Whenever fan fest rolls around in January I get super-stoked about baseball. In nearly a month catchers and pitchers will be reporting to their respective spring training headquarters. The best part about baseball is it starts in the spring time. The grass is starting to get that freshly cut smell, the weather is warming up and best of all summer is right around the corner.
Just to give you a little background on myself and my fan fest experiences, well, I’ve been to many. I’ve attended a Kansas City Royals fan fest where I was able to get Kevin Sietzers autograph and Brett Saberhagen as well. The thing about the Royals fan fest is it’s not really set up to be fan friendly. It’s all about the autographs. When you walk in you have to immediately pick a line to stand in for four hours and hope and pray that one of your favorite players will be signing in the line you have chosen. It’s all about luck. I’ve also attended the Cincinnati Reds fan fest. That was a little different but again, it’s all about what line you pick and how fast you get there. Same with the St. Louis Cardinals winter warmup event. Pick and line. Stand there.
Well, my friends. This year I attended the Seattle Mariners Fan Fest of 2012. If you’ve ever dreamt about attending a fan fest, this is the fan fest you need to attend. I’m serious. Not only do you get to shag fly balls in the outfield like this…
…but you also get to face Felix Hernandez in the visitors batting cage underneath the stadium:
Yes, I’ve had better at-bats, but when you’re facing the King it’s kind of hard to get on base (even in the batting cages).
The best part about the Mariners Fan Fest was the interaction with the players. Down by the Mariners dugout the Mariners put together a little event called the “Dugout Dialogue”. Certain players that came to the fan fest get brought out onto the stage to take questions from Rick Rizzs, Mike Blowers and Dave Valle. And then they open it up to the fans to ask them questions. A lot of the questions ranged from “whats your favorite food” to “who’s your favorite player growing up”. But what do you expect from cute little nine year old baseball fans. And that’s the beauty of it. After the event ends fans are encouraged to get autographs from their favorite players. Myself, I was able to get Miguel Olivo on a baseball bat, Jason Vargas signed my 200th baseball he tossed me last season and I got Dan Wilson and Mike Blowers on my ticket stubs. I was able to chat with Mike Blowers a little bit and talk with him about how I watched him play in the Kingdome back in the 90’s with my father and that I’d be taking a trip out to see the Mariners and Athletics in Japan this March. It was a lot of fun.
Here’s a couple of pictures I was able to get with a few favorites…
…the voice of the Mariners, Rick Rizzs…
…and the man in charge of all the tasty food at Safeco Field, Chef Jeremy.
As you can see so far, I had an amazing time. In fact, a lot of the players walked freely around the stadium (with security of course) talking with fans, helping with pitching mechanics in the bullpen and free hitting tips and advice. Casper Wells was one of those guys that was just walking around. A few of my friends at Safeco are die-hard Casper fans and they were able to get his attention. He walked over to them and they talked for a while and then good ‘ol Casper Wells delivers some hot coco to these lovely ladies!
Its one thing for a professional baseball player to walk over and sign a bunch of autographs and stuff but to actually interact like this with the fans? It’s truly remarkable!
That’s what fan fests is all about. Not just standing in line waiting for an autograph you may or may not get. That’s just my opinion though. We all have our special ways we like to connect with players.
During fan fest on Saturday the Stache Mob was more or less born. These ladies pictured below…
…drew funny little mustaches on their fingers for Brendan Ryan when he came up on stage for his portion of the dugout dialogue. Before things got started, they asked Brendan if he’d pose with them for a picture. He happily obliged them and said he’d get it done after the dialogue event. We all waiting in anticipation and unfortunately, the dialogue kind of went over in the time allotted and Ryan was carted off the stage by the Mariner staff. But. The awesome thing about Brendan Ryan is that he yelled to the group of ladies he’d get the picture done on Sunday . It made everyone feel pretty special that he was going to make it happen. And when Sunday rolled around? Brendan Ryan did not forget:
You can read all about how this unfolded in more detail in my other blog that I’ve created called; A View From the Bullpen.
Here are a few pictures from the Seattle Mariners dugout dialogue sessions…
There was so much to do and so much to see. Mariners Fan Fest would’ve easily lasted a week and probably still had people coming at the end. It was amazing to be able to walk on the field and play catch in the outfield with friends. It was awesome to connect with the players and ask questions. You know, to understand where they’re coming from and their stand point on issues and the seasons to come. It was fantastic! Even though I love to travel and experience different stadiums and events held by Major League Baseball, I think I’m sold on coming back to the Mariners Fan fest for years to come!
Two days ago I toured Safeco Field. The weather was mildly miserable but I was totally excited to see inside the Safe once again. Here’s a picture of what Safeco Field looks like in January:
Yeah, it’s pretty miserable. Safeco Field is much better in the spring. And with baseball playing on the inside. Once I got my ticket, which by the way they never checked, I took a few pictures of the memorabilia they had on sale. Broken bats, used jerseys, pictures of former players, autographed baseballs, just to name a few. I took this picture of a Ryan Rowland-Smith autographed baseball for two reasons: he’s one of my favorite players and his signature is really awesome. Here, take a look for yourself…
…wouldn’t you agree? And I would’ve bought it but I don’t buy memorabilia. I’d rather get my own autographs. It’s a lot better experience to meet the players instead. Besides, in 2007 I was able to obtain a Ryan Rowland-Smith original outside the stadium when he played for the Mariners. unfortunately, I was still new to the autograph collecting world and I had him sign my baseball with a red sharpie. So here in about another ten years the ink will have soaked into the leather and the autograph will be nearly faded away. I made that fatal mistake with George Brett too. I feel awful about it but there may be another chance to get both of their autographs the right way in the future.
