So, after only sleeping 4 hours, I came down to Safeco Field super-early to get in line to get in to Fan Fest. The line was already a block long and winding around indoors by the time I got there. PositivePaul and his brother-in-law Dave were both at the very front of the line because they got there super-duper-early, and Conor Glassey and his dad weren't showing up until almost 10, so I waited by myself.
The way the autograph vouchers worked, first you got your Fan Fest ticket scanned at the home plate gate, and then you went through one of four lines and got a voucher for an autograph session. It was specifically for one player at a particular time, so if you wanted several different players, your best bet was to bring your whole family and all get different vouchers and wait in different lines, which I think would be dead boring. The Felix and Johjima vouchers went pretty quickly, from what I understand; by the time Conor got there, they were gone. Fortunately for me, and the Japanese couple standing behind me in line, we were in time to get vouchers for Johjima.
I went down to section 123 first thing, which was where the Dugout Dialogue (the Q&A sessions) was being held. I immediately found Paul and his brother-in-law, and a little while later also found Conor and his dad. We stuck around for the first two sessions, which were one with Reed, Dobbs, and Felix, and one with Bill Bavasi.
Reed and Dobbs both enjoy playing in Anaheim,
because they're from South California.
Sadly, I didn't really take down notes or liveblog during their interview, so all I really remember is that it was amusing. Someone asked Felix the fastest he's ever thrown, and he said "99?" Jeremy Reed said he thought it was really important to get away from baseball in the offseason and just enjoy life; he likes to play golf and stuff. All the guys said they liked playing in Anaheim best, the first two because they're from the area and so all their friends and family get to come there and see them play.
They had a girl there to be a Spanish interpreter for Felix, although he was able to hear and answer most of the questions in English just fine, it seemed. A lot of people had questions for Felix, of course, and afterwards he was mobbed for autographs; he didn't stick around to sign many, though Jeremy Reed did. A shame, really, since I even had taken off my "Vote for Felix" shirt to see if I could get him to sign it. (I was wearing about five layers of clothes. It was COLD out!)
I guess it'll be a goal for me to get him to sign it sometime during the year, maybe.
He's a kinda cute kid, isn't he.
After that, Bill Bavasi came out. I'd seen pictures of him before, but this was my first time seeing him in person. Standing tall and lanky and wearing a long black coat, my immediate impression was that he looks like Christopher Lee (the actor most recently best known for playing Saruman in the Lord of the Rings movies). Very frightening. Anyway, Bill was pretty candid answering questions, and people asked him some pretty good questions, including ones like "So, why didn't you go after Jeff Weaver?" and he said something about Boras client prices and how Jeff's just "not the goofball he used to be" or something. They asked him about all the offseason acquisitions, and he said how he knew they needed pitching, a lefty hitter, a catcher, etc, and it was just luck that Johjima happened to get signed first that way, addressing the catching need. He said that he'd known Washburn since his college days, and was aware of his general personality and ability, and his great stats in Safeco, and thought he'd be good here, and said he had a great approach to pitching. As for Carl Everett, I remember that he was asked about him, but I forget what he had to say about him besides "I think he fits our need, and I don't think he'll be a problem." Someone asked Bavasi about sabremetrics, and he was basically like "Well, we care about stats, sure, and we try to use statistical analysis but... it's often too tough to use minor league stats effectively."
At first, one of the microphone girls came around like "Does anyone have questions? Pleeeeeease?" but by the time I finally came up with a question to ask -- about Meche's contract, and whether that meant they intended him to only be used as a starter or nothing -- there wasn't any time left. Doh!
After Bavasi's talk, he signed tickets for us, which was pretty cool. Did you know he's left-handed?
Bavasi continues talking to PositivePaul.
After that, they were having Norm Norm Charlton and Mike Blowers talk, and we'd been sitting there for an hour, so we decided to go elsewhere, and ended up down in the bullpen after stopping to take pictures of some stuff. I should stop for a second and mention all of the various attractions that Fan Fest had to offer:
- Home Run Challenge - they had tee balls in center field and you could try to hit them over the centerfield wall.
