Coverage of FanFest 2006, from a reporter's perspective, is scattered across the area newspapers. The Olympian, The News Tribune, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer all have stories. Heck, even MLB.com has a story on the Mariner's FanFest. So why even waste more pixel space? Truth is, bloggers see things differently than reporters do, and everyone has a story. Here's mine.
While waiting in line (my brother-in-law and I got there just before 7 a.m.), I tried to liveblog on my Palm-OS PDA-Phone. Unfortunately Blogger wouldn't let me log in, so I hijacked some bandwidth and diary space from Jeff, Devin and Trent over at LookoutLanding. But when I tried to edit my initial post, my Palm-based browser wouldn't let me save things. Fortunately, Deanna had the liveblogging covered (edit: but she's since switched it over to a more comprehensive -- and comprehensible -- post)! In fact, since Deanna, Dave (my brother-in-law) and I basically hung out the whole time together -- I'll send you over to her place to read about our FanFest experience. You should also read Conor Glassey's blog on FanFest, too. I've been trying to get this down for days now, but in spite of the fresh air helping me tremendously (especially early in the morning waiting in line), I'm fighting a horrible cold.
One thing new this year, though, was the booths for fans to try on replica uniforms, sized to what actually fits the player. While the Sexson jersey looked a bit big on Deanna, King Felix's jersey was just right -- especially while showing the "Vote for Felix" t-shirt she was wearing. Around the corner, too, there were actual game-used bats - a few of Sexson's, one of Jolbert Cabrera's, and a few of Greg Dobbs (amongst others). Obviously the Dobbs bat had barely been used. The gentleman told me that the team store actually had some game-used bats and other stuff for sale. Cool!
I'm a big baseball nostalgia buff, and every year at FanFest, there seems to be something unusual to buy. Last year, it was the "Chicken Wings" commercial-used hat, signed by Rene Lachemann. This year, though, I got something that in the grand scheme of things is worth less the $35 I paid for it (were I to eBay It), but to me, is worth a heck of a lot more. I bought this:
A game-used baseball from the 5/16/05 game against the Yankees. Exactly when it was used in that game, I'll never know, but since I bought it from the M's team store, and it's MLB authenticated, I'd almost bet my house it was used some time during that game. I'm not sure if batting practice counts, though, so that's still a possibility.
So what's the big deal about that baseball? Well, you see, a quick look at the Mariners Morsels archive should instantly jog your memory. On 5/16/2005, George Sherrill made his 2005 M's debut. He replaced Shiggy in the 7th with the bases loaded and one out, having come in to face the hottest left-handed hitter in baseball (at that time in the season). With a grounder to third, Beltre threw the ball home, Olivo stepped on the plate for the force, threw the ball to first to Richie Sexson, who proceeded to drop the throw, keeping the bases loaded. Out goes George, in comes JJ Putz. Bernie Williams, another lefty, hit Putz' first pitch over the center field fence, for a 5-2 Yankees' lead. While both teams scored another run a piece (the M's in the bottom half of the 7th), the M's proceeded to lose the game. And George Sherrill proceeded to lose his 25-man roster spot. While it wasn't likely due to his performance, it was disappointing and frustrating nevertheless.
While I did have to look at the box score a little to fill in a few details, I remember almost everything about that point of the game like it happened 5 minutes ago. Sure it's just one needle in last year's massive loss column haystack. It's also the day that this blog became the central hub of the "Free George Sherrill" campaign. Now, I had the chance to also buy a game-issued jersey -- issued to George at some point in his MLB career-- but I think my wife would've killed me had I shelled out the $250 (so, as Deanna mentioned, I just got a picture of me with it). That baseball, however, will certainly be a sufficient token. One of these days, I hope, I'll get George to autograph it.
A few other things to note:
When we all took the locker room tour, I happened to notice that the two best pitchers on the M's staff (one starter and one reliever) actually are locker neighbors. Well, I suppose it's entirely possible that they just threw some name plates up there for effect, and since only Jamie Moyer's locker had anything in it, that may not resemble reality. I still thought it was cool (even if I couldn't get a great picture of it).
Yes, I talked to Howard again. When I got the microphone, I reminded him that I came up here last year and thanked him for giving Bavasi the cash to land Beltre and Sexson (ch -- as if he even remembered...). This time, however, I was there to ask him for more money. During Bavasi's Q&A earlier, I'd asked him about Jeff Weaver. As I suspected, the issue was moreso due to money than anything else. In my off-mike conversation with Bavasi (thanks Deanna!) after the session was finished, I asked if an extra $10 million would help (thereby increasing the budget to north of $100 million). He said "Of course!" but that he also thought it was wise to keep the business side of things under control. Howard pretty much gave me the same answer -- they'd already spent a ton of money, and in spite of the Seahawks' success and how winning has brought them to the fiscal forefront, he thinks the M's chances are pretty good as-is. They certainly don't want to see another 90+ loss season -- and he basically put it back on the players, saying that they all underperformed and were disappointed in their performances. Well, Howard, the cash to sign Weaver (and bumping Meche out of the rotation, if not off the team) would seriously help solidify the chances of the M's seeing 90 wins again!
Even though they have basically the same things every year, I really enjoy FanFest. It was good to hang out with Deanna, and (as Deanna picked up on) totally hilarious seeing everyone recognize my brother-in-law. Indeed, Dave's quite the M's groupie. He was even on TV on Sunday during the Seahawks' send-off. And, he was even cool enough to wait in line at FanFest again to get me Felix's autograph.
I'm posting more photos over at my "Paul's Sports Photography" blog. Enjoy!