Normally this column would have come out yesterday, but the death of former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Earl Weaver took precedence. Even with the somber overtones, FanFest 2013 was a rousing success. The Orioles set an attendance record for the event, hosting over 18,000 fans at the Baltimore Convention Center. Last year I felt that they had a decent turnout (9K, according to reports) in a year where the team wasn’t expected to be in contention. One year later, we can see what kind of optimism that winning brings! I suppose that the turnout could be attributed more to 2012 than to ’13, however the hope of course is that those people all turn up at the ballpark more often once the season starts.
In listening to the media forums with players and coaches, none of them appear to take the satisfaction in the 2012 season that the fans did. Certainly they were happy and proud to be in the post season, but they all seem to feel as if they could have gone farther.The Orioles also introduced a video of the 2012 campagin at FanFest, which is sure to be a smashing hit in Birdland. Manager Buck Showalter said that the only problem from his perspective is that he knows how it ends while watching it. In other words (going back to what I said above), he felt that they could and should have gone farther.
That’s left up to the individual I suppose, however I think that most fans have no issue with losing the ALDS after a 14-year absence from the post season. Orioles FanFest is great not only for it’s contact between players/coaches and fans, but also the various exhibits and features. For $10 fans could get autographs from their favorite current Orioles, as well as Oriole legends such as Jim Palmer or Mike Bordick. At various points they could also stop at the MASN booth and get their pictures taken with the likes of those guys, as well as Adam Jones among others. Fans used to be able to get into autograph lines for free, but now you have to buy a voucher for $10 (which is the source of some angst in the fan base). Some people feel they’re paying the team for autographs, but that money goes to charity, for the record.
If you walked around the convention center floor eventually you smelled the aroma of ballpark food. Concessions were on sale for folks attending the event as well, which gave it even more of a ballpark feel. That of course and you didn’t have to go far to see the Oriole Bird, as well as a few Orioles’ minor league mascots who came in for the event. To show you how much more excited the fan base is this year than last, in 2012 I heard some people saying that the Orioles had a lot of nerve having FanFest the same weekend that the Ravens were fighting to go to the Super Bowl. (Nevermind the fact that it was scheduled in November.) This time around I heard people praising and celebrating both teams’ accomplishments.
The idea behind FanFest is to garner excitement for the upcoming season. Baltimore certainly appears to have that, and the players and coaches seem raring to get to Sarasota next month to get things started once again. It’s safe to say that 2012 will go down as an incredibly special year for Baltimore sports with the Orioles returning to the post season and now with the Ravens headed to the Super Bowl in New Orleans in two weeks. If you throw in teams from Washington DC, you could argue that the mid-Atlantic region is the place to be for professional sports at this moment in time. (And for the record, one city shouldn’t have the chance to hoard all of the glory by raising a world series banner and the Vince Lombardi trophy in the same sports season…yes San Francisco Bay Area, I’m looking right at you!)