KANSAS CITY -- 2012 All-Star FanFest kicked off in style on Friday morning, as the five-day event's opening ceremonies welcomed All-Star Week to Kansas City.
Royals owner David Glass, Kansas City mayor Sly James and Royals legend George Brett were all part of the ceremonies, which started about 20 minutes before the doors opened at the Kansas City Convention Center.
"This has been a long time coming," Glass said. "1973, the last time Kansas City hosted an All-Star Game. I was fortunate enough to get to go to that game, not realizing how long it would be before I got to go to another one in Kansas City. At that time, they had the All-Star Game, you went to the game and after the game you went home, and that was all there was. Now it's a five-day extravaganza that includes this FanFest, which is one of the most unusual things that any of us will ever experience.
"Many of us aren't able to travel to those other cities, so this will be our first time to experience FanFest on our own. And I will tell you that it is sensationally done here. Thinking about the All-Star Game here in Kansas City and knowing Kansas City the way that I do, this city will do it as well as it's been done in the past and really sort of set the bar for those cities that will have it in the future. I'm really excited. I can't wait for the festivities to start. This kicks it off this morning."
Glass, James and Brett all took the stage to make remarks in front of FanFest's icon, the world's largest baseball, following the national anthem, performed by members of the military stationed at Fort Riley. The anthem and its performers were a fitting addition to the ceremonies, as FanFest's opening day was Military Appreciation Day.
All three men spoke with great civic pride and encouraged fans in attendance to experience and enjoy all of the events going on in Kansas City during All-Star week. Brett, in particular, spoke of the opportunity to show off his city.
"I was very honored when Major League Baseball and the Kansas City Royals offered the title as ambassador," Brett said. "I did milk it at home a little bit. I had my wife call me 'Mr. Ambassador,' and after Tuesday that title does go away. It's a chance for me to help show off the city that I fell in love with years ago. It's a chance for me to show off our city to all the people that are coming here -- that have never been to Kansas City before -- to show them what a great town we have."
Brett continued, praising the event that was about to commence.
"I walked around the FanFest yesterday for a hardhat tour. I think if you're a baseball fan, this is where you've got to be," Brett said. "It's a great experience. The kids can interact. There's a lot of baseball history here. And I think everybody that comes here -- hopefully hundreds of thousands of people will come here -- will really find out what baseball's all about."
Following the remarks, the ceremonies closed with a FanFest tradition: the signing of the world's largest baseball. Brett, as All-Star ambassador, added his signature to the ball, which already included icons such as Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, Willy Mays, Nolan Ryan, Ozzie Smith, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
As the ink dried, hundreds of fans were pouring into the massive exhibition hall, streaking toward different attractions.
FanFest and All-Star fever had officially arrived in Kansas City.