The Rays hosted FanFest 2009 yesterday at Tropicana Field. Thousands of valentines celebrated their American League champions together on their home field. I, of course, was among the 30,000+ people there. (I would be surprised if it was any less than 40,000.) I couldn’t get too much done because the lines were too long at every station and every table in the stadium. Not so great for me, but just what the team wanted. Now to the highlights:
I arrived at around 7:10 for a 10:00 start. I pulled out a chair to use until the doors opened and some food from home. I had some good ways to pass the time.
I got a chance to meet and speak with Rays radio broadcasters Dave Wills and Andy Freed, who I first met at last year’s FanFest. I talked to them about calling World Series games and got their autographed pictures. Freed actually remembered who I was.
After a two hour, 15 minute wait, I finally met and received an autograph from 2008 #1 Draft pick Tim Beckham. He signed my “Future Stars” card and actually personalized it to me. I don’t know what that does to resale value, but it definitely makes the card a great personal display item. “Hey, before he was an All Star, he signed for me my very own baseball card!”
I also briefly spoke with Reid Brignac (whose spot Beckham is close to stealing). He signed my FanFest program and said he would like to contribute more to the Major League team this year. Well, almost anything is better than 010, so I think it’s very possible. He does need to build up his trade value.
I would have waited for more autographs, but I was stiff and exhausted after so much standing around in line. So it was off to the Brewhouse for some panel discussions.
The first panel consisted of the Rays radio team and Orioles color commentator/XM Radio host Buck Martinez. My question to them pertained to who could have a breakout year with the 2009 Rays. Dave Wills said B.J. Upton, while either Martinez or Andy Freed said Dioner Navarro and the other went with Matt Garza. Though I believe Martinez said Navarro, seeing how much he loves talking about catchers. He loves talking about anything he could be asked 10second questions and give 10minute answers. Among other things, he said the Orioles were around the “2007 stage” in comparison with the Rays, and that he was responsible for the retractable roof at Rogers Centre. This guy needs to write a book with all of his information; it would be the next Total Baseball.
The next panel featured Rays TV broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Todd Kalas, who mourned the loss of Joe Magrane to the MLB Network. (Staats: “When Magrane missed one or two weeks, we used to say he was going to a meeting with his parole officer.”) They were joined by Joe Maddon, who received an extended standing ovation upon his entrance. I asked the Manager of the Year if it was an advantage playing somewhere without the drama and overcoverage of such markets as New York. Maddon replied that after last year, with the team as good as it is, it can be an advantage. They also left some questions unanswered, such as right field and the final starting rotation spot. They talked for over an hour about everything people wanted to know, such as the best restaurants in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and kept the live crowd entertained all the time.
There were a few negatives about the event, such as the very long lines limiting what could be done (some fans waited the entire time for one autograph) and the overly preferential treatment of season ticket holders (I saw fans who had waited outside for hours get kicked to the back to make room for them), but overall it was a good experience to gather around with the Rays and thousands of their fans. I think next year they should extend the hours and make FanFest a twoday event, so more can be accomplished and it can go from being very good to amazing just like the team will do this year. Until next time, go Rays.
Good evening Rays fans. While the team is in Arlington playing the Rangers, I thought I would go ahead and discuss the Rays' first overall Draft pick for 2008, Griffin High School (Georgia) shortstop Tim Beckham. While the Draft is gravitating increasingly towards the collegiate ranks, I don't mind seeing great high school players being taken at the top of the board. As a matter of fact, I consider it an advantage. Get a guy in the system when he's 18 years old, and if he takes five years to come up to the big team, he's still only 23 when he does it. Just as long as you get the right personality (i.e. anybody other than Delmon Young), it works. Tim Beckham fits the bill perfectly.
I looked at his stats and scouting reports (good, detailed pages can be found through the links), and I must say he looks like a great pick right now. Beckham has very good speed and baserunning ability, stealing 16 bases in 24 games in his senior season with the Griffin Bears. He also stole 32 bases in traveling competition with the best players of his age in the country. He hit .409 during that time, as well as .500 in his senior high school year and .512 as a junior. Out of 39 hits this season, nine were doubles, three triples, and five home runs. He also had an amazing 22:5 walkstrikeout ratio, showcasing patience to go with his extrabase power and good speed. The same speed, combined with quick hands, also makes for solid defense at a crucial position. He has very good range in getting to the ball and throwing out runners. He has huge fivetool potential and still has years to combine tools with baseball instinct, which he is already doing. He does everything right on the field. Perhaps the best part about him, however, is that he shows no character issues and comes off as a nice, teamfirst guy. He has no ego and still has the mentality that baseball is fun. He'll be a very exciting player. We'll see him and love him in a few years.
Now it's time to do something I have not yet done before. Until now, that is. It's time that I go ahead and plug some other blogs and bloggers here at MLBlogs who can use attention for their skills and observations. Sure, maybe two or three people read this blog, but I would be eternally grateful for any return plugs that I may receive.
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com Rays Renegade views from Rightfield This guy is on the Fan Wall of Fame for the Rays, so he's certainly worth listening to.
http://the643.mlblogs.com The 643 Here's another Rays blogger who has his own unique way of writing about our team.
http://englandrays.mlblogs.com Rays From Across The Pond A British Rays supporter this team is now going global. This blogger should start his own fan club.
http://corre.mlblogs.com Corre from Tampa Bay A diehard local Rays fan who needs support for his support of the team.
http://yourenotagolfer.mlblogs.com Obviously, You're Not a Golfer Probably the funniest blog name I've ever seen. It comes from an enthusiastic Cardinals fan.
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com Red State, Blue State A Cardinals fan and a Tigers fan talk about their teams, and often debate each other. I think it's an interesting idea.
http://steponme.mlblogs.com Marmolade One of the more creative blog names I've seen here, and a recently featured blog on the home page. A teenage Cubs girl knows more than her male contemporaries. Don't you just love it when girls get into baseball? I know I do.
http://alyssa.mlblogs.com *touch* 'em all My favorite celebrity blog, that of Dodgers fan and talented actress Alyssa Milano. She has very well written and thought out opinions on her team, not to mention a strong desire for all things baseball.
OK, so now that my mandatory plug session is over, I'll be back for more next year. Before that much time passes, however, I will return for more of RaysRangers and its aftermath. Until then, go Rays.