Fanfest 2013 Recap
Fanfest is unique. It is not Spring Training; it is not team photo day. The once-a-year event is special. Fanfest is, at the risk of oversimplifying, personal.
The 2013 version of the event, I am told by the Padres, drew almost 14-thousand fans. This number is not as remarkable as how the event makes fans feel. The event makes fans feel like just one… as in one-on-one. There is literally no other time when fans can catch their favorite players when they are not working. And therein lies what makes Fanfest special. In every other fan-player event, the players and staff are at work. In Spring, they’re working. Team photo day: working. During games: at work. Some players may come across as distant, which is understandable. They are at work. Not at the beginning of February.
Early arrivers at Fanfest were greeted by a big line at the front Petco Park. Once inside, fans quickly found out a simple truth: Chase Headley is the new face of the organization. The Padre 3rd baseman had 2 autograph sessions. Both were, shall we say: popular. Fans gobbled up the vouchers to meet Chase; which puts the team in an interesting position as it relates to his contract, but that is another discussion for another day.
Autograph sessions were well organized. Each fan got the chance to meet their favorite players individually. Yes, you had to line-up like cattle but for a few moments you had the chance to talk to a player like he is an actual person and not a bunch of pixels in a video game. Every player, and I mean every player, was cordial and seemed genuinely happy to meet the fans. This is a fantastic result for the organization. The more you like a player the higher percentage chance you’ll buy a ticket to see them or buy their merchandise.
The Padres garage sale was fantastic. In the words of Tony Stark in “Marvel’s The Avengers”, it’s candy land. Everything is authentic. I’m pretty sure authentic jerseys are upwards of $200 at the Padres store. They were $50 by the end of the day, at the garage sale. Who cares if your new Padres road gray jersey used to belong to forgettable players like Jeremy Hermida or Luis Pedromo? You just landed an authentic, game used jersey. Personally, I also picked up an authentic line-up card from a game played on my birthday… the kind that are hanging in dugouts and clubhouses in the big leagues.
Then, there’s the chance for your son to hang out with his favorite player. And if I may be permitted a bit of personal reflection, there is something really cool about Cameron Maybin helping my son hit wiffle balls off a tee. Memories like that will last a lifetime. Plus, think about how my kid will feel the next time he sees Cameron Maybin on TV.
The day was just positive all the way around. Except for the clown who got on a mic and went on a 3 minute diatribe about how the Padres are a farm system for the rest of the big leagues (seriously, dude… does saying that really make you feel better, and what did you expect the new owners to say, anything that will convince you of anything other than what you already have in your cynical, bitter head? But I digress).
Fanfest is a day the team uses to build PR with the fans, and that is a great idea. The more the fans love the team, they more they will support it and that was the objective, after all. But while the team was trying to score points with the fans, the fans got to benefit, which is fine by me.
Fanfest is a day to just enjoy. For kids and adults to blend together into one mosaic of baseball fans enjoying what turned out to be a perfect day in San Diego. Think about the fact that San Diegans got to go to Petco Park and hang with the Padres on the same day much of the east coast was getting buried by the blizzard of the year. I’ll take Petco Park every time, when faced with that choice. And my choice is to be a Padre fan, a fact that is even more secure after a memorable Fanfest 2013.