FanFest signifies many things, but perhaps most importantly it means that the average temperature in KC will soon rise above one degree. It is the first major event of the year for the Kansas City Royals and soon the dominoes will continue to fall: players will report to Spring Training, Spring Training will soon be underway and Opening Day will quickly be upon us.
FanFest was “kicked off”, so to speak, with Royals Awards Night… and what a night indeed. When I first walked into the building I was in awe. It looked like the set up for the Grammy Awards or something. The powers that be really did a remarkable job. Last year was wonderful, but looked like a birthday party in comparison to the set up this year. There were fireworks, dancers, a big band and four Cy Young Award winners on hand. Not to mention several alumni from the 1985 World Series team in town to celebrate the 25th Anniversary!
The following two days were a whirlwind as Royals Mania consumed the Overland Park Convention Center. Now this is just a guess, but I’d have to say more than 20,000 items were given (or thrown) to fans off the Sprint Main Stage alone. There were contests, and dance offs, and autographs and of course, plenty of baseball talk.
As I hosted or co-hosted all of the forums at FanFest, I’d like to share what I think were some highlights of the two-day extravaganza.
First off, I learned that Trey Hillman has no forecast for his facial hair and that an article in Japan once stated that he grew facial hair so fast that he was like “Rip Van Winkle on speed.” He seemed very excited about the season but wanted to temper his enthusiasm and use caution as he was very excited about last year’s team too.
Dayton had some very good things to say as well. Mentioning that most likely Mike Moustakas will be invited to Major League camp and how big it was to sign Noel Arguelles in lieu of the offers from the Yankees and Red Sox. He credited that coup to the relationships that had been built by his staff. Very cool.
During the Outfielder’s panel we may have discovered the new host of The Mark Teahen Show. Josh Fields joked that “maybe the four of us who are here from Chicago can make up for one Mark Teahen.” Brian Anderson added, “My lifelong dream was to be a guest on the Mark Teahen Show.” Both Fields and Anderson seem to be pretty good guys, and I think KC will feel the same way soon enough.
The Infielders forum centered around Alex Gordon’s likeness to John Krasinski (Jim Halpert of “The Office”) and how he was ok with that because “he’s pretty good looking.” Also how poorly Zack Greinke finished in the Fantasy Football League and that Willie Bloomquist was Runner-up. Chris Getz’s hair stylings came up and Brian Anderson showed up during the Q&A in the audience to ask Getz how long it took him to get ready that morning. It was wild and fun and really cool to see how obvious the camaraderie and chemistry on this team already is.
The final panel of players to mention is of course the pitchers, and they were joined by their newly acquired backstop, Jason Kendall. I knew what everyone was clamoring to know so I launched right in, “Well Zack, let’s get to what everyone wants to hear about, talk to us about your addiction to the World of Warcraft, what character do you play, class, race, etc?” Needless to say Zack can be tough to read sometimes and I wasn’t sure if he was going to totally shut me down, walk off stage, or what. Fans love Zack Greinke for a lot of reasons, I love him because the guy is so honest and uncensored and just shoots you straight. “I’m getting bad right now because I’m a Warlock and I think they’re getting nerfed right now,” he said. Awesome. Zack isn’t the only WOW fan on the pitching staff but the other guys were pretty mum on account of, according to Zack, their wives displeasure with WOW. When an audience member asked “who do you not like to face?” Gil Meche remembered how Pujols took him deep last year on a 3-2 change-up on the heels of 2 chest high fastballs, and then came my favorite comment from Jason Kendall, “Next time we face him we’ll have to make him uncomfortable.” Nice. Banny, Davies and Hoch all seemed in fine form and mentioned, along with Gil Meche, that they all feel great and are anxious for Spring Training to begin.
I’m glad they are anxious, I am too.
As the weather turns colder and baseball season has officially come to a close, I’m often asked if I’m enjoying my break. I suppose it’s natural to think that once the Royals stop playing my work is done, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The people in charge are always working on something.
First off, those with the power have already been working long and hard to put together some incredible things for Royals fans to enjoy in the off-season. On January 14th, I will once again be hosting the Royals Awards Night, which is an incredible banquet honoring those players that did outstanding work in the organization during the 2009 season. I don’t want to give too much away about the event that’s being planned, but let’s just say it will indeed be an event.
Awards Night is just a perfect way to kick off a busy Royals weekend. On Friday and Saturday, January 15th and 16th, we officially kick off our 3rd annual FanFest. I’ve sat in on a few meetings and FanFest 2010 is going to blow last year out of the water. Activities, players to meet, autographs to get and oh yeah, tons of FREE STUFF! So make sure you join us at the Overland Park Convention Center. As always, all ticket proceeds benefit Royals Charities, so you’re getting your baseball fix and doing a good deed at the same time. When was the last time you could say that?
Also, some of you may know that in addition to being the Royals Emcee, I’m actually an actor by profession and my work with the Royals is just a fraction of all the work that I’ve been fortunate enough to do. It’s always a good idea to stay sharp in front of a live crowd and the good folks at the American Heartland Theatre in Crown Center are helping me out with that one. I am currently starring in their adaptation of the classic drama “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” running 8 times a week through December 27th. I feel so lucky to have rediscovered that great story with such a wonderful ensemble of the finest talent in Kansas City. What more could you want for the holidays?
Well, I suppose that’s that’s it for now. Keep an eye on Royals.com for more info about FanFest and Awards Night. And be sure to get your tickets to the American Heartland Theatre’s production of It’s A Wonderful Life. Pitchers and Catchers report on February 17th. Hey, that’s just three months away… Go Royals!
(Photo above by Shane Rowse)