Oriole FanFest a rousing success


The Orioles hosted 9,000 people at their annual FanFest yesterday, which is extremely impressive considering that the team has lost for 14 straight seasons. That, combined with a city that’s jacked up about the Ravens right now along with a small snow/ice storm that arrived overnight could have equaled an embarrassing turnout for the O’s. Not so; while I felt that FanFests of years past were better attended, the Orioles had a great turnout this year, which speaks volumes about the Baltimore Oriole fans.

Obviously the big elephant in the room all day at most of the forums was Prince Fielder (no pun intended). I suspect that Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter were well prepared for the questions that undoubtedly were going to come from fans. There’s a part of me that tries to take comments at face value, however as anyone that’s read my column over time knows, there’s sometimes more than meets the eye. I suppose the one comment that Duquette made which raised my eyebrow the most with regard to Fielder was:

“Are we going to get him? I don’t know. But if we don’t, we’ll look for someone just like him.”

If you buy into the Bob Woodward style of reporting ala All the President’s Men (“follow the money”), this is right in your wheelhouse. Admittedly that comes across as an extremely loaded answer, and when I heard that my jaw did make a slight downward motion. Again, if you take that at face value then it is what it is…or is not! But can we afford to take something that the GM of a professional team says (at an even like FanFest) at face value? Better yet, can we afford NOT to take something that the GM of a professional team says at face value? Have I confused you yet?!

FanFest saw games, player appearances, and interactive activities for people of all ages. I often say that Oriole FanFest is everything you have at a regular Oriole home game except the game itself! I felt that the players themselves were a lot more visible at this FanFest than in previous years. Matt Wieters joined former Oriole Dave Johnson in a skills clinic of sorts, and I also noticed Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergesen taking impromptu pictures with fans. (I’m sure that other players did as well, those were the two that I saw as I walked by the photo area.)

Mascots are also very visible at FanFest, and along with the Oriole Bird I saw mascots from the Frederick Keys, Bowie Baysox, and Norfolk Tides (three Oriole farm teams). Keyote, the Keys’ mascot, looked a bit confused when I asked him if anyone had ever told him that he looked like McGruff the Crime Dog. He did give me the thumbs up when I said that was intended as a compliment! Incidentally single game tickets also went on sale at 10 AM yesterday for all regular season games (save for Opening Day). If you didn’t get tickets for any games at FanFest and would like to purchase them, you can do so by calling 1-888-848-BIRD, or by clicking here to redirect to the tickets area of the Orioles’ website.

Ultimately FanFest is always a lot of fun no matter how you look at it. It gives the region’s baseball fans a taste of what’s to come in a foreshadowing manner. I felt that the mood of the fan base was fairly downtrodden in a way given the underwhelming nature of the moves that have been made thus far. However after hearing some of the players and coaches talk in the various forums, I think that improved. A lot of players have been working in Brady Anderson’s fitness program in California, and they claim that they’re in much better shape than last year at this time. Furthermore if you listen to Dan Duquette talk, he does come across as a guy that knows what he’s doing. I think that he purposely allows himself to be underestimated so as to remain under the radar. While that of course can backfire if he in fact does remain under the radar, he’s also able to operate in a hiding in plain sight kind of mode.

To that point, if the Orioles landed Prince Fielder it would be a huge surprise to the baseball world not only because it’s the Orioles, but also because they have a GM that appeared to previously be making moves for the sake of making moves. Again, you can take Duquette at his word, or you can read into his comments. Keep in mind that people in positions like that of Dan Duquette are never going to tell the whole truth and committ to anything in a specific manner until the ink is dry. As an example, Duquette is a native New Englander. When asked for whom he way rooting in today’s AFC Championship game between the Ravens and New England Patriots would go, he said:

“It’s going to be a great game, isn’t it?”

When asked for a prediction, Duquette went onto say that he didn’t know who would win, but in his experience as a football fan defense usually wins. Duquette didn’t pick a winner…but is the Ravens’ or Patriots’ defense better? So, about the Orioles and Prince Fielder…

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