I had been looking forward to the All-Star Game in Anaheim for months! As soon as I knew the Angels would be hosting the ASG I started hinting to my wife that I wanted to go, started schmoozing all the ushers at the stadium I knew, and started hoping and praying we’d even have a chance to get tickets. We did–and ended up with extras–so I would get to do some sort of All-Star activity on each of the five days that they were happening.
The festivities of All-Star Week kicked off for me on Friday morning–at 9:00 in the morning I got off the freeway, parked at Anaheim’s Gardenwalk (which was dumb–I should’ve just parked at the venue), walked a couple of blocks from the structure, and arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center.
It was time for FanFest, baby!
When I got inside the gates had just opened and, along with security searching bags, mascots from different teams (including the Pirate Parrot) were welcoming guests to FanFest.
I stopped and had my photo taken with the Reds’ Gapper:
And then, finally, I got to head inside!
Let me summarize how I felt: Jubilant. FanFest is like Disneyland for baseball fans.
All the positive (and negative) things that you think when you read that last sentence are probably accurate. It’s great and it’s stressful and it’s fun and it’s a lot of waiting around and it’s unique and everything looks and sounds and smells so cool, and it’s over too fast.
Here’s how I spent my day (day one of five!):
The first thing I did (aside from snap the above photo) was receive a bag with a map in it… this place was huge! Then I grabbed a daily schedule and found out that Wally Joyner was signing autographs–he’d started at nine. I walked quickly to his autograph stage and when I got there the line was still pretty short. I saw Roger Lodge of AM 830, then saw a big Reebok ad you could stick your head through…
And after about twenty minutes I got Joyner to sign an old baseball card of his (and a volunteer snapped this picture):
After the Joyner signing I got to really start looking around at all the amazing stuff that was there at FanFest. Believe me, there’s no way to do it all in just one day.
Luckily, I was at FanFest on three different occasions! So, if I don’t talk about something in this entry then it’s sure to be in an upcoming one.
I checked out the Rawlings booth next… and their Gold Glove Award.
In addition to selling different kinds of baseballs they were selling official MLB helmets and they did baseball demonstrations every hour or so. This consisted of an explanation of what’s inside the ball and how they’re made.
They had a case of all the World Series balls dating back to 1978.
The one from 2002 was of particular interest to me:
Go Angels! As I walked back toward the front of the venue for an upcoming autograph signing I saw a familiar face:
It was Rex Hudler, former Angels player and broadcaster… and yes, it seems that he ALWAYS has a baseball in his hand. Arte Moreno and Rod Carew had been walking around that morning, too.
All the while during my time there I was getting free stuff from various booths… and registering to win various prizes. I stopped at one booth where you could make a “Game Saving Catch.” I wasn’t about to spend a ton of money on a photo there but, again, a volunteer stepped in and snapped this:
Nice! In case you’re wondering, the baseball is sewn into the glove… and you can stand on a couple of pegs to get some height up above the wall. It was pretty fun!
There were various pin giveaways throughout the day at various points around the venue. I’m not huge into pin collecting/trading like a lot of folks (especially in Anaheim) but I stopped to see the line and take a panorama… this is looking toward the entrance I came through that morning:
Only 100 pins were given away per line… in my three days at FanFest I got three of the six or seven pins that were there.
After the pin line I was off to another autograph signing. This one was Jim Fregosi at the Minor League Baseball stage… there, they’ve got a wall of hats of each minor league club from each of the thirty MLB teams. Check it out:
And here are the Angels’ teams:
I was having a blast.
After the autograph session I checked out some of the exhibits and memorabilia displays. You can buy everything from a pack of baseball cards to a used jersey from decades ago to a stadium seat from a long-since-torn-down park to an All-Star Game keychain (and ordinary stuff like that). There’s stuff to buy EVERYWHERE! I came around a corner after playing a “throw the ball through a Firestone tire” game and saw:
Red Sox Mickey! He was one of the thirty-six Mickeys around SoCal for the ASG and he had been beaten up outside his original location so I guess he got bandaged up and moved inside to a safehouse… oh, Disney. Some Angels fans out there must have been pretty upset to see Mickey dressed like he was from Beantown.
Next, I walked through a replica of a major league clubhouse where a lot of stuff that the players wear was on display. I snapped some photos and listened as Clyde Wright told a couple of stories… you see, they also have old-timers and Hall of Fame players give talks in that room, according to the schedule.
I then doubled back to get a shot of the diamond on which little kids were playing throughout the day. I tried to sign up for a contest to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It was full. Darn.
There were hitting, fielding, and umpiring clinics, a mascot home run derby, and a bunch of other cool activities going on there at any given time.
Behind it, you could steal home (look at the photo above)–there was a timer to see who could run the fastest… and you could put on some special/weird-looking Reebok shoes if you wanted to do so.
Also, you may have seen that cool sand sculpture of Angel Stadium in the TV commercials for the All-Star Game… well, it’s pretty darn awesome in person:
How’d they get it into the convention center? Aagh!
And did you notice a giant baseball in the photo toward the beginning of this entry? Well, it is officially known as The World’s Largest Baseball and it’s lit very well… and here it is for your viewing pleasure:
It’s signed by everyone from Derek Jeter to Hank Aaron. So cool.
You know those patriotic hats the teams wear on July fourth weekend? How about a giant flag made out of those?
Wha–? Whoa! Seriously, FanFest is a must for any baseball fan. Not everything there is for everyone but I guarantee that there’s something there for everyone.
Monster truck… MLB-style.
In the midst of all my random picture-taking I sat down to eat at the MLB.com stage. They were doing live broadcasts:
And one of the interactive exhibits that I got to do on this, my first day, was “Steal A Base, Steal A Taco.”
You start at first base, take a lead when the video projection of the pitcher looks away and gets set… once he starts to pitch, you start to run. If you make it in safe you get a free taco–seriously. They have them right on the other side of that wall in the background. In all fairness, everyone is always safe. I totally beat the throw though–and slid… and did it right. Yeah.
Later, I stood in line for the pitching cage. I threw a blazing fastball–at 52 mph. Wow… a friend had told me I’d hit 65, tops. After I told him what I really threw he called me Jamie Moyer.
I also swung by the PS3 truck and played some Home Run Derby video game… and then went to the Angels exhibit where, among other things, you could be a part of the 2010 team photo. I made friends with Mike Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher.
Shortly after that, I headed home. It was almost 5:00pm. I could have stayed until it closed at 8:00 but I knew I’d be back the next day, this time with Michelle, and I’d get to see it all again. Awesome.