- Steal Home Challenge - this was a "see how fast you can run 90 feet" thing, though rather than being on the actual infield, it was run out in right field on the warning track.
- Speed Pitch - huh, come to think of it, I didn't even see this one.
- Run Around the Bases - actually, you ran from first base to second to third and that was it. We saw some people being silly and sliding and stuff.
- Pop Fly Challenge - just what it sounds like. Catch a ball on the Safeco field grass.
- Pitch in the bullpen - this is the only one we actually did. I'll get to it in a second.
- Major League Batting Cage - you could go take a few swings in the Safeco batting cage in the visitor's clubhouse.
- Silent Auction - they had random memorabilia for sale, mostly bats and autographed baseballs.
- Virtual TV Broadcast, Komo News Fantasy Play-by-Play - I'm not sure I saw these either, but you could supposedly make your own pretend baseball broadcasts.
- "Inside the Game" - one stop you could talk to the head groundskeeper and learn about stuff like Turface, one stop you could see bats balls gloves bases scorecards etc from real games. And another, they had some players' uniforms that you could try on, which was pretty funny. I put on a Felix jersey, and Paul noted that Richie Sexson's pants were almost taller than either one of us.
- Mariners Photo Zone, where they had some cardboard thingies to take your picture with. There was one that was a picture of Felix, Morse, and Betancourt, only they cut out Morse's face so you could stand behind it. (Conor, Paul and I all tried it, but all the pictures I took sucked due to flash.) They also had a table with a Hargrove cutout and the Mariners border, but again, the flash made my versions of these pictures look terrible. Paul got a decent one of me, though.
- Roof Control Room Tours -- dammit, why did I totally forget about this? That would be cool to see.
- Clubhouse Tours - you got to see the Mariners locker room and the weight room, pretty much.
- Last Fan Standing Game Show - I'll talk about this more later.
- Mariners Theater - they had chairs set up in the Diamond Club lounge, and a big TV with Mariners videos.
- Northwest Baseball History - this was pretty cool too.
Also, the SABR guys had a booth set up and had some info about the upcoming 2006 Seattle SABR convention. Other booths included the Moyer Foundation, and the Aquasox and Rainiers, and some of the radio stations.
Anyway, we went down to the bullpen and waited in line for a little while, and then we got to throw pitches in the bullpen. They actually had someone being a catcher there all day, and we got to throw in the home bullpen, too. Each person got two pitches. I went first and couldn't actually throw the ball all the way to the catcher; I think I got it about 3/4 of the way there. Damn volleyball wrists. Paul went second and actually got in two good throws, as did Conor, and I didn't actually see Conor's dad throw because my camera battery died on me and I was taking care of it. Oops.
Conor Glassey, newest pitching prospect for the Mariners
We were exiting and walking back to where Paul's brother-in-law was hanging out, and I was just like "Dammit! I throw like a GIRL!" and Paul just looked at me like "And your point is?"
Paul and Dave and I went to get food after that (they had most of the Safeco generic concessions open, so you could get hot dogs and pizza and pretzels and all) and then we went to get in line for Johjima autographs, since it was 11:30am by then. Conor and his dad went off somewhere else. Oddly, the line for autographs actually started out by sitting in the stands at the back of the sections that they were using for the Diamond Dialogue, so we got to see most of Moyer and Johjima's Q&A, but from a distance, so I didn't really get any good pictures of it. Before the Q&A started, you could tell when Johjima had come out of the dugout because there was suddenly a huge swarm of the Japanese media people on the field surrounding him. He and Jamie had a huge crowd, probably the biggest I'd seen, and when they introduced Moyer, talking about having re-signed him for the year, there was a huge cheer from the crowd. The Q&A was really funny in general, though. Some of the quotes (not direct, but close):
Q: "Jamie, you guys had seven catchers last year. How do you feel about the fact that this year you have yet another?"
A: "Oh, well, um... I can't even name all seven of the guys we had behind the plate last year!"
