Monday, January 31, 2011

Mariners Fanfest 2011

I've been back in the US for almost two weeks now, and I'm still somewhat shell-shocked. Every morning I still wake up and want to hop on a train somewhere and see interesting things and eat delicious things and listen to people speaking in Japanese, but the reality is that here in the Seattle suburbs, the best I can do is to walk a mile to Safeway. Bleh.

Anyway, Mike (the boyfriend) and Jason (a friend who was crazy enough to go with me to Fanfest 2007) and I headed down to Safeco Field yesterday to take in the sights. The only thing is, Fanfest doesn't really change all that much from year to year, so most of the stuff there, we'd already done before. But it was Mike's first time so we did some of it again for his sake.

When I originally looked at the schedule, I thought it'd be cool to get into Dan Wilson's autograph session and have him sign my glove since I already had Jamie Moyer sign it several years ago, but when we arrived around noon, they still had 1:30 session vouchers, but Dan The Man's session was gone. With a choice of "Miguel Olivo and Brandon League / Michael Pineda and Kyle Seager / Jason Vargas" as the possible ones we could get, we ended up opting for... nobody. Maybe in retrospect I should have pushed for going to Jason Vargas's autograph session, but eh. Dan Wilson's Dugout Dialogue was at 1pm, and at 1:30 they had Jay Buhner and Bret Boone, and at 2pm they had Felix, so we figured we'd probably want to go listen to some of those instead, which is exactly what we did.

So first we listened to Rick Rizzs with Dan Wilson, and then Rick with Jay Buhner and Bret Boone. Those were actually pretty entertaining. Dan Wilson is still the Nicest Guy Ever, and most of the "questions" for him were actually from 40-something-year-old women in the stands wanting to say "I love you and you were my favorite Mariners player and I'm going to share a memory I have of you" rather than actual questions, although some people asked some good stuff, like "What's your favorite team prank that ever happened?" and he started telling the story about Griffey putting a cow in Lou Piniella's office during spring training one year, and he had another story about a rookie regifting a team member's wedding present a year later, as part of "tell us about Kangaroo Court". Someone asked who his favorite guys to catch were and he started with Randy Johnson but said how later on he always loved catching Jamie Moyer because it was so interesting AND because his hand wouldn't hurt nearly as much afterwards ("Jamie couldn't get anyone out with his fastball, not even you, Rick.") I thought about asking about what it was like for Dan to return to college after retiring from baseball -- he mentioned at the beginning that he'd moved his family to Minnesota to finish out his degree at the University of Minnesota, but didn't talk much about it. Some people asked if Dan was interested in coaching the Mariners and he said that he was getting his coaching skills honed by coaching his kid's softball team, so a 12-year-old kid asked, "Uh, so I play softball... do you have any advice for me?"

Then there was Bone and Boone... neither of them appear to have changed at all since last we saw them, by which I mean Buhner was entertaining and Boone was actually looking so bored on the stage that he yawned a few times, so their session was dominated by Buhner, which was probably for the best. He recounted stories of the 1995 team of course, ("'Forget' the Wild Card, we're taking the AL West? Oh, that's the PG-13 version, Rick!") and some memories of the Kingdome in general, and someone brought up the time some chick in Boston jumped onto the field to give him a hug and he told stories about that... just various stuff, but it was pretty funny overall.

We actually skipped out after that, before the Felix Hernandez session... I wanted to take a few photos of Felix but we had other things to accomplish and I didn't want to be rude and leave DURING the session. We did listen to it since they broadcast the dialogues on the big board and over the PA system. Felix's English is really good now, I remember the first time I saw him at a Fanfest, he had an interpreter, so that's great too.

We got photos with the Moose, though they turned out pretty crappy. Then we went to play catch in the outfield; I'd even brought my glove for that, and they also have gloves you can borrow for it anyway. Turns out they only give you 3 minutes to play, though, which kind of sucks; I'm more used to getting 45 minutes or so on the outfield turf at the Seibu Dome or wherever. Still, that was something new and different to do, since I'd never played catch on a GRASS outfield in a real stadium before...

Then we ran the bases (or walked) and took photos in the dugout. After that I ended up talking in Japanese to some people filming a show for NHK; I overheard this lady on camera talking in Japanese about how "at the American fan fests, you can run on the field and do so many activities and there are sign-kais and talkshows and everything!" So I asked what show it was for, though it sounds like it's some sort of special program, not one of the regular MLB ones. That was surreal. At least I was wearing my 野球道 t-shirt so it lent some cred to my "I lived in Tokyo for several years, I'm a Fighters fan" story.

We wandered indoors after that because it was so cold out, and saw the clubhouse and locker room and the Dave Niehaus tribute and the history exhibit, and then got in an elevator and found out they'd let us go into the press box, so we went there, and... that was about it, everything started closing down a little before 4pm. I hadn't actually been in the press box before, so that was cool, and obviously the Niehaus exhibit was new, but other than that almost everything there was stuff we'd seen before.

I guess it was a fun day, but I'm still not all that psyched about watching MLB games again. We'll see what happens.

Rick Rizzs and Dan Wilson.

Dan Wilson.

The Bone and Boone panel.

Jay Buhner tells it like it is.

Bret Boone looks bored.

Lots of people had Thin Mints boxes wandering around... and apparently here was the cookie booth that was the source.

I found a Yunker ad! In English! Neat. (Ichiro's on most of their ads in Japan.)

Getting ready to play catch in the outfield.

Jason's chasing down a ball in the right field corner just like he's Ichiro.

There was this huge "MY OH MY" chalked in piles of sand in the infield dirt... here's one of the MYs. I'm standing on second base at the time but you can't tell.

In the dugout.

Outside the dugout.

Here's that chick from NHK doing the Japanese TV program.

If any of my readers have a clue who she is, let me know.

The Dave Niehaus Tribute in the Diamond Club.

More Niehaus.

I kid you not, when we went into the clubhouse, I asked if it was okay to take pictures of everything, and the guy at the door told me, "Yeah, go ahead. In fact, when you go through that door right there, you can take photos of Felix Hernandez's Cy Young Award-winning socks in the locker on the left."

The mailboxes for players in the locker room. That really full box on the lower left belongs to Milton Bradley. Wonder if it's because people are pissed off at him or what.

The clubhouse computers. There's a paper on the right explaining how they can get onto the clubhouse wireless as well, although when I tried to connect with my wifi-enabled cellphone, it didn't work :)

Weight room.

Part of the "History of Baseball in the Northwest" exhibit.

You could color in outlines of players and possibly get your coloring up on the big board during a game, apparently. I didn't take part in this.

But here's the rest of the press dining room. It is not that impressive.

Press room.

Someday, I would like to be sitting in this seat for real work, not just at a fan fest.

Nice view you get from there, too.

You know, I still haven't put up photos from Yakult's fanfest that I went to this fall, have I? Maybe I should go do a retro fanfest post or two.

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