Jeter, Berra preview All-Star FanFest
Event to feature 450,000 square feet of baseball activities
NEW YORK -- As kids from the Children's Aid Society Boys & Girls Clubs awkwardly lunged forward in an attempt to hit the ball, Yogi Berra peered through the batting cage netting and gave a few pointers.
He didn't stop them through the process. The Hall of Famer just stood there with his fingers clenched around the barrier, offering them the opportunity to listen -- a gift in itself. The kids stared back at the legend, who to them is more famous for insurance commercials than for his baseball exploits.
But when this day was all over, they took home yet another prize. All of the children were handed tickets to this year's DHL All-Star FanFest, which was being previewed outside of Major League Baseball Headquarters on Tuesday.
The first boy in line, naturally a little shy, didn't even make eye contact with Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as he grabbed the ticket to the July 11-15 event.
That stub, one of the FanFest lot that is almost halfway sold out, will get these children into FanFest's more than 450,000 square feet of baseball activities at the Jacob K. Javits Center. FanFest, according to MLB executive vice president Tim Brosnan, will provide an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 "All-Star memories" for fans in attendance.
At the Javits Center, there will be autograph signings, baseball instruction, skills competitions and batting cages like the one previewed on Tuesday. Most importantly, FanFest will allow fans who can't attend the game at Yankee Stadium to experience the All-Star atmosphere.
"It's what we refer to as 'Baseball Heaven on Earth,'" Brosnan said before spectators gathered along Park Avenue. "As you all know, the All-Star Game will be here on July 15, but because the stadium has limited seating capacity, Major League Baseball always endeavors to make sure that every baseball fan that wants to take away a memory of the All-Star Game has that opportunity."
Jeter, along with Berra and Yankees co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner, emphasized how important it was to have events like FanFest for New Yorkers and for travelers who might come to see the game but be unable to get inside Yankee Stadium for its historic All-Star goodbye.
"Obviously, there is a lot of excitement for the All-Star Game, but this is an event for, like I said, people who aren't able to go to the game," Jeter said. "They can still participate."
Then Jeter, asked what his favorite All-Star memory was, put his arm around Berra, and said, "Being here with Yogi."
Steinbrenner, still waiting for the new Yankee Stadium to open in 2009, can't wait to send off the current one with events like the All-Star Game and the surrounding FanFest.
"How appropriate?" Steinbrenner said, boasting the longevity of his home turf. "Eighty-five years. It needed to be here, and Major League Baseball appreciated that right off the bat."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.