Q: "This is for Kenji... umm, do you pronounce your name JOE-jima or joe-JEE-ma?"
A: "It is like JOE-jima..." (someone, Moyer I think, asked if they could just shorten it to Joe) "Yes! Call me Joe!"
A tall blonde-haired girl got up and asked in Japanese, "マリナーズで一番好きなピッチャーは、だれですか？" (Who is your favorite Mariners pitcher?)
Johjima smiled, looked to his left at Moyer, looked back at the audience, and said, "Of course it is Jamie Moyer!" to which he got a lot of laughs and applause.
Q: "Jamie, so far you've had to work with some Spanish-speaking catchers like Olivo and Rivera. Of course having Kenji here will be very different, do you plan to try to learn any Japanese?"
A: "I don't think so. I'm having enough trouble with English!"
After the Q&A, we were ushered up to the terrace club to wait in the line for Johjima's autograph. It took about 45 minutes, during which I chatted with Paul, his brother-in-law, and some people in line, including a guy who was standing behind us who said he wasn't much of a baseball guy, but he was from DC and all of his friends were so excited about baseball there that he'd started to pay attention to it again; being from VA, he was more of a NASCAR guy. He saw my book with the Japanese baseball cards and that I had the issue of ベースボール with Johjima on the cover with me, and was just like "Wow, you must be crazy, I've never seen anyone who cares so much about Japanese baseball!"
Oh, also, Mike Hargrove was walking around and shaking hands and signing stuff, so that was pretty cool! I actually had brought my 1985 Hargrove card along just in case, so I got him to sign it :)
Mike Hargrove, signing stuff.
Actually, Hargrove looked really good, though I didn't realize until msb and Paul pointed it out to me later that he's lost a ton of weight since last year.
After quite a while, we finally finally finally got to Johjima! The autograph area was actually in the Hit it Here Cafe, which I'd never been in before, so that itself was pretty exciting to me -- we saw all these pictures of home run hitters up on the wall as we entered, Hank Aaron, Eddie Murray, I forget who, and I'm like "Sadaharu Oh? Mike Schmidt?" No Oh, but Schmitty was around the corner. The cafe looks pretty cool though -- it's the one part of Safeco I still have yet to sit during a game, so that's a goal for this year, I think.
Oh, right, Johjima! He was at a table with his interpreter and with a lady who was taking items and handing them to him to sign. Dave and Paul were getting bats signed - most people there had Johjima t-shirts or jerseys fresh from the team store to sign, or baseball bats or baseballs. I think I may have been one of the few people, at least non-Japanese, who actually had a baseball card of him. When I got to the table he asked first "Black or Blue?" about sharpie markers to sign with, then he noticed it was a card, and said (in English) "Oh! In Japanese, yes?" and I nodded. He signed it and gave it back to me and smiled.
I had planned to say "城島さんは,英語が上手ですね!" (Johjima-san, your English is very good!) but the flow of things just didn't seem to make it work. It's probably just as well.
A funny thing happened next. I went away from the table and was waving the card around to make sure the signature had dried before I put it in my book again, and two Japanese guys with big big cameras and "media" nametags were standing there talking, and one pointed at me with the card, so I went over to him and he said "Can I see it?" and I showed him the card, and the two guys started talking between them in Japanese (saying something like "huh, interesting, I wonder where she got it") so I just blurted out something like "三年前日本で買いました" (I bought it in Japan three years ago), to which the guy replied "そうね。写真を撮ってもいい？" (I see. Can I take a picture?) and I nodded, so he took a picture of it, or maybe it was of me holding it, I'm not sure. Still sort of funny!
Johjima asks whether to sign in Japanese or English.
Unfortunately, Conor called me right after we got out of the Johjima autograph to say that he and his dad were leaving. Aww! But immediately after that I saw a semi-familiar face as the USSM Super-Commenter herself, msb, was walking towards us. So, that was pretty cool -- and at last I finally have it confirmed in my memory that msb really WAS the person who said "Cool shirt! I have one too!" to me about my Jason Kendall shirt at the USSM pizza feed in December 2004. She hung around and talked to us for a bit, but was also leaving after that.