Anyway. Back to the tour. Once we left the memorabilia store the Safeco Field staff was hard at work trying to prep the field, wash the concourse and scrub the seats for an upcoming event at Safeco called Mariners Fan Fest. If you’re a Mariners fan or privy to the Major League Baseball events you’d probably already know it’s this weekend. And I’m going. And I’ll be blogging about it too. So be ready for that!
Here’s a picture of the field:
Safeco Field is one of the prettier stadiums I’ve been to. I thoroughly enjoy the layout which gives fans 100% access to the entire stadium during the game. From a ballhawking perspective that’s pretty awesome. Ted, our tour guide, led us all around the stadium. We walked through the suites and he explained the prices for specific suites. For one of the better suites during a premium game, say like when the Yankees come to town, a suite behind or near home plate can cost in the upwards of $9,000 dollars! The rule is that you must have at least 18 people with you to get these suites. So if you know 18 people with $600-700 dollars, you’re in! And let me tell you: these suites are awesome. Take a look…
…and I apologize for the crappy picture. This picture doesn’t do the suite any justice. It’s absolutely gorgeous on the inside. And every suite is named after a famous Hall of Famer. We were in the Mickey Mantle suite.
Outside of the suites the hallways are littered with Mariners memorabilia, newspaper clippings etc. It was quite a site to see, let me tell you. If I could ever afford a suite I would certainly splurge and watch a game from there.
We visited the press box and the Diamond club, fancy-smancy is all I have to say. The Diamond Club, of course, leads you directly behind home plate. And a person can generally find a ticket for that area for around $200 dollars. But you know me. I’d rather take that $200 dollars and fly to Anaheim to watch baseball. That’s just how I roll. One day I’d consider accessing the Diamond Club. It’s all you can eat and drink!
And now for the fun part. The locker rooms and field access! Once we got into the locker room, Ted explained how the lockers are set up and who sits where. And this was where I met Jose Mesa’s nephew, Miguel. Well, I had met him in the beginning of the tour and he told me who he was while we were touring the suites and since he’s a huge Yankee fan, guess what seat Ted had him sit in?
You guessed it! Alex Rodriguez. Ted wasn’t sure where Derek Jeter sat and that’s okay. I also had to sit in A-rods locker chair with my Chuck Knoblauch shirt hanging out! Ha!
Miguel and I talked a lot about the long-standing feud between Omar Vizquel and Jose Mesa. I learned about this feud a few days ago when I found out Vizquel signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Vizquel wrote a book, which I have yet to buy and read, and said some things about Jose Mesa. In turn, Mesa vowed to hit Vizquel at every at bat when he faced him. Mesa was able to plunk him twice before he retired in 2007.
While Ted was explaining things along the tour, he led the group into the visiting team kitchen and shower. While he was doing that, look what I found:
Yes, the door was locked.
Anyway. On to the field!
Here I am holding down the Mariners dugout:
And here I am in the media room:
This picture was sort of blurry and it took Ted a few tries to get a decent one. He doesn’t have the most stable hands. But he did his best.
That’s the Safeco Field tour! I’ve toured one other stadium at that was Busch in St. Louis. unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures and I didn’t ever blog about it. That just means I’ll have to take a field trip back to St. Louis one of these days and tour the stadium so I can blog about it.
Ever since I found out about these Major League Baseball fantasy camps I’ve always wanted to attend one. Every camp is different and some are more expensive and some are shorter or longer depending on the camp. When I say expensive I truly mean that. Some can be as much as $4,500 dollars. To justify that cost you get to fly to the spring training camp of the team you’ve selected, you get uniforms, breakfast and lunch, you get to meet players, get autographs, pictures and of course you get to play baseball with and against former Major Leaguers. Not only that but you get a complete clubhouse experience. To me that’s a pretty awesome deal. The down side to all of this is most fantasy camps require campers to be 30 years old or older. Which is fine. But that meant I couldn’t attend any camps in my twenties. Which thoroughly bummed me out.
The other day I made a promise to myself. That promise was to attend one of these camps before I get too old to do it. Or end up working a job where I’d have absolutely no time to go to one. The time is now. The question is: which camp should I choose? I wanted to choose a fantasy camp of a Major League team with the most players that were my favorites growing up as a kid. Of course the Seattle Mariners camp popped into my mind. Over the years I have sort of put having a favorite team in the Major Leagues on hold. So I really wouldn’t call myself a die-hard Mariners fan anymore. And since the latest horrible trade by them I have sort of distanced myself even further from the Seattle team. Now I’m more of a die-hard baseball fan. You can read all about that here. Anyway.
The Mariners fantasy camp has a lot of Mariner alumni that I’d love to meet, get pictures with and get some autographs. But so do a lot of other teams. Three, besides the Mariners, that have also popped into my head were the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers. When I tweeted this out on my Twitter account…
…the Detroit Tigers were the first to respond. That wasn’t the initial reasons as to why I made my decision though. The decision was made over key players that the Tigers have hosted at their camp in the past. Namely, Cecil Fielder. Fielder was a childhood hero to me. Everyone wanted his baseball card and we all enjoyed watching him play. Especially when he’d smoke a long ball. Everyone loves the long ball. Everyone.
So I made my decision after a few minutes of direct messaging with Detroit Tigers on Twitter. They initially asked “what would sway me” to choose the Tigers camp and really, all I wanted was them to follow me on my Twitter account. Which they did. Although I did ask for any baseball bats lying around the clubhouse or maybe a bobble head from last year, which I was denied, but it wasn’t about all of that anyway. I just asked for general purpose.
So there you have it, folks! Yours truly will be attending the Detroit Tigers fantasy camp next year! I am super stoked about it and I will most definitely bring my camera, take lots of pictures and blog about every day that I’m there at the camp!