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Notes On Fanfest

I'm currently battling some kind of something that's draining my ability to concentrate, but I wanted to take a little time to reflect on a Saturday spent thinking that Chone Figgins might get traded, then finding out that Chone Figgins won't get traded.

Somewhat on a whim, we decided late last week to dart up to Seattle for my first-ever Fanfest. I'm not really an autograph kind of guy, and many of the scheduled events and activities weren't put together with people like me in mind, but for the low cost of $10, it was something I had to experience at least once. Short summary: totally worth it.

  • The activity I looked forward to the most, as corny as it might sound, was the opportunity to play catch in right field. It seems this was the activity many people looked forward to the most, and our time was limited to three-minute shifts the beginning and end to which were signaled by the blowing of a rape whistle. Even in shifts, space was at a premium, and those stadium lights are a lot brighter than you probably think they are, but for the rest of my life I'll be able to tell people I've played catch in the same right field as Gene Kingsale and T.J. Bohn.

  • The Boeing Run Around The Bases event was more like the Boeing Solemn March Around Some Of The Bases event. It is cool to walk around on a Major League infield, but one couldn't help but notice the aptness of the fact that, at a Mariners offseason event, participants weren't permitted to reach first base or score.

  • Maybe the most highly anticipated event was the Fan vs. Felix Batting Cage, which promised the opportunity to "hit against a virtual Felix Hernandez fastball." Those of us who stood in line were forced to sign a waiver, and little kids were turned away on account of the danger of it all, so for 15 minutes I feared for my life. Then I found out that the virtual Felix Hernandez fastball was actually a virtual Paul Byrd changeup. Batting against virtual Felix Hernandez, Ms. Jeff - who quit playing softball for her old company because she found it too frustrating - went 3-5. I understand why they couldn't do what they promised since you don't want a paying customer to die inside the official team batting cage, but maybe next time they could use Sean White's name instead or something. I also think they should have a batting cage that simulates real Felix Hernandez fastballs, and at the end of the cage is a tiny window that Felix spends the whole time behind, laughing.

  • I didn't pay a lot of attention to the various Dugout Dialogues, but from what I could tell they were popular, and run very smoothly. Felix, naturally, drew the biggest crowd, and showed off (again) a superglued fauxhawk you could use to open cans. Ms. Jeff remarked that you could see Dave Sims in the reflection. You could also literally see Felix's earring sparkle from 200 feet away. Eric Wedge was another one of the guests, and he speaks with evangelical enthusiasm. You could say he has a belief system in his words.

  • The 97.3 KIRO FM Pop Fly Challenge was by far the most .giffable event of the weekend. 

  • One activity was a sort of self-guided tour through the Mariners' dining area, clubhouse, and weight room. Within the clubhouse were all the player and coach mailboxes, and though one gets the idea that everything was staged, the most full mailboxes belonged to Milton Bradley and Ryan Langerhans, which half makes sense. The clubhouse also included a lost-and-found bin, which was overflowing with offense.

We didn't do everything - we couldn't do everything within the span of a few hours - but while I don't think I had any life-changing experiences, I can't think of many more enjoyable ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in January. After talking to a handful of people, my understanding is that, regardless of the quality of the team, the Mariners work hard to put on the best Fanfest in baseball, and based on my one experience, I can buy it. Matt Pitman spent two days hosting the Last Fan Standing trivia game through a sinus infection. There was a guy with a microphone in the batting cage announcing each hitter and narrating every pitch, and he was in there from 9-4. The biggest heroes may have been the people who volunteered to catch fans young and old pitching off the mound in the bullpen, the horror of which you can probably imagine. A ton of effort goes into this weekend every year - not just from team members, but from employees and volunteers - and the end result is a product they can be proud of.

Oh and on a completely unrelated point, here's what the center field honeycomb backdrop looks like.