"I want people to leave here thinking that they've had a great time, that they've had their baseball dream satisfied and that they have felt truly a part of the experience."
Gerard McTernan, operations director at the first FanFest in 1991
Happy 20th anniversary to "Baseball Heaven on Earth," as it became known over the years since the first FanFest was added to that All-Star Week in Toronto.
It is an event without a permanent home, and that is what makes Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest so successful in the first place. It goes where the Midsummer Classic goes, it makes you feel "truly a part of the experience," and now the 21st rendition of it goes to Phoenix.
It spans five days, from July 8-12 at the Phoenix Convention Center, supplying the almost constant hum of entertainment and interactivity that serves as a backdrop to all of the week's major action over at Chase Field. It is a big part of the prize Phoenix won and Kansas City gets next year.
It always mirrors its host city, and it keeps changing with the times. That was evident again when MLB announced on Thursday that it will host brand-new theme days as part of this FanFest in the 500,000 square-foot space. Each day, fans will have a chance to take home a special giveaway as part of that day's corresponding theme. Each theme day will host different activities in addition to the attractions of MLB All-Star FanFest.
July 8, Military Appreciation Day: On the Opening Day of FanFest, MLB will honor U.S. armed forces and offer special military programs. The first 1,200 eligible fans between the ages of 4-18 on Friday, July 8, will receive a limited edition "Lil' Teammates" figurine. Fans are encouraged to visit WelcomeBackVeterans.org in the overall interest of helping returning U.S. military and their families -- a cause that also has been a theme day at each of the last two World Series.
July 9, Heritage Day: MLB will dedicate Saturday to celebrating the many cultures of Arizona. The first 1,200 eligible fans will receive a limited-edition commemorative Heritage Day pin.
July 10, Kids Day: The first 1,200 eligible children between the ages 4-18 will receive a "Baxter the Bobcat" figurine, a tribute to the local D-backs mascot. Anyone who ever has been to All-Star FanFest knows how key MLB mascots are to the whole event, with their diamond games and random acts of fun. Kids on this Sunday also will enjoy face-painting, musical acts, fitness clinics and much more. On this day, the crowd size usually swells and fans are going back and forth between FanFest and the ballpark, as the first on-field action gets under way.
July 11, Hall of Fame Monday: Presented by State Farm, sponsor of the evening's Home Run Derby, fans on this day will be able to participate in Q&A sessions at the All-Star Clubhouse with Hall of Famers. Also, the finals of the popular State Farm Mascot Home Run Derby will take place, and the first 1,200 eligible children between the ages of 4-18 will receive a limited-edition State Farm Mascot Home Run Derby commemorative pin.
July 12, Championship Tuesday: MLB All-Star FanFest goes out in style on this day, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the D-backs' 2001 World Series championship. The first 5,000 eligible fans will receive a limited-edition commemorative mini 2001 World Series pennant.
"It's a great experience for all fans," Hall of Famer Rod Carew said at last year's FanFest in Anaheim. "This a great game. I think what Major League Baseball has done, instead of just focusing on the All-Star Game and the players, it's also for fans to be able to come here and participate here at FanFest."
According to the Toronto Star's 1991 coverage of the inaugural FanFest, MLB and Madison Square Garden Event Production staged the first one, hiring Canadian companies to design and construct the show. That included people like McTernan, then a theatrical-event operator. The Star wrote: "FanFest is an inaugural All-Star Week bonus, but it is expected that most of the show will be stored locally until next year's game, when it will be reassembled in San Diego."
Indeed, the event went on to San Diego the next year, and it never stopped rotating around, from host city to host city. It is a way to get the community involved, in addition to opportunities such as sitting in the stands and watching the best players in baseball on the same field.
For more information and to buy tickets to MLB All-Star FanFest, please visit AllStarGame.com.
It all leads up to the 82nd MLB All-Star Game, which will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET that Tuesday. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage.