Tagged: Jim Sundberg

Fan Fest

Since Fan Fest was going to be different this year, I was pretty apprehensive. But the overall verdict is….. I LIKED IT!! Make sure to keep that in mind while I’m complaining about the autograph process in future paragraphs, okay?
I had planned to get up early on Saturday morning to wait in line for autographs, but I couldn’t sleep on Friday night. So when my alarm went off on Saturday, I decided to call an audible and reset my alarm for 10:00 instead.
I headed out to Arlington later than expected, but I was feeling great because of the extra rest.
When I arrived, it took me a good 15 minutes to find a parking space, and I only found that one because of dumb luck. Then when I tried to enter the Convention Center, I was told that I was entering through the exit and that I had to walk around the building. Lovely!

This did not put me in a great mood. But I eventually got around the building and found Will Call to pick up my ticket. As soon as I entered, I asked where I needed to go for autographs.
After walking around aimlessly for a while trying to find where the lady was talking about, I finally figured out the general area where I was supposed to be.
Let me first explain how the autographs were set up at Fan Fest. There were 4 autograph stages (A, B, C, and D) where players would be signing autographs at their specified times. They had players signing 2 at a time, so for example Matt Treanor and Colby Lewis were each signing at stages B and C, respectively, from 12:00-1:00.

So if you wanted to get both Matt Treanor and Colby Lewis, you were screwed. You had to have a special colored wristband to get an autograph, and 200 wristbands were given out for each player. Each person could only have one wristband at a time, and you were required to be already waiting in line for your player when the autograph time started.
After you got your autograph, there was a person standing there to cut off your wristband. Then you could head back over to the wristband area to try to get a wristband for another player’s autograph.

This should have worked out pretty well, because the Rangers had publicised that they wouldn’t start handing out wristbands for a specific player until 2 hours before his autograph session. But I heard that the fire marshal said that all the people lined up waiting to get their wristbands were blocking the exits, so they had to start handing out all the wristbands.
They also had only 4 lines (for stages A, B, C, and D), so you had to know what stage your player was going to be at. But if someone was waiting for either Michael Kirkman (signing on stage C at 2:00) or David Murphy (signing on stage C at 4:00), they were in the same line. It was madness!
After asking around for awhile, I realized that since Kirkman was signing before Murphy, I could go to the front of the line to get a Kirkman wristband.

I got there at a little before noon, and I ended up getting a Kirkman wristband for the 2:00 signing. I also wanted to get Darren O’Day (3:00) and Engel Beltre (4:00), but I couldn’t get those wristbands until after my Kirkman session was over.
Jamey Newberg 
So then I had 2 hours to kill before the autograph session, but I had to make sure I was in the line for Kirkman before 2:00. I decided to visit Jamey Newberg’s booth to see what he was up to.
Jamey and I talked for a little while, and unfortunately I allowed my displeasure about the autograph situation to overflow a little.
I said something like “I don’t know if I like this new Fan Fest. It’s kind of ridiculous!”
He cocked his head to the side, narrowed his eyes, and grinned at me. “But it’s also kinda awesome, right?” That helped me to realize that I was the one being ridiculous, and I needed to chill and try to have a good time. Thanks, Jamey!
Fergie Jenkins
Jamey had a prime spot, right between C.J. Wilson’s Children’s Charities and the Hall Of Fame Booth with Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry. So Jamey just got to soak in the greatness all day!
CJ Wilson 
The gracious C. J. stopped by his booth just before I got there, and he spent quite a while signing autographs for various kids. I was going to get in line, but then some official-looking guy said that C.J. had to leave soon, and the line was already too long.
I already have a C.J. Wilson autographed ball, but the 1st pen he tried to sign with ran out of ink, and the end result doesn’t look anything at all like C.J.’s signature. Oh well.
Gaylord Perry
Fergie and Gaylord Perry were also signing autographs, but you had to donate $20 to the Texas Rangers Foundation for each autograph. I would have done it if it had been the beginning of the month, but it was the 22nd, and I don’t get paid again until the 1st. Dangit!
On the other side of Fan Fest, there was a big stage that had been set up for Q&A Sessions all day long, and I realized that this was a good place to be. Not only because I learned some great stuff, but also because I got to sit down!
There were several different sessions scheduled, including ones with Nolan Ryan, members of the coaching staff, Rangers’ wives, Chuck Greenberg, former Rangers, and Nelson Cruz.

