I got up at 4 am on a Saturday morning. Those of you that know me understand the significance of this act. I am NOT a morning person, and I live for the weekend so I can sleep in. But this was no usual Saturday morning. This Saturday morning brought with it the long awaited end to the baseball drought – the 2014 KNBR Giants FanFest!! I had been looking forward to this day for months.
I picked up Ginny on the way to AT&T Park, stopped at Starbucks for some caffeine, and off we went. Just the drive there got us both excited – hadn’t made that trek in over four months. We arrived at the park at about 6:30 am. One of the sweet parts of this day was that the parking was free. We headed over the bridge to wait in line until 10 am when the gates would open.
Both Ginny and I agree that the wait is one of the highlights of the day. It was glorious to be surrounded by die-hard Giants fans once again, and of course, we made friends with several of the people around us. We shared stories and laughs, and one group even shared food with us. I got some tips on my Spring Training trip and a great website to check out games going on at Chase Field during the gap we have between games. The best group we met consisted of Ben, Jen, Jen, and Ben (I’m not kidding). These kids were fun, interesting, huge Giants fans, and just as excited about FanFest as the two of us were. If you guys are reading this (I gave them my blog address), it was a pleasure to meet you and get excited with you, and I hope to see you all at a game at some point. And Jen – you really are a fabulous chef – that cookie was AMAZING!! Being surrounded by lots of people to talk to, the wait really went by quickly.
At a little after 10 am, they blew a whistle, and the gates flew open. People started cramming into the park. Considering the amount of people waiting to get in, things went pretty smoothly. Ginny and I, being the veteran FanFest goers that we are, had a plan – run to the View Level (most people run to the field, but the lines up top are much shorter – but don’t let the secret out!!), get one set of autographs, walk around to the other autograph booths and take pictures, get something to eat, hang out at the Q&A Stage on the Club Level to see the player interviews, and then try to get a tour of the Clubhouse. We ran up to the View Level and got into one of the lines. At this point, I have to tell you that I decided to wear my Vogelsong T-shirt to FanFest, even though it was really a day for the entire team. I decided that he is truly my favorite, so I was going to honor him. So was it coincidence that he was in the autograph booth where I lined up???? You never know who will be up there until you hear from other people. Luckily, I had brought my picture of me with Bill Laskey and Ryan (I was able to get it signed by Bill Laskey at last year’s FanFest). I was just hoping that Ryan would still be in the booth once I got up there (they rotate the guys around about every hour or so). Got to the front of the line in about 40 minutes. HEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! In the booth with Ryan were Nick Noonan and hitting coach Joe Lefebvre. I got Nick’s autograph and congratulated him on his recent wedding. Then I gave him an orange and black rubber band bracelet I had made. He said thank you, and I moved on. He is a cutie. I got Joe Lefebvre’s autograph next. He was wearing his World Series ring. I told him that was some pretty nifty jewelry he had there, and he laughed and said thanks. Then came Ryan. I handed him the picture to sign and asked if he remembered the occasion. He said, “I sure do.” Thanks for lying, Ryan. You’re such a good boy. After he signed the picture, I gave him a bracelet as well. He said, “Another one!” Guess my idea wasn’t unique. But he proceeded to put it on, which I appreciated. I was so excited to actually get his autograph on that picture and talk to him again. But it all happened so quickly. And I didn’t even show him that I was wearing his shirt! Ginny got some great pics of me with him. What would I do without her??
Next we walked to another autograph booth. Brandon Belt, Heath Hembree, and former Giant Mike Felder were signing there. We got some great pictures of the three of them. That’s the nice thing about the view level booths – you can get really close to the players. Little did we know we would soon get even closer. A few minutes after we got there, it was time to swap out players. Brandon Belt walked right by us – like within 2 feet! Bill Laskey and Joe Lefebvre came in to replace them, and we wondered who would fill the third seat. Then here came Gregor Blanco, and he walked right by us as well. He even said “hi” to Ginny!! After getting pictures of Gregor, we went back to where I had gotten Ryan’s autograph. We got pics of Dave Dravecky, Michael Morse, and Jack Dunning. Then we moved on the the last autograph booth on the View Level. Nick Noonan and Jeff Leonard were signing there, but unfortunately we couldn’t get close enough to take pics.
We then headed down to the Club Level to get something to eat. On the way we passed the two Q&A stages on this level. The first one had Orlando Cepeda, first base coach Roberto Kelly, and Tito Fuentes on stage being interviewed. We got some shots of them as we could get pretty close to them. Then at the next stage we saw Bruce Bochy, Brandon Belt, and Javier Lopez. We were pretty far away from them, but we still had a pretty good view. Walking further down the hall I noticed someone familiar behind one of the glass doors leading out to the seats – Larry Baer! He was just walking around talking to folks. As he walked by I followed him, and he happened to stop and I asked him for his autograph. He graciously gave it to me and I told him he was such a great guy. He said, “Aw, thank you!” and went on his way. So cool and unexpected.
