By Dan Karl/For The Sporting Nation
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Baseball fans can see more than a game at Salt River Fields, home of Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies spring training.
The Hall of Fame Tour, presented by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, is showcasing its exhibit just outside the main stadium at Salt River Fields until March 26.
“We are the largest traveling museum in the world,” said Andy Couch, the associate curator of traveling exhibitions for the Hall of Fame.
At this exhibit fans can see older and more recent baseball memorabilia, such as Hank Aaron’s 714th homerun ball, the late Roberto Clemente's Pirates jersey (seen in photo), the first ever National League All-Star game jersey and a number of very rare player baseball cards.
The rarest of the bunch is Mickey Mantle’s rookie card, loaned to the Hall of Fame by Diamondbacks owner and long-time card collector Ken Kendrick. According to Couch, the Mantle rookie card is worth upwards of $10 million, because of its pristine condition.
The museum features five trailers that include sports memorabilia, the world’s only traveling pop-up IMAX theater and interactive activities like creating your own Hall of Fame plaque and state-of-the-art virtual reality experiences.
The virtual reality trailer is set up similarly to a baseball locker room. Each locker has a chair and a virtual reality headset through which you can relive the Cubs World Series run, as if you were a part of it yourself. The settings include viewing parties at various bars in Chicago and Cleveland, the scene at Wrigleyville before and after the games, Wrigley and Progressive Fields, homes of the Cubs and Indians, and lastly on the float during the Cubs championship parade.
“I was born and raised a Chicago Cubs fan, so the Virtual Reality experience was extremely special to me,” said Kelsey Duckett, the director of media relations for the Hall of Fame Exhibition.
Luckily for fans around the country, this is just the beginning of the tour, as the Hall of Fame's mobile museum will make stops throughout the United States as the MLB season goes on.
“We travel eight months out of the year, all over the country displaying our baseball memorabilia,” said Couch. “All types of baseball fans come to check out the traveling museum, from collectors to casual fans,” he continued.
Nick Stevens, the assistant operational manager for the Hall of Fame tour, said, “Last week I worked 100 hours but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because we get to travel all over the country and work with the MLB and Hall of Fame.”
Future stops on the tour include Frisco, Texas; Round Rock, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Des Moines, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska.
Couch stated that Des Moines is one of the most popular destinations for the Hall of Fame tour and that minor league stadiums tend to draw bigger crowds to the museum, opposed to major league stadiums.
Once the museum is ready to move onto the next site, all of the memorabilia stays in the climate controlled trailers. Couch explained that the walls are pushed in so that the trailer is regulated for the road. Each trailer is tailed by another vehicle to ensure the safety and care of the memorabilia.
This is just the second year that the Hall of Fame tour has been in existence. Couch hopes that in the future the traveling museum will get bigger and be able to make more stops around the country.
Although there isn’t an official mission statement, Couch said, “the object (of the traveling museum) is to bring fans together and promote the sport of baseball.” This especially applies to people who may not have the opportunity to visit the actual Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
“We Are Baseball, and that really says it all, baseball diamonds are in every city and every town across the United States. It’s a game that is loved, a game that has given hope and brought us through many trying times, said Duckett. “The exhibition captures this and so much more.”