting tees. "Tyler's always asking to watch baseball on television or play, so we knew we had to be here."
Officials from MLB, the White Sox and John Hancock Financial Services officially opened FanFest with a brief opening ceremony on the baseball diamond at the center of the exhibition floor.
"We started a trend 20 years ago," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf noted. "The last time the White Sox hosted the All-Star Game [in 1983], we won the AL Western Division and I'm confident that we can get it done again this year."
A six-time All-Star who played for the White Sox for 12 years, Baines -- along with Konerko, a 2002 All-Star -- is serving as a spokesman for FanFest.
"Hopefully, people learn the history of the game," Baines said. "I'm excited about learning more about the history of the game. I played the game for 25 years, but I still don't know all of the history of the game. It's very exciting for me and my family to come back here and be a part of this."
Baseball legends appearing Friday for clinics, autograph signings and demonstrations included Will Clark, Don Larsen, Fred Lynn, Terry Donahue and Phyllis "Sugar" Koehn of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and former White Sox greats Minnie Minoso, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton and Billy Pierce.
FanFest runs through July 15 at McCormick Place. Timed-entry tickets can be purchased online at whitesox.com and MLB.com or by calling (312) 559-1212, or at the U.S. Cellular Field box office and all Ticketmaster outlets.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $11 for children 12-and-under, senior citizens and military personnel. Children under 2 are free.
FanFest will be open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. CT Saturday through Monday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Once inside FanFest, fans can stay as long as they want.
Once inside, you'll never want to leave.
Damon P. Young is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.