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Fans love the All-Star FanFest at Jacob Javits Convention Center

Mr. Met will be on hand to welcome

Mr. Met will be on hand to welcome greet fans at the All-Star FanFest July 12-16 at the Javits Center. Credit: Handout

Michele Pitaressi wants her kids to grow up to be Mets fans.

It isn't always the easiest task, what with the last few years and all, but with the beginning of Major League Baseball's All-Star FanFest Friday -- a four-day, orange-and-blue-themed phantasmagoria for baseball fans held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center -- things just got a little bit sunnier. There's the virtual dugout, the clubhouse, a T-ball game against parents, batting cages, clinics, face-painting . . . well, suffice to say, enough attractions to leave a lasting impression, days before the all-stars even take Citi Field Tuesday.

"I liked the game against the parents," said Lauren Pitaressi, 13, of Staten Island. Her brother, Matthew, 11, noted that the kids won.

"It was fixed!" Michele shot back, good-naturedly. "It was good. A lot of interactive stuff for the kids . . . It means a lot to me for them to grow up to be Mets fans . . . I teach them that even if you're in the cellar, 18 games back, you never leave your team. You keep cheering."

Besides finding encouragement in the Mets' recent four-game win streak and rooting for new talents such as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, hosting the game is a bright spot and point of pride, said Janice Hardtman, of Huntington.

"I think New York is such a huge market that having the All-Star Game means a lot for New York and what we mean to baseball," said Hardtman, a lifelong Met fan, who added that her favorite part of FanFest thus far had been meeting Mets icon John Franco.

Some were even easier to please than all that. David Gomez said the best part was, "Oh my god. Walking in the door.

"I'm 56 years old, and I felt like I was 13 years old again getting my picture taken with the cutouts of the New York Mets," he said.

Gomez, of Rego Park, was photographing a portrait of Braves pitcher Warren Spahn shortly before hearing Mookie Wilson was in the building. Wilson, along with Franco, Dwight Gooden, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rollie Fingers and Cliff Floyd, among others, made appearances on Friday.

"Oh, I have to go," he said, laughing. He hadn't seen Franco, "not yet. But I'm keeping my eye out."

Pernell Jones, 62, of Briarwood, one of the few to actually have tickets to the All-Star Game, said that so far, the Negro League exhibit had caught his eye. He and his wife Ellen had just begun exploring, and were closing in on the World Series trophy and award display. Both bedecked in Mets jerseys, Jones said he couldn"t help but feel hopeful.

"It's great to have all the great stars in baseball in Queens," he said. "And we have some great stars coming up. We have Matt Harvey, Wheeler, we have David Wright . . . It just lets us know that the team's going to be better, that the team's going to improve."

Of course, it wasn't only the Met fans enjoying the all-star vibes. Above all, this was a baseball event, said Joseph Gebbia, of Vernon, dressed in head-to-toe Yankees regalia. "I wanted [my son, Chase] to experience the whole All-Star FanFest," he said. "It doesn't come around that often . . . We're big baseball people, so we really enjoy it."

Chase, 9, loved the pitching challenge the most. Dad had other thoughts.

"I'm a shopaholic," he said. "I got a bunch of stuff. Little things for my iPhone, I got him a new fitted hat which he really liked, and a gold All-Star baseball.

"I'll be hiding all the receipts from my wife."

New York Sports