We walked back to 123 after that. Rick Rizzs and Dave Valle were talking at that point. Valle was pretty cool - someone asked him who his favorite player was growing up, and he said Roy White was his role model. That's very cool - I'm a little bit too young to remember Roy White, obviously, but I read about him playing in Japan, where he was apparently the "perfect gaijin", the sort they wish everyone coming over there was, just a great personality and work ethic. To be fair, that blew me away so much that I don't remember much of the rest of Dave Valle's Q&A :)
After that, Howard Lincoln, the Mariners CEO, came out for a Q&A. Again people asked about Everett, and people asked questions about how the Mariners intend to get to the World Series now that the Seahawks are getting to the Super Bowl and all, and most of Lincoln's answers seemed kind of canned. He did seem like a nice guy, though.
Rick Rizzs and Howard Lincoln
I wanted to get him to sign my ticket too - thought having Lincoln and Bavasi would be pretty cool, but he ran out of time after signing one or two things for other people (by the way, he is also left-handed), so I got Rick Rizzs to sign instead. I also asked Rizzs about his glorious singing career, and he actually admitted that the holiday thingy this year was mostly a joke and just done in pure fun, but he wants to do a serious holiday CD next year, with like 5 or 6 songs about baseball and Christmas. Hee!
Rizzs actually came up to Paul's brother-in-law and said "Hey, man, how're you doing?" and shook his hand and all. Dave actually had a 8x10 picture printed of him with Rizzs from one of the Mariners Caravan stops -- and he gave it to Rizzs. Rick's like "Should I sign it?" and Dave's like "No, man, this is for you, buddy!" and he was like "Oh, cool! Thanks! Awesome picture!"
I want to take this moment to mention something, actually - Paul's brother in law knows, like, EVERYONE at Safeco, it seemed. I mean, he recognized Conor from the Seattle Team Stores, and he knew a bunch of the stadium staff, and some of the people at the various booths, and no matter where we went around the stadium people kept saying hi to him. It was sort of funny. Dave also had about ninety billion stories about going places to get stuff autographed -- and when we were admiring autographed stuff in the Team Store later on, he was coveting the Ryne Sandberg autographed picture (to which I scoffed, "Worst trade the Phillies ever made!"), and I was saying how cool the Johnny Bench picture was, and Dave immediately chimes, "Johnny Bench is signing out in Mill Creek later this week." It was sort of scary! :)
After Lincoln was the Q&A session with J-Rod and J-J, which was actually really entertaining, and no, not just because Jarrod Washburn has the bluest eyes in baseball (but, you can't deny it, he does). Jarrod seemed a little dazed at first, but he eventually warmed up to the crowd a lot, and he has a great sense of humor, seriously.
Q: "Who was your favorite player growing up?"
Putz: "I grew up in Detroit, so it'd be Lance Parrish."
Washburn: "Don Mattingly, he's a great guy."
Q: "JJ, I've heard they might be running a 6-man or a 7-man bullpen this year, which one do you like better?"
Putz: "I don't care, as long as I'm in it!"
Q: "Who's the toughest batter you've faced?"
Washburn (total deadpan): "Okay, guys, I gotta be straight with you... the most deadly batter, that gives me the most trouble ever, is WILLIE BLOOMQUIST."
Q: "What was your first major league game like?"
Washburn: "It was in Kansas City, and it was pretty crazy, there were like three bench-clearing brawls." (First batter he faced? Johnny Damon.)
Q: "How do you stay in shape in the offseason?"
Washburn: "Snowball fights! Fly fishing!"
Putz: "Um, weightlifting..."
Washburn: "Actually, I'm totally kidding. I work out and I also swim. Lots of swimming."
Washburn also was asked where he's from, and he said how he still lives in Webster, Wisconsin, which has about 600 people total; his high school class had 28 people in it. Craziness.
