Record-breaking numbers at '09 FanFest
Attendance soars as MLB celebrates two-millionth customer
ST. LOUIS -- As Ashley Stewart stood in line to enter the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest on Sunday, she could tell something was up. People were looking in her direction and pointing, but she wasn't sure what was going on.
As she got to the door, she was pulled aside and greeted as the two-millionth person to attend FanFest in the 19-year history of the event.
"Just to see the look on their faces when they walked in the door," said Major League Baseball director of special events Jackie Secaira-Cotto. "She had her whole family with her and you could tell how it really touched their lives."
Stewart's record-breaking entrance was one of many memorable moments from FanFest 2009 in St. Louis. In addition to welcoming the two-millionth fan, Major League Baseball enjoyed record-breaking attendance all weekend.
A presale record 85,000 tickets were sold before FanFest opened on Friday and officials were pretty certain that when the final numbers were tallied sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday, a new overall attendance record would be broken as well. A record 135,000 attended the MLB FanFest in New York last year, but it appears that the devoted baseball fans of St. Louis have surpassed that figure.
"The city of St. Louis has a big baseball history and tradition and, coming from New York, I think this was a great way to follow that up," Secaira-Cotto said. "There's such a passion for the sport here and knowledge of the sport. These are really, really knowledgeable fans and you could tell that.
"The 'sea of red' is really neat to see. The fans really appreciated the Hometown Heros Attraction. It was definitely evident to us."
St. Louis fans were treated to several hometown exhibits that showed the deep history of the Cardinals franchise and detailed each of their 10 World Series Championships. Local legend and baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith served as the official spokesman for FanFest and ran a few clinics for kids as well.
Several other baseball legends and Hall of Famers including Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Earl Weaver, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Lou Brock and Andre Dawson were also on hand and held free autograph sessions and baseball clinics.
About the only complaint heard during the five-day event was the long lines for some of the attractions and autographs. But with a record-setting crowd of more than 25,000 people a day packing into America's Center, lines can be expected.
No other problems were reported and FanFest appeared to be a success for everyone involved, setting up a tough act to follow in Anaheim, Calif., for next year's Midsummer Classic.
"It went really well," Secaira-Cotto said. "We had some great attendance figures. We had some really exciting things happen. We had the two-millionth fan walk through the doors on Sunday. We had some great players make appearances here. Everything went great and the fans all seemed really happy. "
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.