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.
Well, what can I say… What a weekend. Opening Day and the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium were spectacular. Over 38,000 fans, the rain had washed away and the sun was shining. Although the entire Pre-Game Ceremony was awesome (even Dayton Moore went out of his way to let folks know), two things really stood out for me. The first was a very moving video presentation that chronicled Royals’ history past and present. It was tremendous and even included local city shots and fans around town. The second was the performance of the National Anthem by Saxophonist Michael Phillips. AMAZING. I loved it. I knew of Mr. Phillips from the people in charge. I knew that he had performed the Anthem at the NBA Finals and at countless other venues, I even knew that he was gonna hold out one note for a really looooooong time. I did not know it would be that AWESOME. It was.
For those of you who missed Opening Day… bummer. I never really understood all the hoopla before, but after witnessing April 10, 2009, I’m not likely to miss it again.
The New K
Also Spectacular. So spectacular that the KC STAR notes that it is now “one of the very best stadiums in baseball — maybe the best.” I won’t disagree. The 360 degree experience is upgrade enough for me, but why stop there?
The Miller Lite Fountain Bar beyond Left Field looks to be a prime spot. Very Las Vegas feel. Sitting at the bar while being able to look over your shoulder at the kids playing in the “Little K” and having baseball spilled out right in front of you… pretty sweet. Now all we need is some blackjack tables. Another high profile area is clearly the standing room only section beyond the outfield. Packed. Great place to set up shop, and there are even counter tops to place your soda pops. The few times I ventured down this weekend, half the folks there told me their seats were elsewhere, but they just wanted to come watch the game from here. Be weary though, I’m told on sold out games you can’t get down there unless that’s your proper place.
I choose to highlight these two areas because it seems you can find info on many other stadium upgrades elsewhere. LIKE HERE, perhaps. Or for folks who like lots of pictures, why not HERE?
Finally we come to this, and yes, yes, I’m speaking of Reggie Jackson. On my way to a promotion during a game I happened to run into Mr. Jackson in the lobby of the Diamond Club. He was there “arranging” a glass vase filled with baseballs for a display of… umm… Baseballs in a vase, I guess. Now I’m usually not awe struck by players or celebrities and Reggie was no exception (although I really wanted to ask whatever happened to the “Reggie Bar“). My usual stance in these situations is to just file it away to tell friends about later. But this time I was thinking of YOU folks. The readers of the blog that might actually enjoy a picture of me and Mr. J. So… I thought I’d politely ask if I could get a quick pic for the blog.
Now I think it’s safe to say that if I’d gotten that picture, this is probably where you would be seeing it.
So… suffice it to say, I did not get the photo with Reggie. He really had to stay focused to organize those balls in that vase. It did look lovely, though.
Like 30 baseballs in a vase.
Anyhow, I guess things could be worse.