R-Rizzs, J-J, and J-Rod
One lady in the audience asked Putz about how his three-month-old twin daughters are doing, and on their way out, another lady actually handed Putz what looked like a bag of baby clothes -- wacky.
Oh, they also asked them what teams they like pitching against -- and Jarrod said that his new favorite team to pitch against is going to be the Angels. When someone asked him why he'd decided to come play for Seattle, he said how he had wanted to be an Angel for his whole career, and had even told them that, but when they didn't try to keep him there this offseason, like any job, he went where he got a new job offer. He also mentioned he liked Safeco Field, thought the fans in Seattle were great, and that he had a lot of respect for a lot of the guys playing on the team (yes, he said he thought it'd be great being here to watch Felix too).
They also asked J.J. what it was like being in the bullpen with Eddie Guardado, and he said something to the effect of "Oh, he's a crazy man. You gotta watch out for him or he'll do all these pranks to you, set your shoes on fire, that kind of stuff."
Anyway, after that, we went down to tour the Diamond Club level. We toured the clubhouse, which means we saw the locker room and the weight room. The locker room was sort of funny, they had names up on various lockers -- I don't know if those are the real locations, but for example, they had Sherrill next to Felix. In one corner was Morse, Thornton, and Putz. There were big plush couches and big TVs, and a station with some computers, and then the weight room was pretty standard, and that's about all we saw.
The Diamond Club area was very nice, with lots of comfy chairs, a bar, etc. Right now they had the Northwest Baseball History stuff set up there, though, which was pretty cool and featured stuff all the way back to the 1800's.
We checked out the Last Fan Standing contest, which was a game show like thing, you'd get a ticket when you entered the room, and if your number was called, you'd get up on stage. They'd have 5 people per preliminary round, and they'd pick a category (like "Mariners who have hit more than 20 home runs in a season"), and each person had to name someone or something in that category. If they couldn't name anything, they sat down -- and whoever was standing in the end from naming correct answers was the last fan standing. They'd then take winners from three rounds and have them go up against each other. The prize for the prelim rounds looked like a Mariners hat and stuff, the prize for the overall was apparently four box seats to a game. Dang!
The sad part was, the categories we saw while we hung out there, I could have totally aced everyone on. Top 30 MLB RBI hitters, Top 25 MLB Base Stealers, Top 20 MLB At-Bats. It was practically KILLING me how in the second one, they got Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock immediately, and NOBODY even thought of saying Ty Cobb! I even named the next few guys (even Billy Hamilton, who everyone always forgets). Sigh. So then they had a tie-breaker because everyone ended up sitting down, with "How many wins does Jamie Moyer have as a Mariner?" and had people write down an answer, closest to correct without going over would win. I immediately say to Paul, "136." The actual answer was 139. The answers people gave were things like "365", "200", "160", etc... one guy said "75", and he won the round for not going over. Sigh. Sadly, it was already past 3pm by then, so we decided not to hang out for the last few rounds.
So, note to self: next year, enter trivia contest, so I can actually get something for being an obnoxious loudmouthed know-it-all. Much better prizes than I get at pub quiz, that's for sure!
After that, we trekked down to the Mariners Team Store, where Paul had to go get something for his son, and I decided to get a Johjima shirt after all. (A t-shirt, which was $20. The jerseys were $210, and people bought a ton anyway.) They also had all these game-worn jerseys, which were REALLY expensive, but there were several cool ones in the mix - a bunch of Snellings, a Borders 37, a Price 34, even a Morse 46, some Olivo and Torrealba, a Boone or two, a Jacobsen, a Madritsch, and of course, a Sherrill... but rather than spend 350 bucks on a jersey, Paul and I just decided to take pictures of them. So here's us as Free George Sherrill and the Pat Borders Fan Club. Whee!
And wow, that was a loooooooooong report to type up. I have more pictures, though a depressingly large amount of the pictures I took came out crappy due to the lighting in Safeco with winter and the roof closed and all... I'll put a few more online, though, maybe for Future Friday Foto Fan Fest Fodder or something. We'll see.