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Franco makes his pitch to promote All-Star festivities

Franco makes his pitch to promote All-Star festivities

The owner of 424 saves -- fourth-most of all time -- John Franco was one of baseball's best closers for much of a 21-year career that spanned parts of three decades (1984 to 2005). A member of the Mets in 14 of those campaigns, the left-hander appeared in more regular-season games (1,119) than all but two hurlers in history.

On Wednesday, for the first time, Franco toured the MLB Fan Cave as part of his pitch to promote the MLB All-Star FanFest and Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, two slices of the sport's All-Star summer pie.

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"Growing up in New York City as a kid, seeing all the All-Star Games all over the country, now [with the festivities] being here at Citi Field this July, with a chance to participate in it and have some fun ... It's a thrill to be a part of," Franco said.

FanFest and Taco Bell All-Star Sunday tickets go on sale this Saturday at 10 a.m. ET online at allstargame.com and mets.com, at the Citi Field Box Office or by calling 888-326-3378.

An interactive theme park for fans of all ages, FanFest will transform Manhattan's Javits Center into a celebration that captures the thrills and excitement of Major League Baseball. Visitors will be able to enjoy exhibits from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, batting cages, free autograph sessions with former Mets and Major League legends, and memorabilia. The extravaganza will run from July 12-16, when baseball's best are set to converge on New York City for the 84th Midsummer Classic.

Franco will be there, looking to mingle with those who have bled blue and orange throughout the years.

"I'll be doing various functions that they have lined up for me," he said. "I'll be going to the Javits Center, probably doing some clinics, signing some autographs."

On Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, Franco will suit up alongside former big leaguers and beacons of the entertainment industry for the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game. Prior to playing, he will watch the sport's stars of tomorrow during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

A four-time All-Star, Franco has not forgotten how it feels to be recognized as one of the sport's superlative performers.

"The first time, it's a thrill being selected by your peers and other coaches and managers in the National League," he said. "It's just a thrill to be there when you are amongst the best players in the game at that particular time or season, to be part of something you'll never forget. You always dream as a kid of making an All-Star team. It's a pretty big achievement."

During his Fan Cave tour, Franco helped shoot a pair of promotional videos created to encourage interest in both FanFest and All-Star Sunday.

Before departing he sat down to chat with fans on Facebook. Answering frankly, he revealed the current relievers with whom he is most impressed (closers Craig Kimbrel and Mariano Rivera) and the hitters who caused him the most trouble -- Tony Gwynn (18-for-52, .346) and Mariano Duncan (10-for-20, .500).

He also indicated a desire to coach at the big league level one day. His unofficial résumé includes a line about his time with the travel team of his son, J.J., whom the Mets drafted out of high school in the 42nd round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

J.J. now plays second base for Brown University, and Franco is relishing his job as a full-time father.

"I travel around the country watching him play," he said. "I enjoy it. Time goes fast; I can remember him starting as a freshman in college, and now he's in his junior year. I just enjoy my time being away with my family and watching my son play ball.

A beloved member of the Mets family and the franchise's Hall of Fame as well, Franco expects that he will have a full plate of duties come All-Star time.

"I am sure there are going to be quite a bit of opportunities," he said. "Obviously, going around, probably doing [baseball] clinics, various speaking engagements, autograph sessions. I should have a lot of fun doing it."

Zachary Finkelstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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