HOF exhibit coming to Mall of America soon

Blyleven takes in traveling tour, currently in Kansas City

HOF exhibit coming to Mall of America soon

KANSAS CITY -- Having been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, Bert Blyleven knows how special Cooperstown is with the countless artifacts and history housed within the Hall of Fame Museum.

But Blyleven also knows how difficult it can be for fans to make the trip to the quaint town in upstate New York. So before Friday's game between the Twins and Royals, Blyleven made sure to check out the "We Are Baseball" traveling Hall of Fame Tour that's currently being housed at Lot A at Kauffman Stadium through Sunday.

Blyleven, who has been broadcasting games for the Twins since 1996, was joined by Minnesota players Kennys Vargas, Michael Tonkin and Ryan O'Rourke on a tour of the traveling exhibit that includes five trailers filled with interactive displays, artifacts and an IMAX movie celebrating the game of baseball. Twins fans can get in on the action, as the exhibit heads to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. from Sept. 16-29.

"Everything here, it's like, how could you not want to come see this?" Blyleven said. "From the virtual reality to watching the IMAX to going back in time to see how the game evolved: This is a traveling exhibition of baseball. It's beautiful."

Blyleven and the players were first brought into a trailer that featured virtual reality headsets that allowed the viewer to be in the heart of the action, such as watching the break of a curveball from Marcus Stroman from the view of a catcher to taking the field with the Royals. Tonkin was impressed by how real it felt with the full 360-degree views.

"It was pretty cool," Tonkin said. "It's kind of crazy spinning around. It feels like you're really there. It's impressive how they do that. Looking everywhere when you move your head, it's natural. It's just a little louder in real life."

Next up, the players were taken to an exhibit where fans can create their own personalized Hall of Fame plaques, which can be customized to be serious or funny. O'Rourke and Tonkin were to superstitious to take part, but Vargas made his own plaque. The digital-versions of the plaques of real-life Hall of Famers can also be viewed, and Blyleven made sure to look up the plaques of former Dodgers greats Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, who were two of his heroes while growing up in Southern California.

Vargas, a Puerto Rico native, was excited to see Roberto Clemente's plaque and the "Our Stories" trailer that featured historical items and the tales of groundbreaking players such as Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Ichiro Suzuki and Clemente.

"To me, he's the best player in the history of Puerto Rico," Vargas said. "It's an honor to be a Puerto Rican and know the history of him as a Hall of Famer. I've never seen anything like this. The thing that stood out to me was the jerseys and the bats that they used a long time ago. It was impressive."

There was also the "Our Traditions" trailer that housed items such as legendary broadcaster Harry Caray's glasses, a baseball from the 1800s and the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, which is one of the most valuable in the world. Seeing the famous baseball card was a highlight for O'Rourke.

"I'm glad I went to it," O'Rourke said. "They had a lot of really cool things. The virtual reality thing was really cool. And they had the Honus Wagner card, which for me was cool because it's one of the rarest things in the world."

The last trailer was the "Our Memories" exhibit that featured some of baseball's most unforgettable moments, such as Cal Ripken Jr. breaking the consecutive games played streak, Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" and Carlton Fisk's game-winning homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. It also had interactive exhibits with fans able to place themselves in the photos of famous events.

There was also the 10-minute IMAX film on baseball that took an immersive look at the game being played at the Major League level down to Little League and fields throughout Latin America. It was especially touching for Blyleven, as it reminded him of his childhood playing baseball and the dreams he ended up realizing as a Hall of Fame player.

"I thought of my dad because he's the one who introduced me to the game of baseball so I loved that," Blyleven said. "If you love baseball, it touches your heart. Baseball is to me what America is all about. It's the opportunity to fulfill a dream no matter what country you're from. Being born in Holland but raised in California, I learned the game of baseball at age 10 from my pops and I was able to fulfill a dream I didn't know I had until I starting playing."

After Kansas City, the exhibit heads to Busch Stadium in St. Louis from Aug. 26-Sept. 11 before going to the Mall of America. For a complete schedule and ticket prices, visit mlb.com/hall-of-fame-tour.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.