Fans can taste stardom at FanFest

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 11, 2014 - 10:40 PM

Fans get close to baseball greats, and their treasures, on opening day of FanFest

Crouching just beyond third base, Jacob Gullick, focused and giddy, whipped around and saw the nod.

Bert Blyleven had given him the go-ahead.

The 5-year-old Gullick flew down the line, his white baseball pants slouching over his socks until he half-slid, half-tumbled into home plate. His brother, 7-year-old Michael, had gone just before and greeted him with a high five. Both boys were decked out in full baseball get-up down to the cleats — Jacob in a Kent Hrbek jersey, Michael boasting Joe Mauer’s name on his back.

“Great slide!” their mother, Monica, cheered from behind the carpeted diamond that marked the centerpiece of the 24th annual All-Star FanFest, held this year at Minneapolis Convention Center. The five-day indoor baseball theme park kicked off Friday, and baseball fans of every variety — some wearing jerseys and caps, others in button-downs and dresses and high heels — were already getting their fill.

“They were up at 6 a.m. this morning,” Monica said with a chuckle, remarking that the weekend activities were akin to Christmas for the boys.

Beneath draped banners from every major league team, fans wandered through museum galleries containing Cooperstown artifacts, batting cages and clinics — such as the one the Gullicks were attending — held by former Twins stars. They wore hats made from colorful twisted balloons, licked fingers between nachos and mini-donuts and had baseballs painted on their cheeks.

Appearances by Twins greats Tony Oliva, Rod Carew and Blyleven were among the Day 1 highlights, taking pictures with nervous kids and beaming parents, and signing autographs.

“The kids are excited to play,” said father and “diehard Twins fan” Don Gullick. “I’m excited about who they get to play with.”

Three teenagers, decked in sneakers and caps, peered through the glass displays in the auction showcase area. Just beyond their reach lay one of Mauer’s game-used bats, along with other time-worn baseball treasures, including Lou Gehrig’s autographed mitt.

“How much money you got?” one asked.

Another piped up: “I’ve got 10 bucks.”

Jack Ness, 62 and only two weeks into retirement, strolled solo the 400,000-square foot maze of activities, having purchased the full All-Star package — FanFest; Monday’s Home Run Derby; Sunday’s Futures Game and celebrity softball game; and the main event — that was made available to season-ticket holders.

“I’m getting younger every day!” the former lawyer proclaimed.

Ness was 10 when the Twins relocated to Minnesota in 1961 and quickly caught the bug, listening to games on the radio and spending countless nights at Metropolitan Stadium and then the Metrodome. He toured the country with ballparks as his landmarks — 24 in all — before quitting the travel in 2010, unable to stay away from the beautiful Target Field.

“I’m going to get mistaken for an usher if I don’t watch it,” he joked before looking around. “I’m tempted to go to the batting cages because I think I could still get around on a fastball. So we’ll see. If you hear the ambulance rolling in, it could be for me.”

David Foster brought his sons Isaac, 11, and Dillon, 10, along with their friend Calvin Koeger, 11, to FanFest over his lunch break. After the three kids gave the fastpitch a whirl, Foster — rolling up the sleeves of his crisp, blue button-down shirt — couldn’t help himself. Three attempts later, 58 miles per hour was all he could muster.

“I’d like to think I have a lot more in me,” he said, brushing off the apparent defeat.

The crew — along with Calvin’s mother, Dutch Toenjes — was off to the diamond for another clinic. Oliva was up next.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Bottom 5th123456789RHE
Minnesota00101    250
Kansas City00000    013
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
HR: MIN- None KAN- None

ADVERTISEMENT

LA Angels 6 Bottom 8th Inning
Baltimore 6
Seattle 5 Bottom 8th Inning
Cleveland 2
Chicago WSox 11 Bottom 8th Inning
Detroit 2
Washington 0 Bottom 8th Inning
Miami 2
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 6 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 0
Milwaukee 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 Top 9th Inning
Boston 1
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 0 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Leake 3
Colorado 3 Top 4th Inning
Chicago Cubs 1
NY Yankees 3 Top 6th Inning
Texas 4
Minnesota 2 Top 5th Inning
Kansas City 0
Oakland 1 Top 6th Inning
Houston 3
Atlanta - A. Harang 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - J. Beckett
St. Louis - L. Lynn 9:10 PM
San Diego - T. Ross
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
Buffalo
Winnipeg 7/31/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 8/1/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Brt Columbia 8/1/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Connecticut 80 FINAL
Atlanta 89
Washington 76 FINAL
New York 80
Chicago 62 4th Qtr 2:17
San Antonio 84
Seattle 65 4th Qtr 4:24
Tulsa 68
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the Twins replace Ron Gardenhire?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close