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I went to the All-Star FanFest and it was OK

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — For the past two years people have been telling me that I needed to go to FanFest.

“Go to FanFest!” they said.

“Well, I dunno, maybe,” I said.

Just like that.

I didn’t go in New York last year because FanFest was literally ten miles away from the ballpark and I just didn’t have that kind of time and energy. Here in Minneapolis, however, FanFest is in the convention center across the street from the hotel where all the players and press conferences were yesterday. I walked into the press conference/player availability room a little after noon yesterday and, in the space of two minutes, heard three or four different players offer some variation of “I’m just soaking it all in” and/or offering their takes on Derek Jeter. At that point I decided it was safe to leave and go to FanFest.

I’m not exactly what the purpose of FanFest is. I suppose it has a lot of purposes. It’s part merchandise-selling. Part fan-excitement-generator. Part trade show. Part traveling baseball museum. All in one of those enormous airplane-hangar-size convention center rooms. They sell tickets to it for $10 a pop and the tickets look like baseball or concert tickets, so you mentally prepare yourself for some of affirmative entertainment. It doesn’t really come. You just kind of go in and wander around.

I wandered around for an hour or so trying to see if there was a there there. Here are some of the sights I saw:

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Every year there is some themed-statue thing. Statues of Liberty, corn, guitars, whatever is specific to the city, pained up with baseball logos. We have Peanuts characters this year, I presume because Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis. I liked this theme very much and, given how much baseball appeared in Peanuts, it was quite appropriate. Joe Shlabotnik for the Hall of Fame.

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When you walk in to the big room, this is the first thing you see. Bert Blyleven was standing next to the big baseball posing for pictures (You can sort of see him behind the lady in the white t-shirt). Everything in the place was big. Big baseballs, big jerseys hanging from the ceiling a few more big things you’ll see below.

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A D.J. was spinning tunes. He was totally breakin’ it down, yo. For example, the song he was segueing into as I took this picture was “All I wanna do” by Sheryl Crow. Really, I’m not making that up. That was the hot jam he was dropping on us. Your mom was there rolling her eyes at how lame the songs were. In other news, baseball fan demographics are not the best in the world for those interested in reaching the hip, bleeding-edge tastemakers.

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Next to a green screen setup where you could have your picture taken “with” baseball stars. I watched five people go through the line. All five of them picked the Twins’ mascot, TC Bear, leaving Mauer, Cabrera, Puig and Jeter here all lonely and discarded.

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Grant Balfour isn’t even in the damn All-Star Game, but here he is parking his sweet ride in the middle of FanFest. What a guy.

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This was either an indoor Wiffle Ball game involving kids who could barely run, hit or catch or else it was Texas Rangers pregame drills. Hard to tell from this distance.

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The section with the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit was genuinely cool. Lots of memorabilia, plaques and the like. Thing I learned: Roberto Alomar has his entire name, including his maternal surname, Velázquez, on his plaque. I didn’t realize that the Hall of Fame did that with Latin players — regular MLB records and publications tend not to — but a quick scan shows that Clemente, Cepeda and Aparicio all have their maternal surnames on their plaques too. I think that’s pretty cool.

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Sorry folks, there’s no baseball that counts until Friday. Moose out front shoulda told ya.

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Another photo mockup thing, this time allowing you to have your picture taken in an MLB Network blazer on the MLB Network set. Fact: the person who looks the 356th best at this desk today will be given Chris Russo’s time slot and show. Fact: No matter who it is, whatever show that person does will be more watchable than the Chris Russo show.

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Oh no! Harmon, I warned you not to look straight into the eyes of the Witch of the Woodlands! That the curse would affect even one as mighty as you! But did you listen? Nooo!  In other news, the person who carved this Killebrew statue thinks that Killebrew choked up.

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This was a shirt that was actually for sale. For like $40. Someone created this shirt and thinks a non-crazy person would pay $40 for it and wear it out in the world where other people could see it.

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I didn’t get the price tag on these, but if I was a big famous rock star I’d buy 30 different ones and use them on tour. That way I’d get that extra cheer from the crowd when I did the “HELLO, [INSERT CITY NAME HERE]!!!” thing.

