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All-Star Week kicks off with FanFest

All-Star Week kicks off with FanFest

SAN FRANCISCO -- While most people were trudging to work Friday morning, there was an All-Star party getting started on Fourth and Howard Streets in downtown San Francisco.

The 78th All-Star Week kicked off Friday morning with an Opening Day ceremony on the steps of the DHL All-Star FanFest, and the event turned into quite a circus -- literally. A baseball clown joked around next to stilt walkers, as the team mascots paraded out the door to a ragtime rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" played by the Peninsula Banjo Band.

"After a year of planning, we're thrilled that the time has finally come to host the Midsummer premier event," Giants owner Peter Magowan said at the ceremony.

It was 8 a.m. PT on a weekday, but a large crowd had already gathered around The Moscone Convention Center before the FanFest doors even opened. Kids sat on their parents' shoulders trying to catch a glimpse of the attractions with the same excited fervor of kids hunting for Christmas presents.

They would not be disappointed. The FanFest is a baseball fantasy come true. More than 100,000 tickets were sold to the event, a three-floor baseball extravaganza packed with more than 40 attractions.

But before anyone got a peek, the All-Star ambassador himself, Willie Mays, made an appearance to cut the ceremonial ribbon with a giant pair of scissors.

"I'm here at 6 o'clock in the morning, and I'm up. I've come out here to cut a ribbon, so you've got to keep the noise up," Mays said, rallying before cutting the ribbon.

With that, Mays cut the ribbon, then baseball's biggest All-Stars signed the world's biggest baseball and the FanFest was officially opened.

Fans started to pour in, and kids charged down Barry Zito Way and J.T. Snow Boulevard, to name a few, while there was still no line at the attractions.

Among the crowd was 18-year-old Jason Hagan from Napa, Calif. Hagan got up at 6:30 a.m. just to be one of the first people in. He headed straight for the "steal home challenge," where he raced a friend down the basepath.

"So far, this is great and the lines aren't huge," Hagan said after striking out Bobby Abreu in the simulated bullpen. "Hopefully, I'll get to talk to some of the players."

Meanwhile, Snow was upstairs hosting the first youth clinic on the third-floor infield diamond. Before the clinic, the Giants' former first baseman spoke at the opening ceremony, saying baseball is the greatest sport in the world.

All-Star Game Coverage

"The great thing about baseball is we can all come together as fans and root for different teams. This is that time of year we all come together," Snow said.

Snow was right. Dodgers fans milled around amicably with Giants fans. People wearing Yankees jerseys received less harassment than usual. Oakland fans joked around with Mariners fans. Everyone at FanFest found common ground in the love of baseball and was just happy All-Star Week finally arrived.

Even the team mascots were getting along. San Francisco's Lou Seal led the mascot pack that was made up of Mariner Moose, Oakland's elephant, Baltimore's bird and Minnesota's bear T.C., the Twins Bear. It was T.C. who won the mascot home run derby. Lou Seal came in last, but to be fair, he was having a hard time seeing the top of the tee over his belly.

Between the mascot's derby, the youth clinics and all the interactive attractions, there is enough to do at FanFest to easily fill several days with baseball happiness.

"I know that the DHL FanFest will give tens of thousands of fans the opportunity to experience All-Star week," Magowan said.

Becky Regan is an associate reporter at MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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