A week of All-Star baseball


For those who couldn't get a ticket for the baseball All-Star game next week, there's still a lot of excitement ahead in the six days of entertainment and festivities that precede the game. And not just for baseball fans. Anyone can indulge fantasies at the All-Star FanFest, watch street theater outside Camden Yards, hear concerts of all sorts, see an all-star lacrosse game, play kids' games at Rash Field.

These days the All-Star game is the centerpiece of a week-long festival the likes of which Baltimore has not seen before. It's the old City Fair, a couple of ethnic festivals, a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert at Oregon Ridge, Artscape, a foot race, an indoor theme park and a sentimental journey through baseball history, all rolled into one. Fewer than 50,000 fans -- mostly from elsewhere -- will see the game in person. Almost double that number will sample the other events starting Thursday.

The main event, and one of the few that will charge admission, is the FanFest at the Convention Center. It's a 300,000-square-foot indoor amusement park on a baseball theme, replete with games as well as the largest collection of memorabilia outside the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Kids of all ages will be able to test their batting swings or trick pitches with former major leaguers giving advice. Some 125 present and former major league players are expected, also spending their time signing autographs. There are more than 25 activities, all free, plus the last word in souvenir shops and the best of food from ballparks around the country.

Hardly a corner of the downtown area will be ignored in the week's festivities. There will be nightly concerts, either in Charles Center, Harborplace or Rash Field, where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will perform Saturday night. A 5K race will circle the Inner Harbor Sunday morning. Several museums, including some you never suspected of having an interest in baseball, will present exhibits. A lunch and pre-game tribute Saturday will honor early black baseball stars. There will be street events outside Camden Yards and kids' games at Rash Field. Even the architects are not ignored: a symposium on the design of baseball parks.

The All-Star game gives the metropolitan area a chance to display itself and its new ballpark to visitors from all over. All-Star Week gives all of us a chance to enjoy the excitement of baseball's annual celebration.

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