Anyway. That’s pretty much FanFest. I’m not sure it’s worth $10, but I suppose you could spend $10 on a lot of other things. If you’re on the fence about it, well, now you don’t have to go.

Chapman has trouble remembering convo with Cubs management about off-field behavior

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CHICAGO — Star closer Aroldis Chapman joined the Cubs on Tuesday, arriving to a mixed reaction in Chicago and saying he couldn’t remember what management told him about off-field expectations and behavior.

After Chapman’s awkward introductory news conference, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted Chapman understands what the Cubs expect of him after an offseason domestic violence incident.

When the Cubs announced the trade with the New York Yankees on Monday, the team released a statement from Chairman Tom Ricketts saying they were aware of his 29-game suspension to begin the season under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

Ricketts said he and Epstein talked by phone with Chapman before the deal was completed and “shared with him the high expectations we set for our players,” adding that Chapman was “comfortable” with them.

But when asked repeatedly about that phone conversation before Tuesday’s game against the crosstown White Sox, Chapman said through an interpreter that he couldn’t recall details because he was taking a nap at the time the call came in.

The question was asked several more times. A Cubs spokesman once asked the question himself to the interpreter, coach Henry Blanco.

“It’s been a long day,” Chapman said. “Trying to remember.”

Asked again several minutes later during the group interview if he could now remember what Ricketts said, Chapman shook his head.

“I still don’t remember,” he said in Spanish.

Epstein called it a misunderstanding and that Chapman was “pretty nervous” as he faced seven cameras and more than two dozen reporters.

“I was on the call, Tom was on the call, Aroldis was on the call and Barry Praver, his agent, was on the call. It happened and it was real,” Epstein said before the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox.

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots in the garage of a Florida home in October. The woman later changed her story and no charges were filed.

“You learn from the mistakes that you make,” Chapman said.

The case caused the Los Angeles Dodgers to back out of an offseason trade for Chapman. Cincinnati eventually traded him to the Yankees, and after his suspension, the 28-year-old Cuban converted 20 of 21 save chances for New York.

The Cubs have long boasted of stocking their roster with high-character players, helping earn the “lovable losers” label they’ve carried for decades since their last World Series title in 1908.

But the Cubs (59-40) have retooled their roster under Epstein and have the best record in the major leagues despite Tuesday’s loss in which Chapman didn’t pitch. Chapman, who threw a 105 mph fastball last week, fills perhaps the team’s largest hole as he replaces Hector Rondon as closer.

The Cubs sent four players to the Yankees, including shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, to get one of the game’s top relievers. Epstein said they wouldn’t have made the deal if not for the phone call he and Ricketts had with Chapman.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training,” Epstein said. “He said, extremely clearly, `Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training and it’s important you hear it and I need to hear from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard for their behavior off the field. And we need to know you can meet that standard.’

“Aroldis said `I understand. Absolutely, I can.'”

The Cubs activated Chapman before Tuesday’s game and designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment.

Reaction to Chapman’s acquisition in Chicago has been tepid. While there were supportive fans on talk radio, the Chicago Tribune carried a front-page column Tuesday criticizing the move. The back of the Chicago Sun-Times tabloid read “Spin City” over a picture of Epstein.

Chapman said he expected a “good reaction” from Cubs fans. He was also asked during the 20-minute meeting with reporters in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field if we would consider working with organizations looking to prevent domestic violence. Chapman said no.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended Chapman.

“He did do a suspension, he has talked about it, he’s shown remorse,” Maddon said. “Everybody else has the right to judge him as a good or bad person. That’s your right.

I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he could be a very significant member and he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you I will embrace him.”

Report: Padres working on trading Andrew Cashner

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 21: Starter Derek Norris #3 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 21, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports that the Padres are working to trade starter Andrew Cashner. He notes that a deal may be consummated before he takes the hill for Tuesday’s start in Toronto against the Blue Jays. The Marlins, Orioles, and Rangers have had reported interest in Cashner.

Cashner is 4-7 with a 4.79 ERA and a 61/27 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings. He missed over three weeks between June 11 and July 2 due to a strained neck.

The right-hander is earning $9.625 million this season and will be eligible for free agency after the season.