Results tagged ‘ Rays Fan Fest ’
I came through the center field opening about 9:03 a.m., and it was a sight to see how well spread out the Rays had done the event this year. It was also the clam before the storm as over 35,000 fans ended up coming into the dome today to meet and greet the 2009 Rays team members at either the autograph tables or during the many team player events throughout the Fan Fest.
I do not think this sign needs any more introduction other than to tell you it is the last thing the Rays team players see before they step down into the dugout and onto the field. To say that the Rays have their own brand of doing things might be an understatement. They are a team that takes on the personality of their manger Joe Maddon and fights to the last out every inning, every game.
As you can see by the above two pictures, Rays Manager Joe Maddon is big on quotes of inspiration and influence. Maddon is a firm believer in the mental side of the game, and it effects on a team. All throughout the clubhouse you will find saying and antidotes bringing up character and honest effort on and off the field.
This is the scene at 10 a.m. just after the front door were opened to regular fans who did not have a season ticket. As you can see, the lines in the autograph area have not truly formed yet. Near the end of this photo blog, you will see the chaos that unfolded around 2-3 p.m. in the dome. The second photo is a from my seat right there at the bottom of Section 138. One of the great features of having Season Tickets is that you get a black nameplate on your seat to show that you are a true fan, and that you sit there. Believe me, during some of the series in the Trop., you have to shoo people away with a bat from that prime seat for foul balls in Batting Practice.
These photos are of the kid’s zone area that catered to young Rays fans and tested their skills out in front of the crowds. Talk about pressure cooker situations.
In the first photo is famous boxing corner man Angelo Dundee who was signing today for fans and also taking pictures. Many people might remember him as the corner man for boxing champions Muhammad Ali, and Floyd Whittaker. The second photo is of the tandem of Dave Willis and Andy Freed who do the Rays Radio broadcast of every game. These guys have an awesome chemistry and are some of the nicest people you ever want to meet in baseball.
Here we have Dick Crippen, local sports legendary sports anchor announcing the members of the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame. The wall now hold the names of over 100 enthusiastic Rays fans who have been nominated by the Rays management and the Fans for their spirit and involvement in the Rays games. I was inducted into this wall in 2004, and up until 2007 I also helped build the Pepsi displays that served as the background for the events. I have to say, that the displays have been getting bigger and better evey year. I can not wait to see what the 2010 display will look like and how big it will be. Pictured above is Pieter Wiemken, who was enshrined today in the Fans Wall of Fame. Most people might recognize him for his wig and his signs during the Boston series this year and by him banging his cowbell in the upper deck right behind home plate. He is a great addition to the Wall of Fame.
Here we have the awesome Rays calliope that was a piece featured in the Schrader’s baseball collection display. The collection is touted as being the “World’s Largest Privately Owned Baseball Collection.” The calliope itself is an amazing centerpiece to the display. Also pictured is the styrofoam “Maddon’s Maniac” character that graces all of that special Rays club’s cowbells and t-shirts given out to the club’s members. I will talk more about the 2009 expectations of this great club in the future.
Starting with the first photo here, we have Rays starting pitcher James Shields and speedster Fernando Perez taking a photo with a Rays season Ticket holder. The event went on all afternoon long with two players each standing their for photo opportunities from 1-5 p.m. At one point, the line stretch about half way into the right field street hallway before finally slinking down towards the 5 p.m. time. The second photo is of Pat Burrell recording a voice mail message on my cellphone for people to hear when they call me. This event sponsored by Metro PCS went on from 1-3, and also featured Rookie David Price and other players calling friends and family during the event. The third photo is of the Rays Radio team doing an interview with Buck Martinez in the Budweiser Brew House. This is the event that Martinez talked about the uphill battle the Rays might have to take in 2009, but he sees it as a positive for the team, and stressed that this is also a better team than the one that won the A L Pennant in 2008.
In the first photo in this set we have Rays reliever Grant Balfour and new Rays Matt Joyce up on the signing tables waiting for the fans. You might notice that I am sitting in my Season ticket seat right now taking in the last few hours of the event. I even have a pretty good sight line when I am at Fan Fest. In the second photo, you see Rays reliever Jason Hammel looking over at Carlos Pena, who also has his charming young daughter up on stage with him drawing during the autograph session. In the last picture is the greeting between Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pena before he leaves the stage at the event.
