Treasure Brooks and Kyree Perkins couldn’t stop staring and smiling at the 12½-foot baseball inside the Washington Convention Center in northwest D.C.
Then the two Southeast youth joined others with the Boys and Girls Club of Washington who ran, tossed beanbags and played some baseball as part of the Geico All-Star FanFast as part of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game events held July 13-17.
“I mainly play basketball, but this is cool,” Perkins, 11, said standing near a makeshift baseball diamond. “I want to get in batting cages and do some hitting.”
The 400,000-square-foot convention center marked one of the biggest venues ever for FanFest that showcased several activities and historic pictures and literature for fans, including:
• Virtual Reality Home Run Derby that calculates the ball’s distance.
• Reserve time to get autographs through Legends Reservation System.
• Receive tips from three-time Olympic gold medal softball player Lisa Fernandez.
Besides the youth, former major leaguers such as Washington Nationals outfielder Ryan Church also expressed his excitement for FanFest in the District. Church played on the inaugural team when the Nationals moved from Montreal in 2005.
“It’s great to see how everything has taken off,” Church said while watching youth play some baseball. “It gives me goosebumps. It’s great to see brining in inner-city kids … and now they get to interact with us and now we get to give back. All it takes is a simple shake of a hand and you can instill something that will take off and you will never know.”
It will be the District’s first time hosting an All-Star Game since 1969 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, which housed the Washington Senators.
This year, three Nationals players are All-Stars for the National League: pitchers Max Scherzer and Sean Doolittle and outfielder Bryce Harper. Nationals shortstop Trea Turner lost in the online vote to participate in the 89th annual contest to Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar.
Baseball-related activities took place throughout the city, including a mural dedication for baseball greats Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Josh Gibson at Ben’s Chili Bowl in Northwest, a 5K run along the Anacostia River, discussions on fashion, sports and business in Southwest and a junior home run derby for youth 14 and younger at Nationals Park in Southeast.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said the festivities add to the excitement of the Washington Capitals winning the Stanley Cup last month, D.C. United’s new stadium and thousands visiting the city.
“It tells the world we are serious about sports in D.C.,” Bowser said after she cut a ribbon during the opening FanFest ceremony Friday, July 13. “It’s not only good for the city’s psyche [on] how we feel about ourselves, but it’s good for the bottom line.”
Other activities also took place throughout the D.C. region, including the unveiling of a renovated youth baseball field at Walker Mill Regional Park in Capitol Heights. Some of the improvements at the “Nationals All-Star Field” are a scoreboard, covered dugouts, batting cage and bleachers. Another field received some enhancements to promote baseball and a healthy lifestyle for youth in Prince George’s County.
At FanFest, Marcus Stubbs and his three children from Lorton, Virginia, did pushups, jumping jacks and other exercises at the performance training station.
Although Stubbs’ two daughters, Atianna, 10, and Zoe, 7, aren’t into sports, “we have to expose them to a little of everything,” he said as his 2-year-old son, Zander, clamored to get out of a stroller.
“I always see these [MLB events] on TV [and] I wanted to make sure we got her early so they get to take part in the interactive stuff,” Stubbs said. “I’m glad we did.”