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