Kids and adults alike tested their skills in the batting cages.
Many patiently waited in long lines to meet a baseball legend.
And others shopped for their favorite teams’ merchandise or that rare piece of memorabilia.
There was a little bit of everything for fans taking in the All-Star Game experience for the first time Friday at the Miami Beach Convention Center as Major League Baseball’s annual FanFest kicked off five days of festivities leading up to the big game on Tuesday night.
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Clad with jerseys and caps from numerous MLB teams, fans hailing from cities near and far took in the chance to get a little piece of Miami’s first baseball All-Star Game festivities.
“It’s pretty cool,” Marlins fan Courtney Bustamante said. “I loved the batting cages.”
A few fans like Bustamante were even celebrating birthdays at FanFest. She and her sisters, Elizabeth and Rebecca Escuade, have been Marlins fans since their inception.
“I’m super excited for it, and I can’t wait for the Home Run Derby,” Bustamante said. “I’ve always wanted to go, and this might be the one chance I get here in Miami.”
While there were plenty of fans wearing the hometown team’s gear, there were many other teams represented.
Justin Simeone, a 35-year-old Fort Myers resident originally from Pittsburgh, picked up a couple of autographs from some of the baseball legends in attendance.
As a Pirates fan who has a baseball autographed by Bill Mazeroski, who hit the walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, Simeone enjoyed some of the historical exhibits such as the one featuring Roberto Clemente.
“We got Rollie Fingers and Orlando Cepeda’s autographs, and [Saturday] we’re going to try to get Fred Lynn and Juan Marichal,” Simeone said.
Kids had plenty of opportunities to test their skills in the batting cages, do fielding drills and get tips on how to steal bases in the various activity areas.
Fans also got a chance to take pictures with some of the notable mascots from around the league, including the Oakland Athletics’ “Stomper,” the Houston Astros’ “Orbit” and “Mr. Met.”
Wearing a Chicago White Sox T-shirt, Leo Townsend represented his hometown team Friday as he and his family took some swings in the batting cages and threw some pitches in the throwing areas.
Townsend and his family currently reside in Merritt Island and have tickets to all five days of FanFest, the Futures Game on Sunday and the All-Star Game on Tuesday. And Townsend is still trying to get tickets for the Home Run Derby on Monday.
“It’s been a great experience for the kids to get out and do some stuff,” Townsend said. “The kids got the chance to swing the bat and run the bases, and my wife did better than I did.”
Douglas DePalma, a resident of Sherman Oaks, California, and a Los Angeles Angels fan, has been attending FanFest regularly with his family since 2010. DePalma said he has seen many baseball fans make traveling to the annual event around the country a tradition.
“It’s not as crowded this year so far, which is kind of nice, but we’ve been doing this for years and it’s the coolest thing,” DePalma said.
“It’s a little smaller, and there aren’t as many vendors as other years. But the cool thing is you have real fans here and you see some of the regulars that travel every year and have family traditions of coming to these. It’s a baseball family.”