Here is an idea to show how crowded the autograph areas got during the day. The first photo was taken at about 1 :30 p.m. and you can see that the line snakes around past my seating area and into the hall beyond right field. The second one, I wanted to get the time in the picture to show you how it got even more congested just before 3:00 p.m. around the stage one area.
The first photo shows Rays Bullpen coach Bobby Ramos holding court up in the Stage one area with Maddon and Rays Hitting coach Steve ” Hendo” Henderson sitting their listening to Ramos. This group of coaches all seems to fit so well together. I have seen them after games at a few places, and they truly like to spend time with each other. The second photo is as Pena was leaving and dn he was shouting over to see if I was still going to be sitting their in 2009. By the way Carlos……….where else would I be except maybe the dugout…I wish. In the third photo, Scott Kazmir was coming off the stage area and asked if I was going for chicken wings. I hate that some of these guys know me so well they know I am bound for Ferg’s and his world famous chicken wings anytime I am down in St Petersburg.
And this last photo says it all. Here we are at the apex to spring training and the Rays have the enthusiasm and the confidence to even provide a “Magical Number” for 2009. It was a fantastic day to again chat and revisit with friends and players alike and dream about what might be in 2009. I hope you enjoyed my photo blog of my adventures at the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest.
All Photos today were obtained by the RRCollections and can be copied or used for advertising and promotion of the Tampa Bay Rays.
I seriously did not expect to see over 4 ,000 people standing in line outside waiting for the 9a.m. Season Ticket holder opening when I pulled into Lot 6 off of 1st Avenue South in St. Petersburg. I also did not expect that most would be as excited as me to the possibilities of the coming year, and wondering who might sign, or not sign inside today. From the moment they left us in early to be able to a few circles around the field and check out the sights, it was by far the best Fan Fest that the Rays have put on in their short history.
Kudos go out to Mark Fernandez and Brian Killingsworth for the awesome display booth and sights that greeted your eyes when you first walked into the stadium in center field. Some people just love to be able to walk on the Field Turf, but if you have been a Rays fans for years, you know the turf can be a bit hard on your legs after a few hours. The sights that first hit your eyes is the grouping to the left that featured several of the Rays big time sponsors who gave away free items for fans in attendance. There were the free Rays 2009 TV schedule poster by Florida Sports Network ( FSN ) that also featured several members of the Rays Television crew signing for the fans.
A few hours later, former greats like, Wayne Garrett, Gary Peters, Jim Archer, Darold Knowles, and Mark Whiten also came out in support of the MLBPA event. The place was already a buzz with excitement and it was only 10 am. The autograph lines quickly filled up with Table 1 being the place to be today. At one point today, the line stretched out the right field gate and swirled into the tunnel under the stands twice to form a line of about 1,000 fans seeking autographs from the players ib just that first table. The first table got the first bit of bad news at about 12 noon when it was announced that Rookie of the Year winner Evan Longoria would not be signing at the event. Rays pitcher James Shields jumped in and rescued the hour by staying and signing for fans in place of Longoria.
Rumors quickly spread about the missing Longoria from a family emergency to missing the event because of an autograph contract with a company. I do not know the correct answer, but I will give Longoria the benefit of the doubt unless something else hits the fan. During the signings you could see the Cow from Cick-fil-A and Stewie from family guy going around and chatting with kids and fans waiting in line for autographs.
If you left the autograph area and moved down the first baseline, you were met by the Metro PCS table, where from 1-3 pm today, a Rays player could phone someone you knew and chat for a minute or two. I got new Rays Pat Burrell to leave my new voice mail message on my cellphone for my website. But other players like 2008 first round pick Tim Beckham and David Price were over at the tables during the day. If you kept going to the first baseline, you saw that Chevrolet was out giving Rays fans free gifts and presenting the 2009 models close up and personal. Then you would come up on the Baseball America table where you could sign up to win a special prize from them throughout the day and receive the newest copy of the magazine. the MLB Network also had a small table set up giving away more goodies for the fans and giving them an opportunity to check out the new network that started on January 1, 2009.
The Rays Golden Rays club, which caters to its fans 55 and older was stationed right next to them and was taking applications and giving out the 2009 edition of the Golden Rays shirt, which was a striking gold shirt with royal blue lettering. After that it was a smattering of Rays booth featuring the Charlotte Sports Park, where the Rays will be playing their 2009 Spring Training games and hold all training session before the Spring games begin in 2009. On the opposite side were the Clear Channel radio stations lining the fencing for the “Kids Run the Bases” event that is so popular after Sunday’s Rays games. Then you would come upon the Rays Radio Network, which had both their Spanish and English radio teams signing for the fans.
Right next to them near the entrance for the Clubhouse tour was WDAE 620, the Sports Animal booth that was broadcasting throughout the Rays Fan Fest event. To their right was the Rays Maddon’s Maniac booth that was already taking applications and giving out collectibles for the 2009 season. I am going to write a blog in the coming week on the events and the new procedures for this great Rays booster club. After that you had the Rays season Ticket folks and Raysbaseball.com situated right behind home plate to help you with your seat selection, or to view the website on a laptop set up on the table for you to browse the website.
Then you had two very special groups, the Rays Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities ( RBI ) program. This is a fantastic program, and the Rays All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford once participating in a Houston area branch of this organization before being drafted by the Rays. Next to them is the Rays Wheelchair Softball team, which is currently ranked 7th in the nation, and is the reigning National Champion in Division II. Then you wander on down to the SABRE table, which asked Rays fans to find Rays players listed in a word search puzzle today for a prize.
Then you come upon one of my favorite Rays collectible displays, the McKenney family Collection. This is a very unique collection because it hold a baseball signed by every coach and player who ever put on a Rays uniform. It is also the pride and joy of Jeff McKenney, who fans at the Trop know affectionately as “The Sign Guy”. McKenney also has an amazing banner that he started that he has also gotten almost every Rays player to sign. The banner and the collection are a great look into the history of the Rays, and some date even before the first game in 1998.
To the right of them beyond the left field tunnel was the Rays Season Ticket opportunity where fans got to take their picture with two Rays players at the same time. Players like James Shields, Fernando Perez got things started at noon today and were followed by B J Upton and Matt Garza, Dioner Navarro and Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Bartlett and J P Howell, and Jeff Niemann and Troy Percival closed out the event at 5 pm. But it was the areas lining the left field walls towards center field that had the most action today. That was the location of the kid’s game area where speed pitching and hitting rules the day. But if that was too much for you right now, there was a three-story little sluggers zone with wiffle balls, and a few of them even made it over the big white monster wall today. You then would stroll down to the big league batting cages and the wiffle ball home run derby event, where the little one were fed balls from a machine and aimed for the wall that resembled old Ebbet’s Field in Brooklyn, New York.
One of the most popular photo opportunities was at either of the Rays enlarged baseball side displays, or the cutout where you could put yourself in the Rays home plate celebration. It has two cut out points to put yourself into the action. All in all the Fan Fest had its ups and downs. The autograph areas were saturated as usual by fans and some did not get to the front before the signing time was over for the players. That has happened in the past, but with the increased attendance today, you had to be in the right place at the right time today to get everyone you wanted. That is one of the sad points of the day. Some players like Carlos Pena did not arrive on time, but he stayed beyond his time and signed for the fans.
All in all, the event was a huge success for the team. Some people grumbled about the autograph lines, and others did not understand that the $ 10 autograph donation for a wristband to stand in line for an autograph was to go to the Rays Baseball Foundation which provides money and scholarships throughout the Tampa Bay area. The group also renovated local Little League fields and donates their time and efforts in Habitat for Humanity and the local homeless shelters in the area. But he crowd was here in force, eating, drinking and enjoying themselves as the filed in and out of the stadium.
Even with all the pressure on the Rays to continue their winning ways, the players and the Rays management teams can grow in confidence by the display of the fans turnout for this event. I have a few suggestions for 2010, but I will leave that for another time. It is time to rejoice and also relax and take in all the positives of the 2009 Fan Fest and show some real deep love to the Rays on this Valentines Day.