I listened to some or all of several of these Q&A’s, and I really enjoyed them. It made me feel special as a fan to get the opportunity to ask questions, and I learned a lot by listening to the questions that other fans asked.

There was also a little corner by the stage where the Rangers’ Foundation was selling various Rangers memorabilia. They were selling a bunch of things I already have at a reduced rate, like a 2010 Rangers’ Media Guide that I paid $10 for at the beginning of the season was going for $1.

They also had a Rangers’ cookbook that I already own, as well as some old Hank Blalock bobbleheads from a few years ago.
But the things I purchased were some baseball-themed potholders ($1 each) and an autographed Jarrod Saltalamacchia baseball. Score!

I had wanted to get Salty’s autograph for the past couple of years, but when we traded him to Boston and I thought that my chance had passed. But they had at least a dozen baseballs with his John Hancock, as well as countless other autographed baseballs that were completely illegible, and each was only $15.

If they had taken the time to decipher some of those autographs, they probably could have sold a bunch more!
Right next to the old Rangers’ memorabilia was the “photo booth” where different current and former Rangers’ players would take some time to take pictures with the fans. There was no publicised schedule for the photo stage, so you just had to get in line and hope for the best.
I got in line for Mark McLemore, but his picture with the guy in front of me was his last one. Aww, man! I was upset, because I had no idea who the next guy would be or if I would want my picture taken with him.
Matt Treanor
But then Matt Treanor walked up, and I breathed a sigh of relief. When I walked up to have my picture taken with him, I explained that I had been waiting for Mac, but that I was glad to get to have a picture with him instead.
He was so sweet; he said, “Do you want me to get him back up here?” and he made a move to call Mac back to the stage. I laughed. “Oh, no!” I said. “I’m glad it’s you!”

Mark McLemore
After my picture with Matt Treanor, I realized that Mark McLemore was still off to the side talking to some people. When it was my turn, I explained that I had been the next person in line. “Well, I can’t leave you hanging,” he said. “You were the next person!”

The area between the big Q&A stage and the photo booth was also a great spot to catch various Rangers’-affiliated people for pictures.

Jim Sundberg
Jim Sundberg was walking through the crows unnoticed, and as he passed by me, I asked, “Sunny, would you mind taking a picture with me?”
“Sure!” he said. Then I felt kinda bad because a lot of other people realized who he was and they wanted pictures too. Oops!

Richard “Hoggy” Price

I also spotted Richard “Hoggy” Price, and I’ll bet that some of you hardcore Rangers’ fans don’t even know who he is. He’s the Rangers’ clubhouse manager, and I explained that I had seen him on Rangers Insider.
“Yeah,” he said with a wink and a smile, “I try to avoid the camera as much as possible, but sometimes they get me.” I told him I appreciated all the stuff he does behind the scenes that most people never know about, and he was very nice. He even gave me his business and said to call him if I ever needed help getting an autograph or something!
Michael Kirkman 
Then I realized that I needed to get in line for my Michael Kirkman autograph, so I headed over to the other main room. I got there around 1:45, but I ended up talking to the girl in front of me, and the line seemed to move quickly after that.
After Kirkman signed my ball and handed it back to me, I said “Thanks! This will be worth something someday!” He smiled, and I said “You’re gonna be great. I have a good feeling about you.”

After I got my autograph, it was about 2:30, and they had already given out all of the wristbands to the day’s remaining autograph sessions. Sad!

