NEW YORK Yogi Berra rolled out on a golf cart and cut the ribbon to kick off the All-Star FanFest festivities at the Javits Center on Friday, surrounded by major league mascots and young fans.
The Hall of Famer played in 15 All-Star games for the New York Yankees, who will host the event Tuesday. Berra is wistful about the final season of the venerable 86-year-old Yankee Stadium.
"I hate to see it go down," Berra said. "But the new one looks good, it looks just like the old one."
Fans started pouring into the FanFest shortly before the ribbon cutting. Bob DuPuy, president of major league baseball said he expects a record crowd to attend the five-day festival that features 40 interactive exhibits. Last year, 125,000 fans attended the All-Star game FanFest in San Francisco.
"I am confident this is going to break the record," DuPuy said.
Fans lined up to have their photo taken with the World Series trophy. The MVP and home run derby awards were encased in glass, along with the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year, Roberto Clemente and Mel Ott plaques.
There's a salute to the Negro Leagues, Latino legends and women in baseball.
Shirley Burkovich, who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, signed autographs at the event. She grew up near Pittsburgh, became a Rockford (Ill.) Peach and was featured in the movie "A League of Their Own."
"I earned $55 a week, more than my dad, who was a steelworker," Burkovich said.
The Yankees Hall of Fame exhibit includes a wall of quotes, including a famous one by Berra: "Ninety percent of this game is half mental."
There's also a Yogi-ism by Casey Stengel: "Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa."
On Friday, the 83-year-old Berra served as guest coach during a hitting and fielding clinic, standing on the makeshift diamond chewing gum, with hand in his pockets. He watched as kids went through stretching, throwing and sliding drills.
Sixteen-year-old Christos Zagoras took part in the clinic and shook hands with Berra, who played in 14 World Series and won 10 championships.
"It's a dream come true," said Zagoras of Astoria, Queens. "I've been to Cooperstown and this is better. I told him I'm a die-hard Yankees fan, I love the Yankees and I look up to guys like him."
Berra caught Allie Reynolds' no-hitter in 1951, and in 1956 he caught Don Larsen's perfect game, the only no-hitter in World Series history.