19 February 2010


So this past Saturday my sister Sarah and I went to the Arizona Diamondbacks FanFest. I had never been before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew there'd be autograph sessions with some of the players and coaches, photo ops, and a card/memorabilia show, but I was really excited to just be able to get back to the ballpark for a kick-start to baseball season!

In order to save some money (and trust me, I was WAY more frugal than I usually would be for an event like this), Sarah and I took the light rail to the stadium from one of the park-and-ride locations in Phoenix. Thanks to the guys at Hot Corner Sports Cards in Mesa, we both had a few items to get signed in the autograph sessions. I had a ball and a nice Big Stick black baseball bat and Sarah had some mini helmets in the old DBacks purple.

We arrived with our goodies around 8:00am only to discover that we should have gotten there at 7:15am - the line was already 50-60 people deep for obtaining vouchers for player autographs. But I figured that we'd be okay and able to get a few signatures anyway. We stood in line for about 2 hours before getting our turn to buy vouchers, only to find out that most of them had been taken by season ticket holders (really nice of you guys... leave some for the poor among us next time!). Players like Brandon Webb, Justin Upton, Adam Laroche, and Augie Ojeda were completely sold out by the time we got to the ticket window! So I changed my game plan and bought vouchers for Jay Bell and Matt Williams (for Sarah) and Chris Young, Ryan Roberts, and Mark Reynolds (how was he not sold out?!) for myself.

As soon as we entered the stadium, we made our way down to the field (all the activities of the day happened on the field itself!!!) and immediately got in an autograph line. This is where I saw my first big mistake of being a fan at FanFest: you cannot possibly do everything. For autographs, season ticket holders get a "Fast Pass" like at Disneyland and get to go first. We stood in the Jay Bell/Matt Williams autograph line for almost an hour waiting our turn, while at the same time the Chris Young line was moving at the same pace. The reason I chose Bell/Williams first was so Sarah could get her autographs, which I think are more important for her to have than me getting Chris Young (which I can do easily at Spring Training or at the ballpark later on). So sadly, my $5 voucher was wasted for Chris Young, but we did get both Jay Bell and Matt Williams for Sarah on the mini helmets:

After that, I wasn't too keen on standing in another line, so we went over to the DBacks Yard Sale in left field. The Yard Sale was full of stuff at "clearance prices" from prior seasons of players that we don't have anymore, like Micah Owings, Bob Brenly, and Max Scherzer. There were signed balls, used bats, Diamondbacks Foundation polo shirts, old logo dishes, posters, banners, and lineup cards from years gone by. Now frankly, I have always wanted a lineup card for my collection, so I was really keen to pick one up when I saw them. So I did! From the 5/2/2009 game at Miller Park between the D-Backs and the Brewers (we won 4-1):
 The reason I chose that one was pretty simple: it has Dan Haren pitching, all my favorite DBacks players, and even Craig Counsell on the Brewers team. Signed by Bob Melvin, it's a nice piece. I'm planning on saving up some money and someday framing it nicely with the scorecard I have from that game. Also on May 2, 2009, Justin Upton hit a monster 442' blast on Miller Park, one of the longer ones in that stadium's history (behind anything by Prince Fielder and Adam Dunn).

After picking that up, we wandered over to the card show and looked at the stuff over there. Nothing uber-special, except for one table, where a consignment gentleman had scorebooks and scorecards from the 1880s! I'd never seen one so old before, and they were BEAUTIFUL! I think I should write a book on scoring baseball games and the history of scoring. It's really becoming a lost art, and it should definitely be revived!

Then, another line, but this time for Mark Reynolds and Bo Porter. Porter is our new third base coach, if you didn't know. I didn't until I was in the line and asked some guy standing next to me about him. Anyway, after another hour in line, I got Mark's signature on my bat, which I'd been waiting for ALL DAY!
 After we finished in line, Sarah and I were both starving, hot, and kind of tired of standing in line. We decided to get some hot dogs from Doubleheaders out off the first base dugout, and sat in the stands and ate for a half hour or so. It was really nice to relax and watch all the people mill about down below. And the hot dogs were, of course, DELICIOUS!

A short while later, when we had rested up a bit and had our lunch, we heard an announcement that stuff was being "discounted" at the yard sale, so we went back to take another look. That's when I was able to pick up a Micah Owings signed baseball for $5. Owings is probably my third favorite player right now, behind Damien Miller and Mark Reynolds, so that was cool for me!
After we finished up, I really didn't feel like waiting around for an hour to get Ryan Roberts' autograph, when I am pretty sure I can get that one at Spring Training or at the ballpark without too much difficulty, so we went around and saw some of the other sights. We watched little kids in the training center areas hitting balls being pitched by Clay Zavada (wiffle balls and plastic bats, if you're wondering), fielding practice, and fly ball practice. We stopped by a few sponsorship tables and I filled out raffle forms for prizes and things, and we wandered around to listen to the live broadcasts being conducted on the field by 620 AM KTAR and 98.7 The Peak radio stations. This is where Sarah got her big wish.

Her only goal beyond following me around during FanFest was to get Luis Gonzalez's autograph. We were a little disappointed when he wasn't in the autograph sessions, but we were at the right place at the right time to watch him as a guest on the 98.7 broadcast. We got there just in time to see him finish up when a couple field crew people magically conjured up a table and people ran to form something resembling a line (though fans near a celebrity don't have any idea what a line looks like, I think) to get his autograph! I told Sarah to get in line QUICK! before it was too long, and I stood off to the side getting the third mini helmet out of our duffle bag. Suffice it to say, Sarah got her souvenier, and was ecstatic the rest of the day:
As I mentioned before, next year for FanFest, I know what I will do differently. Rather than trying to get every autograph, I think I will just try to get one, maybe two that I really want, and worry about the rest during Spring Training and the season. Thankfully, the event is free to get into, and all the activities except the autograph sessions are free. If I'm going to stand in more lines, I'd be just as happy doing it for a free photo with the players as I would with a $5 autograph!

We did have a great time, despite coming home absolutely exhausted (I think that's kind of the point, though... right?). I saw some friends there from Hot Corner, like a fellow sports card enthusiast Patrick with his wife and son, and the two biggest D-Backs fans I know - Anya and April (who are always fun to sit near during the games!). I think perhaps the only downside to the day was that by the end of it all, there was so much dust and dried grass flying around the air from the field, it was really starting to make Sarah's allergies unpleasant, and it got a little tougher to breathe the more we stayed. Note to self: bring Claritin next time!

Well done, Diamondbacks! Can't wait for April 5th. We'll see you at the ballpark!

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