WASHINGTON -- The ribbon has been cut and the 2018 Geico All-Star FanFest is officially underway.Crowds of fans lined up outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center early Friday morning for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and to be among the first to partake in this year's FanFest activities leading up to
WASHINGTON -- The ribbon has been cut and the 2018 Geico All-Star FanFest is officially underway.
Crowds of fans lined up outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center early Friday morning for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and to be among the first to partake in this year's FanFest activities leading up to the 89th MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
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After saying a few words, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser grabbed a large pair of scissors and stepped up to the ribbon ready to declare FanFest officially open. Six other VIPs joined Bowser on stage, including Mark Lerner (principal owner of the Nationals), Tony Petitti (MLB deputy Commissioner of business and media), Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, three-time Olympic softball gold medalist Lisa Fernandez and former Nationals Ryan Church and Justin Maxwell.
"When you look at the people on that stage and to actually be considered a part of them, it's just an honor to be able to be here and represent my sport as well," Fernandez said. "You work so hard to be able to bring light to this game, because I know how valuable it is for little girls and boys to be able to learn about life. God's blessed me with incredible talent, and to be able to give back, and hopefully a little kid is going to see me on that stage and [think], 'Man, I'm just like her,' and know they can do it as well."
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Once the ribbon was cut, fans of all ages rushed in past the George Mason University Green Machine marching band, waving to Major League mascots from the D-backs, Marlins and Nationals as they tried to scan the enormous room for which activity to take part in first. Even the VIPs were ready to get down from the stage and explore.
"There's a lot of energy," Maxwell said. "There were already a lot of fans here early in the morning, and it's only going to get bigger as the weekend continues. This place looks amazing. … I want to go hug that baseball. I mean, that's the biggest baseball I've ever seen. After I have all my appearances, my boys and I are going to be exploring."
The theme of FanFest's first day was "Kid's Day," which was geared toward giving young fans special opportunities to enjoy all aspects of the game. Some of the Major League guests held autograph and Q&A sessions, while others, including Church, helped teach kids the fundamentals of baseball and softball during clinics.
"When I was a kid, we never had this opportunity, and it's just great to see this now," Church said. "This is what it's all about. Like, what if I would've had a former Major Leaguer and got a chance to work out or show me some tips here and there? But these kids now? It's unbelievable. I'm kind of like jealous. I see all this stuff. I was saying in the green room, 'Hey, I want to go play in all this stuff.' "
Everyone in attendance had the option of participating in various activities including hitting in batting cages, participating in a virtual reality Home Run Derby competition, running the bases, sliding into second and practicing fielding drills. Younger fans were able to stop by the "Rookie League" area and practice throwing at targets and hitting off tees.
When not taking part in the physical activities, fans could take pictures with the World Series trophy, take a walk through the Minor League and Negro League exhibits, purchase autographed jerseys or baseball cards of past and current players and even get their own Topps baseball card printed.
One of the events that highlighted "Kid's Day" was the fourth annual Play Ball Series, which included two separate games on a field inside the Convention Center between youth from Boys & Girls Clubs of greater Washington.
"It was fun," 10-year-old Chayse Inniss, a member of one of the winning Boys & Girls Club teams, said. "When we started to lose, it was like a letdown to the team, but our coach came in and we started to pick up the pace, because he told us not to swing on a bad pitch, and that's how we won. … My favorite part about playing was when I hit the ball and it went out to center field."
The winners of the two semifinal games from Friday will compete in a championship game Saturday afternoon. Although the Play Ball Series will come to a close, FanFest will be only getting started. The festivities will continue throughout All-Star Week, wrapping up Tuesday evening.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.