(First and foremost we would like to thank you TCB readers for sending in photos from Fanfest.)
As I noted in our introduction to our Fanfest coverage, I have had the date of Fanfest marked on my calendar since mid-December when it was announced. A trip to Minute Maid Park in the middle of the offseason is like a life preserver for a baseball fan. The memory of the 2013 Fanfest was clinging to my brain and I looking forward to the 2014 edition when the only news in baseball was the every move of Masahiro Tanaka.
The day finally came; Fanfest was upon us - my fiancée (A word I will never get used to using. But that's for another day) and I packed up the car and headed out onto the frozen tundra that was Houston, TX. When I say frozen tundra, I'm referring to a day that was recorded with a high of 61. Frankly, the weather was the biggest transgression against Fanfest. The Astros certainly can't predict the weather and the number of days that winter temperatures and baseball overlap don't warrant the need for central heating in Minute Maid Park.
That all said - it was damn cold. It was an icy reality when you realized the inside of the stadium wasn't much better. Frankly there was much time to think about the cold, masses of people were running like contestants from Supermarket Sweep to the Astros garage sale. I can't judge them too harshly because I joined them in the chaos. The Astros' garage sale brings out the best in humanity, scrounging for items to put on eBay or their personal shrines to Astros baseball.
I fall into the latter category, from the last year's giveaways we picked up a duffle bag. In the bargain bin, I found a batting helmet and baseball from the previous color scheme each for a dollar. The two things that brought me the most joy were two t-shirts, one from 2001 Central Division Championship and the other a blast from the past. A gray t-shirt with the dome on it. While the 2001 playoffs are marred by the defense of Julio Lugo and the quite bats, I will forever remember them as the time my dad took me out of school to go see playoff baseball.
From there, I rushed to the main concourse elevators. I dropped the line to the attendant "I'm here for the blogger event" - a line that 99% of the time never opens doors and will never sound cool. I was ushered upstairs to join my fellow bloggers. It should be noted that none of them look like they live in their mom's basement expect maybe myself.
First up in our interviews was Reid Ryan, the man who listened. Ryan was taken in after coming over from Corpus Christi last season. Ryan laid out the current state of the television deal, future plans for the ballpark, and possible changes to the concession stands. The most intriguing new information that Ryan conveyed to us was the idea of having an Astros hall of fame. Terri brought the promotion the Astros are having on 8/30 - Nolan and Reid Ryan Duel Bobblehead. Ryan joked the bobblehead would be him as batboy for the Astros. Is that so? Maybe it will look like this.
Ryan ushered in Bo Porter, the Astros manager, who with no surprise took control of the room. Outside of the normal excitement for an upcoming season, Porter focused on the upgrades made to the pitching staff and the prospects at first base. He spoke highly of Scott Feldman, and looked to him to mentor the young staff. The skipper talked about the progress of Jonathan Singleton and keenness towards Jesus Guzman.
Jeff Lunhow was the final member of the Astros brass to answer the bloggers questions. Thankful there were three other writers from TCB at the event. I couldn't hear Lunhow at all - all I could hear was the heavenly music playing around him.
All joking aside, Lunhow talked about many of the moves the Astros have made this offseason. He talked about talking to the Rockies very early about Fowler, their targets for bullpen relief, and the thought process into pursuing foreign players like Tanaka. If you haven't already, please check out other posts about Fan Fest for more details.
With our interviews over, the bloggers slowly poured out of the conference room. As I walked the concourse, I saw the many other changes to Fanfest this year. Fans were taking batting practice on the field, while volunteers were shagging fly balls in the outfield. Maybe I'm a bit of an odd ball, but I wanted to be out in field rather then spending $20+ dollars to get five cuts in the box.
That brings me to one final point, the cost of fanfest has risen, and no longer were some autograph lines free. Everything had a dollar sign next to it for the most part. So I didn't partake in the autograph lines this year. That said I wasn't aware that the Astros are one of the few teams with a free to attend fanfest.
While another Astros Fanfest is in the books, but that just means another baseball season is just around the corner. The ballpark, the patchwork of Astros colors new and old, and the warm glow of the sun in the stands were just want I needed to get through the next two months before opening day.