MANHATTAN, New York - I've been to five All-Star Games -- assuming I'm not hit by a bus or something before Tuesday night -- beginning with 2000 in Atlanta, and almost every time I've had the most fun not at the game, but at FanFest beforehand. Maybe this year will be different ... but I doubt it. And if you've got a lot of money to spend, even better.
Actually, FanFest is especially geared for those with a lot of money to spend and children who love baseball. I've got some money to spend and I'm child-like, so it's pretty good for me, too. I don't spend much or engage in the various activities for the kiddies -- there's hitting and fielding and running and even the occasional baseball lesson from the likes of David Wright -- but I enjoy being around all these activities; it's just refreshing to see so many people who so obviously love the game.
Which is to say that I really can't recommend FanFest highly enough. It's probably too late for you this year, but if you're in the Twin Cities next year during the five days leading up to the All-Star Game, you really must visit. Especially if your kids enjoy baseball.
But again, there's plenty for the older set, too. I always linger at the Hall of Fame's exhibit. In just one display case, you can see jerseys once worn by Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, Pie Traynor, Eppa Rixey, and Ty Cobb, plus George Sisler's mitt, Rogers Hornsby's bat, Mickey Cochrane's mask, and KiKi Cuyler's cap. There are many display cases. And there are people from the Hall of Fame just hanging around, happy to answer your questions about the collection (ask them about the basement where they keep all the stuff that won't fit upstairs).
And then there the Auction House. Hunt Auctions conducts a live auction every year at FanFest, and it's a big deal. This year the featured attraction was Warren Spahn's huge collection of memorabilia, including a number of his Braves jerseys, game-used baseballs, and dozens of personal items (watches, credit cards, cancelled checks, etc.). Really, it was like visiting a Warren Spahn museum, and it's sort of a shame that all the stuff's just being parted out. Then again, it's not like a Warren Spahn museum would be a huge tourist draw (trust me; I've been to the Bob Feller museum).
Anyway, all that old stuff is my favorite thing about FanFest. I did stroll about and look at all the things for sale; oddly enough, it was almost exactly the same things for sale last year in Kansas City, including this big old pile of baseball gloves. I stopped by the New Era department, where they've got some truly ugly hats that I hope I never see again (here's just one example of the sort of thing you can actually put above your face). They also had some of the "regular" hats the players wear, including our old friend Chief Wahoo ... but here's a funny thing. Over in MLB's Clubhouse Store, I saw a display case that included caps for every team. Your Cleveland Indians option?
Ah, but these weren't the official caps. What about the real stuff? Well, all the official game caps were just around the corner. Well, almost all of them. Most clubs were represented by the usual caps.
The Indians, though? They get the alternate caps, which again means no Wahoo.
Hmmm. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but doesn't it seem odd that Major League Baseball's not selling the Indians' primary caps in the official store? I'm not saying that Chief Wahoo's on the way out anytime soon. But it does seem that perhaps MLB is uncomfortable with the image. Not to the point of telling the Indians to stop using the damned thing. But it seems that someone in New York isn't thrilled with it. And I maintain that both Chief Wahoo and the "Indians" name itself will eventually go away. And my choice is still Coasters.
Every day at FanFest, there are big-time baseball players signing autographs, often for free. Sure, they're mostly old big-time baseball players, but those are my favorite sort of baseball players. If I still collected autographs, I would probably camp at FanFest every day and just rake in the treasures. Every day, there's just about everything baseball-related that you might want to purchase. Every day, there's something to see or do, especially if you're a kid.
Is this FanFest? No. It's heaven, except with a bunch of idiots hawking Phiten snake oil.*
Seriously, I wish you could see this, but I left the flier in my hotel room. Phiten's selling titanium discs and tapes, and their flier's got images of this bald dude with these things plastered all over his body. And there's a note below the images that says -- really, I'm not kidding here -- "The image on this application is just a reference. You may apply anywhere on your body." Holy shit, what a relief!