MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

All-Star FanFest to feature former Reds

All-Star FanFest to feature former Reds

CINCINNATI -- The number 25 is significant to this year's MLB All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile for a couple of reasons.

First, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Reds' last World Series championship, and many members of that 1990 team will be participating in the festivities surrounding this year's All-Star activities.

Second, 2015 marks the 25th year of the MLB T-Mobile All-Star FanFest, the world's largest interactive baseball theme park that draws thousands annually and runs for five full days, beginning Friday.

The Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati, the site for this year's FanFest, has been transformed into an all-encompassing haven for all baseball fans, casual or rabid. More than 400,000 square feet of space will be jam-packed with interactive games, memorabilia, autograph sessions, appearances by Hall of Famers and Reds alumni and more.

The doors will open to the public Friday at 9 a.m. ET, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the mayor of Cincinnati and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, among others. From there, it's a free-for-all. Fans are invited to roam the three stories of the Duke Energy Convention Center and soak in the All-Star experience.

The hallways on the third level have been named Todd Frazier Way, and the second floor is Barry Larkin Boulevard -- both nods to the two main All-Star spokesmen who will be highly visible throughout the week.

Larkin, the most recent Reds inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, is already making his presence known at FanFest -- even before it officially opens. He was spotted in the cages Thursday with kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cincinnati, giving batting tips and tutoring kids about the game.

Larkin named All-Star spokesman

"There are so many things that are reinforced by participating in sports," Larkin said. "It's not about these kids being baseball players. It's about the interaction, it's about confidence and them having some success and trying something different. All kinds of life skills."

Larkin, who was a part of the 1990 World Series championship team, experienced the first of his 12 All-Star Game appearances right in his hometown of Cincinnati in 1988 -- the last time the Reds hosted the Midsummer Classic.

Larkin, who works with Reds Minor Leaguers in his current capacity as a special assistant to the club, has regaled plenty of players about what it felt like to participate in the 1988 All-Star Game. He recalled standing on the sidelines with Chris Sabo, who ended up winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award that season, and listening to the cheers descend upon them as they were introduced to the hometown crowd.

"At the time I played in the All-Star Game, I had not experienced postseason play," Larkin said. "I just remember the buzz, the energy in the stadium and in the city. I remember when I got elected to play in that game, feeling the anticipation of how electric it was going to be."

Now, as a retired player and one of the most revered in Reds history, Larkin, who is one of dozens of former Reds who will be on hand for free autograph sessions throughout the week, is happy he's here to celebrate another All-Star Game in Cincinnati, this time not as an elected player, but as an ambassador.

"The interaction with the fans is fantastic," Larkin said. "This game is about the interaction between players and the fans. To be a part of it is nice."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.