Chuck Greenberg
I decided to head back to the other room to see what else was going on, and I ran into Chuck Greenberg again, for what was probably the 4th time that day. I finally thought to get a picture with him. I’ve known him for a year, but we’ve never taken a picture together!
I was just wandering around when I saw a booth for the Texas Rangers Women’s Club. My friend Rachel had mentioned that we should check them out, so I went over to get some information.
The lady I talked to said they have women of all ages, and that they volunteer at various games at the Ballpark. As a member, I can work as many or as few games as I want, and unless the game is sold out, I can stay and watch the game for free!
They’re also the ones who hand out the promotional items, and my favorite thing was that she said we get each of the promotional items for the games we work, even the ones for kids 13 and under!
They also help with charitble events, have special TRWC events and get to have group outings at Rangers’ games. I almost feel guilty, as if I’m stealing something! It seems too good to be true.
She said the yearly dues are $22, but for your first year you have to pay a one-time-only badge fee of $7. I think I can handle $29!! Although I spent way too much money at Fan Fest, so the lady said I could take a form and just mail it in with a check after I get paid next. Yessss!!
Emily Jones and Nelson Cruz 
Next it was time for Nelly Cruz’s Q&A session, so I headed over to take a seat. This isn’t a very good picture, but it’s Emily Jones and Nelly onstage.
Someone asked Nelly why he wasn’t playing Winter Ball, and he responded “That wasn’t my decision; it was the Rangers’. I just want to play ball all the time. It’s harder to stay in shape when I’m not playing.”
So that was interesting. I guess the Rangers don’t want him to get injured playing Winter Ball and have it affect his Major League season, which makes sense.
Chuck Morgan
After Nelly’s session was over, I made one last loop around to make sure I didn’t miss anything. While I was making my rounds, I spotted Chuck Morgan, and he was gracious enough to take a picture with me too!
The whole autograph thing was total chaos, and I sincerely hope it is fixed for next year’s Fan Fest. Chuck Greenberg mentioned that they might need to get a bigger venue, and I agree. But the next venue needs to have a whole separate area dedicated only to autographs, with plenty of room for people to wait in line.

And the Rangers should actually wait until 2 hours prior to the autograph session to hand out wristbands, so that people can have a chance to get more than one autograph all day!
They should also have a lot more lines, with each one dedicated to each player. The 4-stage setup worked out pretty well, but waiting in line for your player’s stage alongside other people who were waiting for another player at the same stage was bad. It just created a lot of confusion, both for the fans and for the poor people working the event who didn’t know what was going on either.
Okay, enough with the griping. I had planned to attend Sunday’s Fan Fest as well, (since I had purchased a 2-day pass), but I was so exhausted after Saturday that I ended up deciding that I needed to use Sunday to rest and get ready for the work week. Just another example that I’m getting old. {Sigh}
With the Rangers making it to the World Series in 2010, it was necessary to change Fan Fest to accomodate all of the extra people attending. The Arlington Convention Center was nice because it’s right next to the Ballpark, and because it was indoors. It just still wasn’t big enough.
All of the booths and events that were at this year’s Fan Fest may have been present before, but if they were, they were hidden in various nooks and crannies around the Ballpark. I really liked how most things were easy to find (besides the correct autograph line), and I had fun.
This year’s Fan Fest was geared more towards children, with indoor batting cages, speed pitch, a game where you try to steal home, pitching and hitting instructional clinics by Rangers’ coaches, and a Home Run Derby.
But I thought it offered plenty for the grown-up Rangers fan too. I enjoyed the Photo Booth and the Q&A sessions, and at least I got one autograph! Dang this entry was long!
Pitchers and catchers report in: 23 days

…and it all comes full circle

David Murphy
Last night, I went to an autograph session at the Academy store in West Plano. Josh Hamilton was there, so I took off work early and made a beeline for Plano. David Murphy was there too, but he only stayed for a few minutes, because he was really sick. That was okay with me, because I already have a David Murphy autographed baseball.
Josh Hamilton
Each fan could get Josh to sign one thing, so I had him sign a copy of his book (which I made Daddy go buy yesterday while I was at work), and dad had him sign a baseball. I wanted a Josh Hamilton baseball too, but Daddy made a point of specifically telling me, “Uh-uh, you can’t have my baseball, I’m keeping this one.” “Okay, Daddy, you keep your baseball. I’ve got the book,” I said, secretly disappointed. But there was no way I could blame him. I mean it’s Josh Hamilton!

