Thousands gather for All-Star FanFest

WASHINGTON — Thousands of baseball fans, wearing hats and shirts representing teams from all over, filed through the Washington Convention Center for Major League Baseball’s All-Star FanFest.

Fans were able to snag autographs and buy memorabilia, jerseys and hats. There were also forums and talks with both baseball and softball greats.

The excitement was mostly centered around the games, though.

On one end of the hall were batting cages, where fans were able to take some hacks off a pitching machine. On another, there were cages synced up to measure bat speed. There was even a virtual reality home run derby.

Cole Tartal, of Bethesda, said he was “decent” after smacking five home runs in the virtual reality derby.

“It’s really fun,” he said. “It’s really weird because you put the mask on and it’s totally different.”

But when you smack a home run over the fence at Nationals Park, he said “you see the track of the ball go out and then there’s fireworks. And it shows the distance and everything.”

Parents like Wes Epton, of Arlington, and Mark Beaton, of D.C., brought their little kids to run around the bases. Kids as young as 1- and 2-years-old had their own little fields to hit off a tee and run the bases.

And across the board, the one thing fans kept saying was just how friendly the staff was.

“It’s been a great time,” said Lisa Hegwood, of Greenbelt. “I got to meet some of the players from the All-American Girls Baseball League today, so that was really cool.”

“Everybody has been great, the volunteers awesome, happy. It’s been a good time,” she said.

As a partial season ticket holder with the Nationals, it was an event Hegwood wouldn’t dare miss.

“It’s kind of like a once in a lifetime opportunity where the All-Star Game is being held in your hometown, so I had to come and check it out and have some fun,” said Hegwood.

It’s an event she said had something for “kids of all ages, including the big ones.”

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