Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 FanFest review.

Well, the past few days have been rather hectic between work and family obligations. Things finally slowed down a bit though so here I am.

As you may be able to tell from the ticket to this year's Rangers FanFest, I spent Saturday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The trouble with being a long-distance fan is that you usually miss events like this one. This year we are closer to Arlington so I decided to take Spiff Jr and check out the happenings for the first time.

Acting on advice received from readers of the blog, we arrived early, almost an hour before the gates opened. Parking was free and the walk was short. The line to get in was already around two sides of the ballpark. While waiting we amused ourselves by observing the Rangers gear and occasionally outlandish outfits worn by some of the attendees. Rangers employees walked up and down the line handing out programs and cards for the lottery drawings for the bigger name autographs. To get the cards you had to be one of the first 5,000 in line. 250 numbers were drawn for each big name. Not too much better a chance than the real lottery. We also had to sign a waiver to get through the gates. That released the club from liability if we got hurt in one of the more interactive parts of the FanFest.

Once inside we walked through the concourse, discovered we were not winners for a Prince Fielder autograph, and checked the program to decide what to do next. Spiff Jr thought the autograph session for former Rangers Mark McLemore, Mike Jeffcoat, and Ellis Valentine looked promising. Down to the ballpark tunnel we went. Encountered Rangers Captain and got a photo of him and Spiff Jr. The line for the autographs wasn't too bad but McLemore was late and we only got signatures from Jeffcoat and Valentine.

Hit the Rangers Foundation fundraiser in the visiting clubhouse. Lots of game-used items but none really in our price range. I did pick up a 2012 media guide and a 2013 program for $1 each. Spiff Jr found a Josh Hamilton stadium giveaway figure in the box for $5. Fitted caps were $10 with the $39 sticker still on them. Not too bad. Cool to be able to look around the visitor clubhouse as well.

Back out in the tunnel we saw McLemore had arrived. Back in line. Got Mac, Jeffcoat, and Valentine this time through. Jumped right back to the end of the line because Kevin Mench and Cecil Espy were taking over. Spiff Jr really wanted Mench's autograph. Didn't have a long wait before he had it and Espy's as well.

Took a glance at the Rangers indoor batting cage and weight room. Walked up the home team tunnel to the Rangers dugout. Quite cool to walk into the sunlight and see the field from that perspective. Walked around on the field for a few minutes, photographed Spiff Jr sitting in the visiting dugout, and headed up to the concourse to try and snag a Derek Holland autograph.

The line for the Holland autograph would prove to be the only poor experience of the day. We saw Holland hobble his way to the front of the line on crutches but that was it. Apparently only the first 250 people in line got autographs. Nobody announced the end of the line though so we all continued to stand there and miss other parts of the event. Very poorly done by the Rangers.

Spiff Jr finally called an end to the waiting for Holland and we headed back down to the tunnel. Scored Donald Harris, Rich Billings, and Kevin Belcher autographs without much trouble.

Up to the Rangers Hall of Fame for a quick tour. Time for the catching clinic taught by Jim Sundberg and Ken Suarez in the HoF auditorium. It was very interesting and Spiff Jr claimed he learned several things about his chosen position. Sundberg and Suarez both signed after the clinic so we got their autos as well.

There was less than an hour left in the FanFest by the time we left the Rangers Hall of Fame. Spiff Jr thought maybe we could get a couple of more autographs so we headed back down to the ballpark tunnel. Managed to collect autos from Jose Guzman, Danny Darwin, and Tim Crabtree. That wrapped it up for us.

All in all it was a fun day and a good experience. Spiff Jr turned out to be quite the autograph hound before it was all over. I enjoyed seeing the back stage side of things and getting the retired players to sign. I think if we have the chance we will try and make the trip to next year's FanFest.


The Angels In Order said...

Nice recap. I'm definitely gonna go next year.

James Crabtree said...

Good report. Interesting that Ellis Valentine was there. He only played 11 forgettable games for the Rangers in Sept. '85. You have to be a hard core Rangers fan to remember him.

Play at the Plate said...

I missed it. I'm going next year though. We should meet up with Tom. Glad you and Jr made it.