MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins legend and Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven is known for his quick wit and sharp memory, and he showed off both of them during a question-and-answer session at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest Clubhouse on Saturday morning.
Asked about his baseball origins, the Holland native didn't disappoint.
"I fell in love with the game of baseball through my dad, who was a huge Dodger fan," Blyleven said. "He really looked up to Frank Howard, who was a giant back in the '60s, about 6-foot-7, probably weighed about 280. Almost like Adam Dunn or Boog Powell."
As fate would have it, Blyleven got to face his dad's hero in his big league debut.
"My first MLB game was against the Washington Senators," Blyleven recalled. "[I was] less than a year out of high school and Howard was batting third. Ted Williams was the manager [of the Senators].
"The first batter I faced was Lee Maye, who was a left-handed hitter. I was so nervous. I got the count to 3-2, and [catcher] George [Mitterwald] called for a fastball. I threw it, but he never caught it. Lee Maye caught it, and hit it about 400 feet over the right-field fence. It wasn't that funny at the time."
Blyleven didn't surrender any more runs during the game, earning his first Major League victory. But when he returned to his hotel to call his father, he didn't get the reaction he expected.
"How did Frank Howard do against you?" Blyleven said his dad asked him.
"Oh-for-three, and I struck him out once," Blyleven responded.
"He hung up on me," Blyleven said. "He wanted Frank Howard to take me deep, too."
KinderVision educates kids, parents at FanFest
MINNEAPOLIS -- Doug Sebastian is skeptical of most parents who stop by his booth at T-Mobile All-Star FanFest in Minneapolis.
He asks them if their child is prepared to "Shut Out Predators" -- this week's theme for KinderVision, a baseball-oriented organization that educates kids, parents and schools about the dangers of child predators.
"Ninety-eight percent of them say, 'Oh yeah, we've got it covered,' said Sebastian, the program's founder. "When they take this quiz, they're actually witnessing their kids being tested, and the parents find out their kids don't know this stuff."
So where does baseball come into play? Well, MLB has been partners with KinderVision since 1992, when the organization became a recognized charity through the Angels. It's first appearance at FanFest was in Pittsburgh in 1994, and they've been coming back ever since.
Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers is the national spokesman for KinderVision, and he was in attendance at FanFest on Saturday.
"I worry about my kids," Fingers said. "Sometimes kids don't know what to do in certain situations, and they're really naive.
"If kids don't know … what to do, they're going to get in trouble. That's what we're all about. We're trying to take care of the problem before it becomes a problem."
Fingers says that the program has helped save countless lives over more than two decades.
"I think a lot of parents know now that they need to talk to their kids," he said. "If you don't warn them, they're not going to know. Making them aware is all the difference in the world."
KinderVision's instructional DVDs include plenty of current and former players who give kids "tips."
"Never take a ride from someone else without asking your parents first," White Sox pitcher Chris Sale instructs through the television screen.
At the end of the DVD, the booth becomes interactive. Kids sit down and answer questions about baseball. Who's their favorite team? What position do you play?
"It's like a big league interview," Sebastian said.
At the end, kids and parents get a copy of the DVD and review answers they gave to the KinderVision safety quizzes.
"We're teaching here in addition to having fun," Sebastian said. "We're enlightening kids and parents."
MLB stadiums bring together artist's loves
MINNEAPOLIS -- S. Preston will never forget the call he got this spring.
The minimalist graphic designer had been dabbling in baseball stadium artwork, but he wasn't expecting to turn it into a full-time gig. When the Minnesota Twins came calling, they thrust him headfirst into a new career.
"They said, 'For Opening Day, we want you to have all 30 stadiums done,'" Preston said. "I was blown away. So we flew out here, and they put all the designs on wood backing. It's great."
The artwork currently hangs in the Legends Club at Target Field, and Preston was selling prints at his T-Mobile All-Star FanFest booth on Saturday. Each MLB stadium is represented, with just a small part of the venue appearing in the popular pictures that cost anywhere from $20-1,700.
"I try to figure out what is the most iconic element of that stadium," Preston said. "And then the idea of minimalism is to strip away as much as possible. Some of them are very easy to do, and then when I got really stuck, I went on Twitter and got a lot of ideas from people."
The fun part for viewers is trying to figure out which stadium is which. Some are obvious (the live rays at Tropicana Field or the neon Liberty Bell at Citizens Bank Park), but some require a little more thinking.
"There's the guessing-game element," Preston said. "People look for their stadium right away, and they know it. And then they start trying to figure out what other stadiums they have."
The images begin as sketches on paper, and then Preston transforms them into digital prints.
The finished products now hang in the homes of baseball lovers across the world.
"It's my passion of drawing and illustrating meeting sports," Preston said. "Finally, in my life, I found the connection."
Rare items up for bid in FanFest auction
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Hall of Fame and MLB trophy exhibits are great history lessons at T-Mobile All-Star FanFest, but there's a downside to them: You can't bring any of the memorabilia home.
That is not the case at the live auction next door, where seemingly priceless baseball items could be had at the right cost on Tuesday.
In the meantime, you can look at all of the classic keepsakes up for sale. One section of the viewing area is particularly enthralling. It includes:
• A seat from old Metropolitan Stadium signed by Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Jim Kaat.
• Two seats from Wrigley Field signed by Gale Sayers, Ernie Banks (with the iconic "Let's Play Two" phrase) and others.
• An authentic Minneapolis Millers No. 24 jersey. The cream, orange and black shirt doesn't have a name on it, but it also comes with one of the team's ancient travel trunks.
The rest of the auction features plenty of intriguing items, including signed balls, bats, gloves, jerseys and more. Viewing will remain open until 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday.