This week I will give a recap of what my dad and I did at the Fan Fest and a short summary of the Awards Banquet.
The Awards Banquet (Friday at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth):
Friday night, we went to the annual Winter Awards Banquet. This was the 1st year that it’s been at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth. They had autograph sessions beforehand with Scott Feldman, Justin Smoak, Michael Young, Craig Gentry, Elvis Andrus, and Martin Perez. It wasn’t the same as in past years, as all the players were at a head table next to the podium, so they weren’t sitting at the tables with us and we weren’t allowed to talk to them. And the food was nowhere near as good as the food at Eddie Dean’s Ranch, where the event was held the last few years. I ended up eating dinner after I got home. I’m glad we went, though. Before the ceremony, I got to give Eric Nadel his Broadcaster of the Year trophy. I sat with my dad, my granddad, and Eleanor Czajka.
Fan Fest (Saturday):
My dad and I got to Fan Fest at about 9:20 and there was still a line of hundreds of people wrapping around the ballpark, even though it opened at 9:00. It was freezing, at about 25 degrees in the middle of the day. It took forever to get inside, as everyone had to sign some sheet of paper and get a wristband from one of only about five people before they could get in. We didn’t even need the wristband for anything, as no one ever asked to look it once we got inside. It took over 40 minutes to get inside.
We went straight up to the Newberg booth when we got there and I got autographs from Brandon Boggs and Kasey Kiker. They were both very nice. I got to talk to Jamey Newberg and Eleanor Czajka throughout the day while I was at the Newberg booth. At about 10:40, we went outside and waited in the Tanner Scheppers and Zach Phillips line, and I thought we would freeze to death, even though it was only twenty minutes.
We went back to the Newberg table to get autographs from Tanner Scheppers and Zach Phillips. Like usual, the line-up at Jamey’s table was the best. It was my first time to meet Tanner so getting his autograph was a high priority for the day (he was one of three players appearing during the day that I needed). He was incredibly nice, and so was Zach.
After that, my dad and I went back out into the cold at 11:10 to wait for Justin Smoak and Ben Snyder tickets. This time my dad and I were smart, as we took 5-minute turns going into the heated store. I was happy to find the Louisville, West Virginia basketball game on TV, that Louisville would have won if not for a couple bad calls at the end of the game (Texas A&M made up for that loss Saturday night by beating Texas Tech 85-70).
I got Ben Snyder’s and Justin Smoak’s autographs, and they were both very nice. I did not have Ben Snyder’s autograph, and so that left Rich Harden as the only player there I did not have. We then went into Rich Harden’s line at about 12:20 and waited in the cold. It didn’t help that they took us up ten minutes after he was supposed to start signing.
I got Rich Harden’s autograph. He was very, very nice, and he seems like a really good guy. We then looked at the booths in the Diamond Club for a while, and I was disappointed that the Dibs table wasn’t there this year, because they always gave out free ice cream. The Rangers had a table where the players and personnel were making and giving out popcorn, the money benefiting Haiti. I got popcorn from Tommy Hunter, Chuck Morgan, and Tom Grieve. I got to talk with each of them for a few minutes and they were all very nice as always.
I talked to Mike Ogulnick for a little bit as he walked by, and then went to get autographs from Max Ramirez and Eric Hurley at the Newberg table, and saw Jamey and Eleanor one last time. We then went to the Jon Daniels Q&A session early so we could see the Baseball Comedy Improv that Brad the photographer (really nice guy), and few of his friends put on every year. They did a great job and were very funny as always.
Jon Daniels did a Q&A for about 30 minutes, facilitated by Tom Grieve. During the Q&A, I got to ask Jon one question: What move made by another team this offseason has really impressed you? Jon said that the Mariners’ Cliff Lee move really impressed him, as unfortunate as it is that they made that move.
Here are some of the other comments that Jon made when answering questions:
· Without a doubt this is the best he’s felt about the pitching staff going into spring training. They wanted to have a 7 or 8 man starting staff going into camp and he feels they have that.
· Neftali Feliz will come into the spring on a starter’s schedule. Around March 15th, they’ll make a call with him and other folks (like CJ Wilson) as to whether they’ll be in the rotation or bullpen. Feliz did a great job in the bullpen but they owe it to him and themselves to see if he can develop into a starter, whether it’s this year or in a future year.
· Ideally we won’t see Martin Perez in the major leagues this year. He’s only 19 and they want to put him in positions where he’s most likely to succeed.
· When asked which team he thinks will be toughest to play against in the West this year, he said that both Seattle and Oakland have made some good moves, but you have to say the Angels until somebody knocks them off.
· Guillermo Moscoso will get stretched out this spring but won’t throw a ton of innings because he’s been pitching winter ball and they don’t want to overdo it.
· When asked whether the ballpark’s reputation for not being very pitcher friendly is a big factor in signing free agents, he said it probably comes most into play on one-year deals where the pitcher wants his stats to look as good as possible before going back on the market in eight months. He did point out that in all his years being involved in negotiations, there’s only one pitcher who’s actually mentioned it as a factor in negotiations, although he admitted that other pitchers may have been thinking about it. He finds it encouraging that Rich Harden, a player in that exact situation, chose to sign with the Rangers this year.
· Even though David Murphy may be the fourth outfielder on the depth chart, he thinks he’ll get plenty of at-bats.
Jon gave really good answers as always, and I would like to thank him for always being so open during those sessions.
We left after the Q&A session, at about 3:15. We had a great time as always, even with it being so cold. I would like to thank everybody in the Rangers organization who did such a great job putting on the Fan Fest again this year.
Come back next week for a summary of the second Newberg bound edition release party.