I just got back from a long day at FanFest and I think the attendance record from the 2009 event now takes a back seat to this year’s event. My kids (above) enjoyed the event although my son still does not care for loud noise, that he is not creating that is. The place was packed! I had to wait fifteen minutes just to get in the door when I got there at 10am today and any time I stood still to talk to people, we were quickly in the way of a new traffic pattern as fans navigated their way around the field. Here is my long list of ramblings:
- For a true feel about how fans felt about the event, search the #RaysFanFest hashtag on Twitter. The official Twitter account of the Rays, @RaysRepublic, was publishing tweets from fans on the scoreboard all day long that utilized that hashtag. This was an idea that I had pitched to the Rays when I met with the Marketing department back at the Winter Meetings in December so I was thrilled to see it implemented and kudos to the intern that shall remain anonymous whose job it was today to run that account and get those tweets onto the scoreboard. At one point, #RaysFanFest showed up high on the trending list on Twitter today which is great news and I am guessing this is not the only time we see Twitter incorporated at Tropicana Field this season.
- It was great to meet a lot of the people I associate with on Twitter. So, good to see @josh_frank, @m_weber, @raysrenegade, @jordiscrubbings, @mrnegative1, @stevecarney, @sunsportsfoxfl, and of course, the legend that is @sternfan10. Let’s consider this the first unofficial Tweet Up of the 2011 season and let’s plan on doing it again.
- The new field surface looks great. It should show up very well on television and it feels like you are standing on your front lawn. Of course, I am not the guy who has to dive on it and make plays, but it looks great.
- There is a new barbecue joint under the right field bleachers (Po’Boys?) that will be on the menu this season. They were giving out free samples today and it was very good. The place next to it has $5 half-cuban sandwiches which gets my early vote for best bargain concession buy. It was a sizeable half-portion and very good.
- The player panel sessions today were worth the time to enjoy. Jeff Niemann, Andy Sonnanstine, David Price, Dirk Hayhurst, Casey Kotchman, and Desmond Jennings all took part in them and they were both informative and entertaining. Hayhurst may never be able to duplicate Bert Blyleven on the mound, but there is definitely potential to match his skills on a microphone as he is absolutely hilarious. Props to David Price for calling a young girl up on stage to give her an autograph after she said on the crowd mic that she missed out earlier despite waiting in line for three hours to get his autograph.
- JB Long says the Rays drew 25,000 fans today and raised $100,000 for charity which is phenomenal. I was told that 6000 fans were on site in the first 30 minutes this morning.
- Seeing all of the old memorabilia for sale today was entertaining. My favorite one was the old Juan Guzman jersey while seeing the old 2006 Russell Branyan jersey made me sad he signed with Arizona this week.
- Letting the kids run the bases as many times as they wished was a great idea and seeing Kyle Farnsworth and Chris Archer hi-fiving the kids at home plate was neat. The kids seemed less threatened by Farnsworth than his own teammates; Hayhurst said he threw a towel at the laundry basket today and nearly hit Farnsworth and thought the end was ni.
In all, after witnessing the fans and action today, you would have a hard time convincing me that people are not excited about this upcoming season. The fans were more jazzed than what I witnessed last season and my kids were not the only ones I saw with smiling faces as people walked around the field and the concourse today. Overall, a job well done by the Marketing department and the rest of the Rays organization who helped make today an enjoyable event.