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FanFest a major event in All-Star week

FanFest a major event in All-Star week

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DETROIT -- Three weeks before All-Star Week begins here, Major League Baseball and the Tigers gave a sneak preview of what to expect when the John Hancock All-Star FanFest comes to Detroit for the first time.

Though baseball's All-Star Game has been in the Motor City before, this town's last Midsummer Classic came in 1971. As Hall of Famer and FanFest spokesperson Al Kaline said, there was just the game, and players basically flew in and out in a matter of a couple days.

Now, the game is a capper to the days of events in and around the ballpark, none bigger in terms of crowds than FanFest. Baseball's annual interactive fan experience will attract more than twice as many fans over a five-day period than the All-Star Game will in a sold-out Comerica Park.

"I never had the chance to take my two sons to FanFest," Kaline said, "but I guarantee you that my two sons will be taking my grandsons to FanFest because of the activities that they have, not only for kids, but for grown-ups alike."

Tigers catcher and 11-time All-Star Ivan Rodriguez was also named a FanFest spokesperson.

This year's version will be housed in downtown Detroit's Cobo Center, where the automotive industry comes each January for the North American International Auto Show. Next month, the same 300,000 square feet of exhibition space will become the center for baseball's interactive showcase.

Among the attractions:

•  State-of-the-art video batting cages, allowing fans to experience what it's like to hit against some of the game's greatest pitchers, and bullpen to try to pitch to video images of feared sluggers.

•  A simulated broadcast studio where fans can add their own play-by-play call to great events in the game.

•  The Diamond, where events such as contests and seminars will go on each hour. It'll also feature a mascot home run derby pitting Tigers mascot PAWS against other feared, furry sluggers.

•  A collection of artifacts and photos from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

•  Hometown Heroes, a tribute to Tigers greats from the past and present.

•  MLB Legends, free personalized autographs from Major League Baseball greats.

•  FanFest Cyber Ballpark, a chance to test your skills on MLB computer and video games.

Last year's FanFest in Houston attracted about 94,000 fans. Detroit organizers hope to top that mark, a challenge reiterated Friday by Ilitch Holdings president/CEO Chris Ilitch. Over 20,000 tickets have already been sold for an event that's largely based on walk-up tickets.

Tickets are sold on a timed-entry basis to help control crowds and lines at peak hours. While the tickets specify a time when fans can enter, they can stay as long as they like. With all there is to do, the average fan stays about three hours. FanFest opens Friday, June 8 from 9 a.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET and stays open the next three days from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. On All-Star Tuesday, it'll open at 9 p.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Tickets cost $16 for adults and $11 for senior citizens, military personnel and children age 12 and under. Kids age two and under are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online at detroittigers.com and MLB.com, by phone at 313-25-TIGER or 248-645-6666, or in person at the Detroit Tigers box office, Joe Louis Arena box office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

More than $2 million is expected to be raised over the five days. Major League Baseball and the Tigers will split the proceeds and distribute them among their various charitable efforts. In addition, John Hancock Financial Services announced it will donate 4,000 tickets to youth groups including Mentor Michigan, a project of Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Mayor's Time, started by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his wife.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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