KANSAS CITY -- On the eve of the commencement of All-Star festivities in Kansas City, All-Star FanFest got a test drive, all in the name of charity.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City hosted their eighth-annual "Base Ball" event on Thursday night, and with the All-Star Game coming to town, they had access to an incredible venue: FanFest.
"Isn't this something? This is very nice," said Dave Smith, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, as he looked around the massive building. "I had the privilege to actually be in Phoenix [for last year's All-Star Week], so I got a taste of the FanFest. But I never imagined we'd have it here for our event."
Live music and ample amounts of food and drink were set up around the diamond in the center of FanFest. In addition to having early access to many of the FanFest attractions and activities, attendees participated in a silent auction and a raffle for All-Star Game tickets.
Proceeds benefitted the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, which will be on display this week when the Jr. RBI Classic comes to Kansas City as part of All-Star Week.
"MLB and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program is so important to local communities," Smith said. "We want to engage kids in the sport for all the values it provides. We've been operating this program for 12 years as it's increased in its relationship with MLB. It's been helpful to us to attract and develop kids. This year, we had two kids signed by MLB [teams] from out of our program. So there's the proof right there that there's great potential and value in investing like this."
In addition to fundraising, the Boys & Girls Clubs also presented Major League Baseball with its Buck O'Neil RBI Diamond MVP Award. The award not only honors MLB's contribution to RBI, but remembers the legacy of one of Kansas City's great legends.
"Buck O'Neil, of course, is an icon in baseball," Smith said. "An interesting fact: I grew up across the street from him as a kid in Kansas City, and he would bring me Chicago Cub paraphernalia. So I have a special place in my heart for Buck O'Neil. Across the world, Buck O'Neil is a beloved person and will remain so. So this award epitomizes that person -- or persons in this case, Major League Baseball -- who make a contribution to what we're doing with kids. If you can win that award, you're doing something."
Fans tried out some of the attractions, such as the batting cages and basestealing. Kids and grown ups alike were having a blast posing for a photo while making a game-saving catch. The turnout, according to Smith, was exceptional.
"This is the biggest we've had," Smith said. "And we knew that, having the opportunity to program the event here at FanFest. We were a little nervous about making it happen, but Major League Baseball's been great. I think it's a fine way for the city to kick off the All-Star festivities."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.