Wednesday, August 22, 2018

All-Star Fanfest 2018

Since the Baseball All-Star Game was held in Washington, D.C., this year, we thought about going. The tickets for the game were pretty expensive. In addition to the game, there's the Home Run Derby and the Fanfest. The Fanfest ran from Friday to Tuesday (the day of the big game). I bought tickets for Friday, the first day of the 'fest. We metroed down early and were among the first to get into the DC Convention Center where Fanfest was held.

Sidewalk decoration!

The Ryan Zimmerman bobble-head given to the first 3000 fans on Friday

The Fanfest was held in the lower level of the convention center, which has over half a million square feet of room for batting cages, playing fields, vendors, historical displays, tchotchkes, and lines to stand in while waiting to use the batting cages, playing fields, etc. The entranceway was lined with gigantic, lit-up posters of great players. My son got his picture with two of his favorites.

With Justin Verlander

Eclipsed by Jose Altuve

Bryce Harper was cropped out! Only his ER and his dirty knee are showing

The first activity we tried was batting practice, sponsored by Supercuts. It was fun but much like any other batting cage we've been in.

Ready for action

Ready to swing

Here comes the ball!

The most amazing activity we did was the VR Home Run Derby. We had to wait in a short line but it was well worth the wait. We took turns putting on the virtual reality helmet and holding the special bat. I wish I could show what it looked like inside the helmet, it was amazingly detailed. Hitting was also a lot easier than in the real batting cages. Afterward, they emailed us our stats.

The VR Home Run Derby venue

My son ready to bat

My stats

My son's stats

After that, we went to the Trading Cards section, sponsored by Topps (the company that makes trading cards). At first we thought this would be a quick run-through because we don't collect cards. This venue offered something much more awesome. The people asked us which team we rooted for and gave us jerseys to wear. Then we posed to be on our own cards!

Our very own baseball cards
You can see I chose the Orioles, for which I got a lot of sympathy. As of the All-Star Game, the Orioles were in last place in their division, 37.5 games behind! My son had a Red Sox jersey.

My son got to pose with a replica of the All-Star MVP bat, which was a lot of fun for him.

Ready to bat (from the pitcher's mound?)

I am the catcher (or second baseman)

We looked briefly at some of the vendors and saw another cool VR display.

Selling memorabilia 

Sit-down VR

On the other side of the convention center was the fielding practice area. It had a couple of stations that fans cycled through. First was scooping up a grounder to throw to second base. Then the fan got to be the second base player who caught the throw and threw to first for the double-play.

Catching a low toss to second

Drilling it to the first baseman

Then, fans got to practice catching fly balls and gunning them back to the infield. We loved it and even did fielding practice a second time.

Action shot of fly ball catch

The non-VR Home Run Derby was a lot tougher than the VR version. We did our best.

Ready to hit an incoming ball

Swinging away

One of the more humorous sponsors was Oxi Clean, who hosted a "Strike Out Stains" pitching area that featured both baseball and softball pitching. People who pitched the fastest won prizes at the end of the day. We didn't stick around because we were not on the top three display after we made our try.

Striking out stains!

We tried another video game version of baseball that wasn't as satisfying but at least was a break from running around.

The thinking part of the game

We heard an announcement that they were holding a trivia contest. By the time we got there, a dad and his son were answering questions up on stage. The first four or five were fairly easy but the last two or three were extra tough. We were glad we weren't in the hot seat!

Trivia contest

Another activity we saw a little bit of was the All-Mascots Game, where mascots from the National League faced off against mascots from the American League. We came late and didn't know who was winning (or, indeed, who won). They had surprisingly good sportsmanship considering how partisan they were.

Mascots in the field

High-fiving the other team at the end

One of the weirdest things we saw was at the MLB Shop. People were suspended over a large pile of boxes, eventually being lowered to grab one of the boxes. It was just like those arcade machines with a claw that never seems to pick up any of the stuffed animals inside the machine. The line for this was surprisingly long.

The human claw

Another fan looking for the best goodie in the pile

They did offer signatures from stars but we didn't recognize any of the names, so we did not get in line for autographs. We did get a picture with the world's largest baseball.

World's largest baseball

We watched most of the actual All-Star Game, going to bed at the end of the ninth when it was tied. Extra innings after 10:30 p.m. didn't seem like a good idea with vacation bible school in the morning. We had an awesome All-Star weekend anyway.

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