PART I: Getting a Taste of All-Star Week
With the week-long break fast approaching, I was able to procure some free tickets for both the MLB Fan Fest, and other events! I will write about those awesome events later in the weekend…
…but for now, this post will cover the bases for the All-Star Fan Fest at the San Diego Convention Center. My sister and I decided to drive down very early on Friday morning so we could try and see EVERYTHING that this great festival has to offer. At the end of the day, we had walked about 10 miles and were quite tired… was it worth it?
Before coming down, I asked my sister which jersey I should wear for the day. Since she loved it when she saw it, she thought I should wear my World Series Cardinals jersey. I have to admit, that is one of my favorite jerseys in my collection and one that I talked about in great detail on a previous post about my St. Louis travels. When I combined this with an old-school All-Star pillbox cap that I got at Cincinnati last year, the look was complete and awesome. My sister then asked me, “Oooh, do you have any Cubs hats?” I asked her if she realized what she was doing, and of course she realized that! When we went through my hat collection, she immediately grabbed the old-school walking Cubs hat. Oh, to complete her ensemble, she wore my vintage Chicago Federals jersey. You will see pictures of both jerseys/hats throughout this blog…
…now that I got that out of the way, we arrived early enough to get a picture with Steve Garvey at the World’s Largest Baseball. This thing has a plethora of signatures including “Say Hey” Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and even Ted Williams!
Next, we made it to my buddy’s booth in the Art of Baseball section of the Fan Fest. I’ve mentioned S. Preston on this blog before. In fact, I’ve attended a couple baseball games with him! He has a spectacular website that features his minimalist ballpark art, but he was also selling some special edition art specifically for the 2016 All-Star Game! He has pieces for Petco Park, Jack Murphy Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium), the Swinging Friar mascot, and even a very special limited edition print from the Gaslamp District, which is where Petco Park happens to be located! Folks, it is worth checking out, and many of his prints are quite affordable! If you do go and you’re reading this, tell him Jason sent ya! Much cheaper than what most of the other artists there are offering…
Another thing worth checking out is the batting cages where one cage is set up with a special censor on the bat, itself. How fast is your bat speed, how is your bat path angle? What was the time to contact, and what was your blast factor? Yes, all this is measured every time you make good contact with a baseball. Jacky and I both got some good hacks on this thing, and we both highly recommend that. (My best Park Blast Factor was a 59, for the record… I was just warming up)
Now, if you’re a T-Mobile customer, there are two booths where you can “JUMP!” the line. Luckily, I’m still a T-Mobile customer, so we got front-of-the-line passes to check out the virtual reality home run contest. My sister handily beat me on this particular event. The other booth where T-Mobile customers can jump ahead is the big event, the Home Run Derby! This VERY large area takes up so much space that there are multiple batting cages going. The lines here can go pretty long, so be sure you are ready to hit and bring your A-game, there are hundreds of people watching!
I will come out and say this, I don’t consider myself to be the world’s greatest ball player, but I can definitely field a mean middle infield, I can throw pretty well, and I can make good contact on the ball. With that said, I actually hit a couple home runs during my time there. My sister wasn’t so lucky on this booth, though it may prompt her to make a visit to the batting cages soon! The first one I hit was hooking towards the left field foul/fair pole. I hit that pole, but it counted, though it felt a little cheap! That second and final home run… that one was legit. It felt good, I got ALL of it going the other way. It hit the baggie in right field, went OVER the fence, and without missing a beat, I executed a perfect bat drop. Don’t believe me? Here is the video for proof! (via my Twitter “StimpyJD”)
While the Home Run Derby was a huge highlight for me, getting to see some of the booths where the classic players reside is another biggie. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League have a booth to call their own complete with many autograph sessions. This is highly worth checking out, especially if you loved the film “A League of Their Own.” Just remember, “there’s no crying in baseball!” The National Baseball “Hall of Famers” also have their own booth where many players are signing autographs, but for a fee of usually $20. While it feels a bit weird to have non-free autographs at a fan-friendly place like this, ALL proceeds go to a great charity, the Fergie Jenkins Foundation. Also, there are some A-list Hall of Fame players in this booth, including Rollie Fingers (and his incredible mustache), Gaylord Perry, and others! If you can’t stand those long lines at the free autograph booths, this might be worth checking out.
If you are bringing a child with you, then please check out the kids’ interactive zone towards the very end of the Fan Fest. There is everything from face painting, to swinging for the fences, throwing, fielding, and even corn hole games.
The shopping… it looks that good. There is too much awesome stuff to buy here, but you had better be ready to pay a pretty penny for some of the items here! I will just leave a couple pictures from the stores here, including All-Star socks, and a very expensive gold-colored hat! Yes, a $150 hat from the All-Star Game. Yikes!
In that same shopping area, there is the New Era booth which has baseball trivia for prizes! Being a total game show nut, I had no choice but to play this and see if I could get the best of my opponents. You play on a touch screen in front of you, and your job is to get the correct answer in the fastest time before everyone else does. Some questions were VERY easy (what team did Mickey Mantle play for), and others… quite tough (before 1994, when was the last time a World Series was NOT played). Without tooting my own horn… I dominated that contest by getting the most answers right in the fastest time. If you think you’re that good at baseball trivia, give this a try!
Of course, a BIG recommendation for any baseball fan is the area where the artifacts are located. The minor leagues have a booth with all of their caps, but the negro leagues are very well represented with an incredible display. The MLB trophies stand out, however, with their Tiffany and Co. sparkles. At the time I passed by there towards the end of the night, the line to take a picture with the World Series trophy was almost non-existant. We couldn’t pass up a chance to take a couple pictures with the famed trophy.
The Hunt Auctions are back and better than ever! This year, Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn are the main feature of the collectibles auctions taking place both at the Fan Fest, and online. I will just leave pictures of a couple of the incredible items up for bids. If you want to see a full listing, please check out this page here. Three of my favorite items there were the handwritten questionnaires from classic players, a hand-written check from Jackie Robinson to American Airlines, and an authentic Sandy Koufax jersey from 1966.
Finally, meeting some of the classic players and getting their autographs is always a thrill… but getting to meet three of them in fifteen minutes? Well, it happened because by 6pm, the entire place had turned into a ghost town! I got to take a picture and get autographs from Bobby Jones, Archi Cianfrocco, and Juan Eichelberger in that order. I know they’re not exactly HoF’ers, but for each player, there was NO line so I got to talk with each player before someone else came. Not bad, eh?
There is one final highlight that I HAVE to mention that EVERY fan should check out here at the Fan Fest. There is a company called 3DPlusMe that does personalized figurines! What I mean by that is, this company takes a 3D scan of your face and puts it on a baseball collectibles figurine! HOW COOL IS THAT? Plus, they have special pricing here at the Fan Fest. I got the medium 6″ figuring at $58 TOTAL (rather than $90 online, and you must present a 3D picture that you took somewhere else) which was amazing! For the record, I got one of myself at-bat with a National League All-Star jersey with the Dodgers cap, which is a Fan Fest exclusive! Again, special pricing with exclusive All-Star jersey poses. This is very much worth checking out.
That is a wrap! My top four recommendations to check out are, of course, S Preston’s booth at the Art of Baseball, the Home Run Derby, the artifacts with trophies, and the 3DPlusMe booth. Those are must-see places. Hopefully, you can check all that out! My next post will be about some games because I will be at both the Futures Game AND the Home Run Derby… so far! With that, this is Jason… and I will see you at the ballpark… FOR ALL-STAR FESTIVITIES!