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FanFest to host record crowds
July 06, 2007, 12:00 AM By Rachael Warecki

Rachael Warecki FanFest workers unveil baseball memorabilia at the Moscone West Event Center Thursday. More than 100,000 tickets have already been sold for the five-day event.

FanFest operators have already sold 100,000 advance tickets, the largest amount in FanFest history, according to event directors.

"We’ve never had that many advance ticket sales before,” said Morgan Littlefield, director of special events for Major League Baseball. Littlefield expects there to be 8,000 people at the event at any one time.

Luckily for fans, the three-floor extravaganza will be held in the Moscone West Event Center, which provides 300,000 square feet of space. Each floor is packed with events for collectors, history buffs and devotees of the game. The second floor alone features memorabilia booths, a "Make Your Own Baseball Card” station and a 90-foot "Steal Home Challenge” area where attendees can race from third base to home plate (the fastest runner of the day will win a pair of shoes).

In part, the record number of advance sales is due to Giants season ticket holders. To purchase 2007 season tickets, buyers also had to purchase tickets to FanFest. Littlefield estimates that season ticket holders represent 28,000 — a little over one-fourth — of the advance sales.

Littlefield, a Sacramento native who has been organizing FanFest for 12 years, isn’t daunted by the record number of expected fans. There’s plenty to distract people waiting in line to hit balls over the fence at the Home Run Derby station or to listen to Tony Gwynn give an exclusive radio interview. Televisions broadcasting baseball games around the league have been stationed throughout the event center. "Mr. Baseball” will walk around and ask waiting fans questions about obscure MLB trivia.

Not all of the activities at FanFest will involve standing in line: the entire first floor is devoted to baseball history. The Negro Leagues, Minor League Baseball and Women on the Diamond displays are long-time staples of FanFest, while the National Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit takes up an entire corner of the room.

"It’s a great opportunity to see memorabilia,” said Littlefield. "It’s different if you’re in Pittsburgh or Detroit and live three, four hours from Cooperstown. In California, hardly anyone has been [to the Hall of Fame].”

Somewhat new to FanFest is the Giants Hometown Heroes exhibit, which features the history of both the New York and San Francisco Giants. The exhibit features a cutout display of the current Giants roster and of Willie Mays, whom Giants fans voted the Ultimate Hometown Hero. Hometown Heroes has always been a part of the show, but it changes every season to promote the hosting ballpark’s home team.

"Aside from the Hometown Heroes exhibit, everything’s pretty much the same,” Littlefield said of FanFest’s many attractions. "People always ask what’s new — the core of the show remains the same. What’s new in San Francisco is this show... It’s never been to Northern California.”

Perhaps the most impressive display at FanFest is of baseball’s most important trophies. The World Series MVP trophy, the Commissioner’s trophy, the 2007 Home Run Derby trophy and the World Series trophy were delivered to the Moscone Center Thursday morning. Four children wearing white gloves assisted DHL workers in transporting the trophies from the delivery trucks to their display cases.

Reggie Caldwell, 12, of Richmond, said he was excited about delivering the World Series MVP trophy. Caldwell, who has been playing baseball for four years, will also get to attend the All-Star game.

Jill Milestone, the San Francisco native and 17-year DHL employee who helped carry the World Series trophy, said it was one of the best things she had ever delivered — right up there with the game ball for the Yankees and Giants, which she delivered two weekends ago.

For those who come to FanFest to meet players, Tony Gwynn will give his interview on Monday; Cal Ripken, Jr., will give batting and fielding lessons on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday; Barry Zito will appear either Monday or Tuesday; and fan favorite J.T. Snow will be in attendance Friday through Tuesday. Don’t count out surprise player appearances, either.

"We never know who’s going to show up,” said Littlefield. In 2004, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera brought his kids to the Detroit FanFest. In 1998, Roger Clemens showed up in the video-image batting cages in Denver, where fans could test their hitting skills against life-size video clips of top-notch MLB pitchers. Who’d he choose to pitch to him? Himself, of course.

With attractions like these, it’s highly likely that FanFest will draw a huge walk-up crowd along with the 100,000 already expected to attend. Fans buy tickets for a specific date and time to more easily facilitate crowd movement in and out of the event, but although there is no re-entry allowed, people can stay all day long if they so choose. Despite the crowding this could cause, Littlefield is confident that all will go smoothly.

"Never in the history of the show have we had to hold people outside,” she said.

FanFest is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 6, when Willie Mays will cut the opening ceremonies ribbon. It will end on July 10, right before the commencement of the 78th annual All-Star game. Tickets are $22 for adults and $17 for under-12 children and seniors. Admission is free for children under 2.

For more information, visit www.allstargame.com.

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