“They’re not memorabilia. They’re artifacts. Fans collect memorabilia. This is history.”
So says Andy Couch, curator of the “We are Baseball” traveling exhibit that will be on display in numerous different Minor League settings for the next several months.
“(Frisco) is our second stop. Our first stop was in Phoenix for Spring Training. After we’re done here, we’re going to Round Rock. After that we’re gonna drive up to Tulsa. We’ll be there for about 10 days. Then we travel to Albuquerque, then to Iowa then Omaha. That’s what part of our schedule has been released but I imagine we’ll go past Omaha this year. Our schedule is out there from now until the end of June.”
Taking place in Frisco from April 5-14, I was fortunate enough to check out out what all the fuss is about myself. The fuss is well worth it, because never have I been and never will I ever again be breaths away from Willie Mays’ glove during “The Catch,” Cal Ripken Jr.’s streak breaking helmet, Lou Gehrig’s 1936 MVP trophy and especially a fresh pair of Harry Caray’s glasses.
The history in one spot is jaw-dropping. Couch is also an employee at the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, where these items usually live. But taking them on the road is a really exclusive treat for fans.
“The coolest thing I think is that we’re bringing out 45 artifacts from the Hall of Fame. People who can’t make it to Cooperstown, we’re bring it to their community. It’s a really great opportunity for people to come see artifacts that they might never get to see if they don’t travel to upstate New York. That’s what I manage here and make sure the safety of those artifacts are kept in place.”
The items that aren’t full-time members at the Hall are acquired through various methods. “We have a few that are on loan. But the majority of these are all part of our permanent collection at the Hall of Fame. We do not have an acquisitions budget, we are by donation only which is an incredible thing knowing how huge our collection is.”
All the stops are pulled out for the tour. I spent a few hours on site at Dr. Pepper Ballpark —home of the Frisco RoughRiders— going in and out of the same doors and revisiting items like Roger Maris’ 61st home run bat, Jackie Robinson’s 1955 World Series cap and interactive game station personalized by fanbase.
Behind a giant screen with a personalized station for “We Are Baseball,” full of interviews, highlights and content from current and former baseball events (with a real-time score tracker at the bottom) is the coup de grace, although that’s remarkably relative.
“Then we have the first and only mobile IMAX. IMAX has never made a traveling theater like this before, this is the first one. It’s incredible. We also have two virtual reality experiences put on by Jaunt. So you can relive being in the World Series. What it was like during those seven games. Right in front of (Cubs Manager Joe) Maddon during the handshake ceremony. Or on the bus during the Cubs celebration going through Chicago.
Our Home Run Derby. You can pick your own park to hit home runs out of in another virtual reality experience. A really special, one-of-a-kind experience.”
The VR Home Run Derby was insanely cool, but the World Series VR experience gave me straight goosebumps. Don’t miss that station.
Jaunt helps supply the virtual reality while Cortina Productions keeps the the interactive games, like matching the team mascot or searching for baseball cards from your favorite team, running without a hitch.
One of the “trailers” is especially dedicated to the personalized fan. You can leave a memory on a board consisting of historical baseball moments you saw, wish you saw or wish to see.
Also, you can make a personalized Hall of Fame plaque and also take a selfie, inserting yourself in one of the greatest moment’s in baseball history.
There’s an incredible amount to do and see at the MLB Hall of Fame’s “We are Baseball” tour and the hardest question I proposed to Couch was to pick a favorite.
“It changes. They’re like children to me. I can’t really pick a favorite because they’re all so great. But I like being able to connect with the community. There’s so many Rangers fans here in Dallas, in North Texas, that can connect with one of our artifacts which is the Nolan Ryan cap from his fifth no-hitter. There are people that might have seen that back in the 80’s. To see something and then really experience it years later again, that nostalgia is pretty neat.”
The exhibit runs through April 14th in Frisco everyday from 10 A.M. to 7 P.M. and will be all over the country in the following months. For the schedule and how to get tickets, visit their website here.
I also posted a video of the mentioned gaming station for viewing here.