We then ordered lunch (I got a polish sausage and garlic fries – oh, how I had missed that combination!), and we went outside to eat and take a break. We watched the KNBR interviews that were taking place down on the field. Soon after we sat down, someone tapped my shoulder. It was Leslie, my friend whom I met at FanFest 2 years ago! She came with her kids and we texted each other to try and meet, and she found me. We hung out with them for a while, and I gave all of them orange and black bracelets. I had met her daughter, Morgan, at FanFest as well, but I also met her son and her youngest daughter for the first time today. I felt like I already knew them because of Facebook, but it was nice to see them in person. And her youngest is adorable!
After we visited for a while, we headed back over to the main Q&A stage. Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, and Matt Cain were there. I always love hearing the exchange between the guys at these things. They are all so funny and they mess with each other. We weren’t very close, but as that session ended, some people left and we were able to move in closer. The next session contained both Ginny and my favorites – Brandon Crawford and Ryan Vogelsong, along with new-kid-on-the-block, Michael Morse. I was so glad that Ginny got to see Brandon because last year he didn’t show up at his scheduled session. Again, the banter between the three of them was great. We noticed that Brandon and Michael seemed to be developing a friendship as they would talk amongst themselves when Kate Scott was asking Ryan questions. I also noticed that Ryan was still wearing the bracelet that I had given him, and this made me so happy.
At this point I have an announcement to make – Michael Morse is officially one of my favorites! I absolutely love the guy! He was candid and told funny stories about how bad his high school football team was (for which he was the quarterback), he’s a cutie pie, and he’s humble. I am so happy he is on the team, and I think he will fit right in with that clubhouse. At one point during the interview, he looked over at us and I waved and caught his attention. Then I made a heart with my hands and he smiled. AWWWW!!! Just wanted the guy to feel welcome here. He really seemed to love all the fans and kept saying how happy he was to be a Giant and it was the best team he had ever been on. At one point, Kate got the crowd to sing his walk up song, Take On Me by A-ha, and he sang along. I can just hear everyone singing it at the games this season. We got some good pics of the three guys along with my girl, Kate, and then they were on their way.
We weren’t planning on staying for the next set of guys, but it was Buster, Sergio, and Jeremy Affeldt, so we decided what the heck and stayed. Plus, we were able to move up even closer as more people left. Jeremy finally got to answer back to all the heckling he had gotten – everyone picks on that guy! Buster looks so buff – he gained a lot of muscle weight in the off season. He also buzzed his hair and I hope he grows it back soon – not liking that look on him.
We stayed for about half the session, then left and went down to the Field Level to sit after standing for so long (and to recover from the garlic fries that weren’t agreeing with either of us). Michael Morse was being interviewed by Tom Tolbert on the KNBR stage, and it was like they were just having a personal conversation. It was so great! Morse really is personable, and you could tell Tolbert was loving it. We decided to try and see if they were still doing Clubhouse tours, and we were able to go down under the Field Level into the bowels of AT&T Park. I had never been in this part of the park, so I was just excited about that. Unfortunately, the tours had ended about 10 minutes prior, so we missed out. And Ginny discovered that she had been “birded” while we had been watching Morse, so she went off to the restroom to clean up.
That’s when the insanity began. I happened to look down the hall and saw a tall guy in an orange jersey – Hunter Pence! He was signing autographs down the hall from me! I walked over to him and he looked so exhausted, so I didn’t try to hassle him for one. But he walked within two feet of me. I got a couple of good pics of him. As I turned around to watch him walk down the hall, a female police officer told me to please move out of her way. I apologized and did, then realized too late that she was escorting Ryan Vogelsong! He had already taken his orange jersey off, so no one knew he was a player. I yelled out, “You sneaky Ryan” and I saw him turn and laugh. I turned back around to find Ginny, and then I saw more players coming down the hall. First Jeremy Affeldt (who gave me a fist bump as he walked by), then Buster (who smiled at me – what gorgeous eyes that boy has), then Michael Morse walked by. As Michael walked down the hall to leave the park, I yelled, “Michael, you’re awesome! I’m so glad you joined the team!” and he turned around and smiled and waved at me! Love that guy! All those guys had walked right by me. Then Ginny came by and I told her about what just happened, but it continued. Here came Gregor Blanco again! And he said hi to Ginny again! I think he has a thing for her! And she may add him to her list of favorites now. What an exciting way to end the day!
As FanFest was just about over at that point, and there were no more players to be seen, we headed out to the car. On the way, we noticed the spot where the players had come out of the park (near the gate by the dugout store on 3rd Street). So we had more player sightings! We saw Hunter and Gregor again, as well as George Kontos, and then we saw Matt Cain driving off. So much fun!
The day would not have been half as fun without my buddy and Giants partner in crime, Ginny, at my side. She took some great pictures for me and really let me do whatever I wanted to the entire day. And I love that we both share the same enthusiasm for baseball and our boys. Thanks so much, my friend. Looking forward to that first game we can attend together and to our texting when we watch the games at home!
Great day all around. And it’s always great to get back into that park after the off season. I have a few more tidbits for you, but I think I’ll save them for another day so that I can savor the FanFest experience. Until next time, GO GIANTS!!!! Only 13 days ‘til the start of Spring Training!