FanFest coming to Pittsburgh July 7
Nation's largest fan event will be held at PNC Park
PITTSBURGH -- Eric Enterline didn't make the trip into Pittsburgh on Tuesday specifically for the FanFest exhibits outside PNC Park.
But he will during All-Star week for the full-fledged festival and the nation's largest baseball fan event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
"If I'm on the fence and I see what's happening here, then I'm going. Absolutely," said Enterline, of Mount Lebanon, who stopped by with his 8-year-old son Nathan before entering the park.
What he and thousands of other Bucs fans saw was an early glimpse of the 16th annual FanFest. From a video pitching machine to the "Steal Home Challenge" to the world's largest baseball, a number of attractions fans will see when the five-day FanFest begins on July 7 lined Federal Street and the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Tuesday afternoon.
"The best way to show someone what it's all about is for them to interact with it," said Major League Baseball spokesperson Susan Goodenow. "And so far [today], it's been fantastic."
Nobody argued that.
"It's great. The kids are having a good time and that's what it's all about," said Dan Haslett, of South Hills, as his 7-year-old son Ben swung in the batting cage.
And if they had a good time on Tuesday, just wait for the real thing.
Taking up two floors and 400,000 square feet at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the FanFest will feature more than 40 interactive baseball games and historical exhibits.
The Steel City hosted the event back in 1994, but this year's gala will be unrecognizable to fans who came 12 years ago.
"They'll be shocked by it," said Morgan Littlefield, MLB director of special events. "It will not be anything like the experience in '94. It has really evolved and it is so much bigger and better this year. We're excited."
Last year's event in Detroit drew more than 80,000 people and officials are hoping for an even better showing in Pittsburgh. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at pirates.com, the PNC Park box office or by phone at 1-888-FANFEST. Daily tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, military personnel and children (3-12). Fans must reserve their date and time, as these all-inclusive tickets will be sold on a timed-entry basis.
As always, the centerpiece of the FanFest will be the full-sized infield diamond that will play host to an a number of clinics. From sliding drills to running the bases to wheelchair and blind baseball, these free seminars will be taught by some of the best, including pro league coaches and current and former big leaguers. Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, and David Ortiz are among the recent impressive cast of instructors. The only certainties for this year are Pirates All-Star Jason Bay and Bucs Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, but more are on the way.
One thing Pittsburgh didn't have in 1994 was the technology they'll see come July. This year, fans will be able to pitch against life-sized video images of the game's top sluggers or take a trip to the other side and take their cuts in the video batting cages, where Clemens once took himself deep. Then there's the cyber ballpark, where video game buffs will have the chance to play any number of the latest baseball titles.
Fans will also have the chance to switch shoes with those they watch from the stands. All included in the price of admission, there will be areas for fans to have their picture taken in front of a green screen and create their own baseball card, get a personalized cover of SportsWeekly and call their own sportscast as they do the play-by-play of a memorable moment in baseball history.
And organizers have not ignored a history of professional baseball in the Steel City that goes back 130 years to the Pittsburgh Alleghenies.
"It's certainly not a cookie cutter type of event," Littlefield said. "What worked last year is not necessarily going to work this year. This is for Pittsburgh. This is to celebrate the city."
A Pittsburgh-geared collection of memorabilia will be part of an exhibit on loan from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And perhaps no city has a richer Negro League past than Pittsburgh with the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, a history that will be explored at the Negro Leagues exhibit.
Be it the "Ballpark Beers" stand or making that winning catch at the "Game Winning Catch" display, there will undoubtedly be something for kids and adults alike.
"It's going to special," said Littlefield. "Fans will be surprised."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.