FanFest offers patrons a plethora of activities
Five-day event includes home run derby, batting cages and Hall of Fame exhibit
NEW YORK -- From Friday until Tuesday, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in midtown Manhattan will be transformed from one of the world's largest convention centers into a hub for Major League Baseball and its fans as New York plays host to the 84th All-Star Game and FanFest.
"The world's largest baseball theme park," said Reg Bronskill, FanFest's executive producer.
The 2013 All-Star FanFest officially kicks off on Friday morning with an opening ceremony at 8:40 a.m. ET at the Javits Center and runs right up to the start of the All-Star Game, shutting its doors at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The event will be open to the public Friday through Monday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
On Monday it played host to the Boys and Girls Club, who got the first chance to take in all the amenities that FanFest provides, including a home run derby, batting cages, an exhibit from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and a base-stealing competition that lets users compete against virtual versions of Derek Jeter, David Wright and Matt Kemp.
"We are finalizing all these attractions," Bronskill said. "By 4 o'clock this afternoon everything will be pretty much ready for our opening ceremonies tomorrow at 9 o'clock."
There are specific exhibits for the Negro Leagues, the World Baseball Classic, the Hispanic Heritage Museum, Hometown Heroes -- in this year's case, the Mets -- and even a Minor League Baseball exhibit that features 160 Minor League caps.
"Our fans love merchandise," said Jacqueline Secaira-Cotto, special events director for MLB. "And I think Minor League teams have the coolest logos."
There will also be 16 MLB trophies on display, including the All-Star Most Valuable Player Award, the Chevrolet Home Run Derby trophy and the World Series trophy, all of which are available for fans to pose for photos with.
The Boys and Girls Club's visit to FanFest on Thursday gave organizers a chance to showcase the incredibly family friendly atmosphere that the event prides itself on. Children raced against virtual Major Leaguers in the Taco Bell Steal a Base, Steal a Taco challenge and fired pitches in a makeshift bullpen. They also got pointers from former Mets Mookie Wilson and Edgardo Alfonso on the home run derby field.
Current players and former greats will teach clinics and sign autographs to go along with the myriad activities for younger children, while older attendees can meet the former greats and visit an array of exhibits.
"Grandpa can go look at the Cooperstown exhibit," Secaira-Cotto said, gesturing toward the exhibit. "While his grandson or granddaughter can play in the batting cage."
The FanFest is no stranger to New York. In 2008, when the old Yankee Stadium played host to the All-Star Game, FanFest was in the Javits Center, with its same trademark World's Largest Baseball and many of the same attractions.
That FanFest was Secaira-Cotto's first, and she's worked every one since. The Javits Center was an obvious choice once again.
"You would think [that if] you're in New York you could find anything," Secaira-Cotto said. "But it's hard to find a huge enough space that's indoors."
Attendance isn't expected to be anything out of the norm, even being in New York. Over the course of FanFest's 23-year history, more than 2.3 million attendees have strolled through the gates, spending an average of three and a half hours taking in the scene.
The only difference in New York is the constantly changing Hometown Heroes exhibit that this year will feature 75 Mets players and a timeline of historic info about the franchise. Otherwise, it will be the same extraordinary experience it was five years ago.
"This city is a great city, and I think that it embraces huge events and 450,000 square feet of baseball theme park is pretty unique. You don't get that every year," Bronskill said. "And even though All-Star was here in 2008, I think the city is still embracing the importance of this event."
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.