Jim Sundberg, aka “Sunny”

I went over to the other table to get autographs from Jim Sundberg (Rangers’ Hall of Fame catcher), Jon Daniels (GM), and Tom Greive (former player and manager, current TV announcer). As I walked past JD, he nodded at me and said hi, so I took the opportunity to tell him, “I’m going to be working for you someday. Just FYI.” He didn’t seem surprised, he just said, “Oh really? What do you do?” I said, “I have an English degree, so I can write, edit, do press releases, or whatever you want. I have a Rangers blog.” TR Sullivan was there, and he chimed in, “Yeah, this is that girl that I wrote the article about on Christmas.” JD didn’t remember what he was talking about, so he asked TR to send him the link.

TR Sullivan

Later, as I was talking to TR, he asked me, “Are you going to the Mid-Winter Awards Banquet in a couple of weeks?” I told him that I had really wanted to, but the tickets were too expensive. So he said, “I want you to come as my guest.” My jaw dropped open. “Really?!”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll contact you and we’ll work out the details.” At this point, my dad shook TR’s hand, because if he hadn’t invited me, I probably would have talked my dad into paying for us both to go. He saved my dad $120!! Richard Durrett from ESPN.com was standing next to us, and he said “Oh, man, you’ll have to sit at the press table though.” “No, that’s GOOD!” I said. ‘That’s what I want to do: write about the Texas Rangers! So this is perfect!” Then TR said, “Oh yeah, I have to present Michael Young with the MVP award, so we have to figure out what to say to him.” Umm… wow!

Jon Daniels

I saw that Jon Daniels was just sitting at his table, so I went over to ask him some questions. He was very nice, and I felt special that I got to do a little 5-minute “interview” with him.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, aka “Salty”
I asked him first about whether they were looking to acquire another catcher because of the uncertainty with Salty’s health since his surgery. “It’ll all depend on how Salty’s doing in Spring Training. We’ll just have to wait and see how he’s doing. If he’s having trouble, we can pick up somebody then,” he said. Fair enough.
Ben Sheets
Then I asked him why the Rangers are so interested in adding another starting pitcher, considering the pitching depth that the Rangers have right now. “You can never have enough pitching,” he said. “You want too much pitching in April because you never know what’s going to happen in September.” True, Jon. Very true.
Tom Hicks, current owner
Then I asked a question that caused Daniels to clam up: “Do we even have any money left in the budget to get a veteran starting pitcher?” As soon as I asked this question, he lost the open, honest look on his face and became carefully composed. It was as if he was guarding his answer and he wanted to make sure he didn’t say too much. “Well… we’ll do alright…” he started. I immediately started backtracking. “I understand you don’t want to give away exactly how much you have to spend, so that’s okay, you don’t have to answer that.” But that led me to think about the ownership situation.
 
Chuck Greenberg
Chuck Greenberg.jpg“Tomorrow is the deadline for the exclusive negotiating period between Tom Hicks and Chuck Greenberg,” I said. “What do you think is going to happen?” But his guard was already up from the previous question. “I don’t know,” he said. “What do YOU think is going to happen?” he asked. Dead end. Then I got off on a tangent of talking about how I’m Chuck Greenberg’s friend on Facebook, and that he was very nice to me and he sent me an email and everything. I’m easily distracted; what can I say? 🙂
Vladimir Guerrero

My last question was, “Why Vlad Guerrero over Jermaine Dye? Any particular reason?” His response was “Well, we had to pick one of them. We couldn’t have both. And Vlad’s 35, but he passed the physical, and I think he’ll be a great DH for us.”

So it was a pretty great evening! But that wasn’t all! Last night, while we were waiting for Josh to sign the autographs, Daddy and I entered a raffle for several different Rangers’-related prizes, then I didn’t think twice about it. I never win anything. But this morning, when I got to work, I had a voicemail from somebody who worked at Academy. I called her back and I said, “Hi, I’m Katie Brownfield. Did I win something?” “Yes, you did,” she said. “You won a Josh Hamilton autographed baseball!”

And it all comes full circle!