Want to pretend you’re Giancarlo Stanton for a couple of minutes and take a few home run swings?
Want to steal a base like Dee Gordon?
Want some hitting tips from a baseball Hall of Famer like Tony Perez?
If you are going to Major League Baseball’s All-Star FanFest over the next five days, check, check and check.
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Before any of the sport’s stars descend upon Miami next week, the annual baseball extravaganza held for the past 26 years in conjunction with the All-Star Game kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
“Everybody will enjoy this,” Perez said. “I’ve been with [the Marlins] for 25 years and I love to see the All-Star Game here, and I think the people in this city really want to see it, too.”
While construction continued outside Thursday, workers inside were busy putting the finishing touches on what’s been dubbed the “world’s largest interactive baseball theme park.”
As its official opening drew near, the reality of bringing the All-Star Game to Miami started to sink in for the Marlins officials present on Thursday.
“So many people worked so hard for years on this, and we’re starting to see the fruits of that,” Marlins president David Samson said. “The years of preparation are resulting in something great not just for fans in Miami, but for people all across the country and the world.”
Large electronic screens with music and highlights and pictures of stars like Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and others will greet fans as they step through the main entrance.
An All-Star Home Run Derby virtual reality game puts you in a video-game, 360-degree replica of Marlins Park in detail, down to the fish moving around in the fish tank behind home plate as you take swings in the batter’s box. Home runs are even measured for virtual exit velocity and launch angle, mimicking the Statcast tracking system used in pro baseball.
Fans of all ages can test their skills in real-life batting cages, test their speed on basepaths where they try to steal bases and test their fielding skills.
Former Marlin Jeff Conine and Perez, who are participating as All-Star Game ambassadors, were already at work Thursday giving kids some feedback as they took swings in the exhibit’s batting cages.
“If you’re a fan or have any interest in baseball, this is where you need to be,” Conine said. “It’s exciting, and we’re really happy to have it here in Miami.”
The exhibit is replete with chances to learn about baseball’s history, with showcases on the roots of Miami baseball, the Negro Leagues and Latino legends of the game.
Fans will have a chance to get free autographs and participate in Q&A sessions in both English and Spanish with former players.
Conine and Perez aren’t the only notable baseball figures who will be on hand.
Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield, Orlando Cepeda, Ferguson Jenkins and Tim Raines are all scheduled to be there, as well as several former Marlins, including ex-manager Jack McKeon, Livan Hernandez, Cliff Floyd, Derrek Lee, Charlie Hough, Benito Santiago, Antonio Alfonseca, Gaby Sanchez and Carl Pavano.
Several kinds of MLB merchandise and memorabilia will also be on sale at the team store and at kiosks set up at various spots.
Fans can also buy some baseball-themed works of art at the “Art of Baseball” section where Charles Fazzino, the official artist for the All-Star Game, will be displaying portraits he has pained of numerous baseball stars of the past and present.
▪ Visitors this weekend can enter the Convention Center off 18th Street and Washington Ave. behind The Fillmore Theater. The 17th street entrance is blocked and under construction.