I think the future looks bright for the Hall of Fame Classic concept.
On Sunday - Father's Day - more than 7,000 people came to Doubleday Field in Cooperstown for an exhibition game between two teams comprised of former Major League Baseball players. The weather wasn't great and still 7,069 people came to an inaugural event. Who knew?
"Honestly, I didn't expect much," said Cooperstown's Erik Fredricksen, a baker at Danny's Main Street Market. "Since it was the first time, I wasn't sure what was going on."
Fredricksen said people were waiting outside the market door by 9:05 to get in - always a good sign in a tourist-based town. Fredricksen said he snuck over to Doubleday for a while to get a look at the crowd and people seemed to be enjoying themselves.
That was the goal, for both the fans and the players. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said the enjoyment of the players and the fans is the barometer of success. Idelson and Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association chief executive officer Dan Foster talked about doing a game for a while. They got a chance when MLB and the MLBPA discontinued the Hall of Fame last year.
"Ten out of 10," Foster said.
Players and fans seemed to agree.
"When I was asked to come out for a legends or old timers game, I said I'm not a legend and I'm not an old timer, but heck, ya," said Jeff Kent, who retired in January after 17 MLB seasons. "It's the game. This is for the fans."
Kent said that before the game. On the field, he looked like he was having fun. And especially so in an Observer-Dispatch photo where Kent was giving a high five to 11-year-old Zach D'Errico after the Schenectady boy started a double play.
D'Errico, a Mets fan, received the biggest fan reaction Sunday except for Bob Feller. The 90-year-old Hall of Famer started on the mound and faced Team Collins lead off batter Paul Molitor. Feller, who was the first Major League Baseball player to enlist in the military after Pearl Harbor, received a standing ovation when he was introduced and when he left the game in the first inning.
Chelsea Franklin of Syracuse had never been to Cooperstown before Sunday.
"It's a neat little town," she said.
The 24-year-old waited in the sun-filled stands after the game while her friends braved a large crowd trying to get autographs. Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson seemed to be in greatest demand, though there were plenty of fans crammed into limited space outside the field anxious to get Steve Lyons' autograph.
"It was good," Franklin said. "At Sky Chiefs games, when Major League players come in, you can't get them to sign. It's nice for the kids."