Yesterday, I completed my first five-hour shift as a volunteer at the T-Mobile® All Star FanFest – a 400,000+ square foot “playground” for baseball fans; part of the Twin Cities All Star Game activities. Today, I can hardly wait to get back for my Monday and Tuesday shifts. Billed (accurately) as “the world’s largest interactive baseball them park, FanFest is open July 11-15 (9 a.m.-8 p.m.) at the Minneapolis Convention Center. (Tickets: $30-$35.)
FanFest features more than three dozen attractions – and offers something for baseball fans of all ages. There are numerous historic displays (National Baseball Hall of Fame, Negro Leagues, Women in Baseball, World Baseball Classic, Hometown (Minnesota) Heroes and more. There are also plenty of interactive displays. Attendees can take part in clinics and test their skills at fielding, hitting, pitching and base-running. For more sedentary activity, there are trivia competitions and you can “picture” yourself on your own Topps baseball card or behind the MLB Network news desk (both for free). You can collect free autographs from past, current and future baseball stars (in my first hour, I garnered Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Fergie Jenkins and Louis Tiant). Giveaways abound, ranging from souvenir baseballs to foam fingers to balloon hats. In addition, attendees can purchase official All Star Game souvenirs (MLB Clubhouse Store) and visit a host of dealers offering baseball memorabilia from all eras and baseball-related products of all kinds.
I’d like to share a little bit about my first day as a volunteer at FanFest. I’ll also include a link at the end of this post that will take you (if you are interested) to the story of how I came to be an on-the-floor volunteer for this All Star event.
July 11 – My First Actual Work (fun) Day
With my Friday shift starting at noon, I decided to arrive at FanFest early (about 9:30) and take in some of the activities. It was a wise choice. Before I had even worked my first shift, I:
- Had a great conversation with Jim “Mudcat” Grant (we discussed his excitement not only over winning game six of the 1965 World Series for the Twins, but hitting a home run in that game);
- Collected autographs from Grant, Fergie Jenkins and Louis Tiant;
- Purchased a trio of pins from the Pin Man, who offers one of the most complete selections of baseball-themed pins I have ever seen – and at reasonable prices. (I collect pins from ball parks or baseball events I attend and was able to fill in a couple of pins from events I attended before I started the collection).
- Visited displays focused on the Negro Leagues, Women in Baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Minnesota Baseball Heroes.
I also had one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever tasted – a Kansas City Royal Dog (pulled pork at the bottom, a layer of spicy relish, an all-beef hot dog, three pickle slices – all topped with coleslaw – messy, but delicious).
Then it was off to my assignment (led there by self-announced Yankee fan and Zone Supervisor Jim Barletto). My first duties were at the MLB Network exhibit, where fans (for free) could get a photo of themselves at the MLB Network news desk (by themselves or with the MLB Network’s Harold Baines or Twins’ Mascot TC the Bear.) My job was pretty simple, moving chairs behind the news desk (to accommodate different size groups – from one to four) and ensuring people exited on the correct side of the “set.”
Other volunteers at my attraction worked to bring people into the exhibit or help them into one of the many different-sized MLB Network blue blazers for their picture. In my five- hour session, we had fans of all ages (from as young as eight days to more than 80 years) – but they all seem to have one thing in common, smiles. Everyone was having fun.
The people watching was pretty good. While the majority of attendees were sporting some type of baseball apparel (with just about every major league city represented), there were also those in suits and ties, dresses and heels, and even a Goth look or two. There were also lots a freshly painted faces – everything from butterflies to baseballs – foam fingers and balloon hats. Again, the visitors to our activity still had plenty in common – baseball, a spirit of fun and anticipation over how their photo souvenirs would turn out.
After finishing my shift, I took another hour to tour the FanFest floor (you really need to devote several hours to truly take it all in. I had a personal Topps baseball card made (free), as well as a Greetings from Minnesota photo (in an American League All Star Jersey with Target Field as the backdrop – also free). That, by the way, is one of the great things about FanFest, once you get in, there are a host of free activities and giveaways.
As I said, I have two more shifts to work and plenty more to see, so I’m anxious to get back.
Now, if you are interested, here is a link to the story of how I came to be a FanFest volunteer.