Baltimore Orioles: Thoughts On FanFest, Austin Hays, And More

The Baltimore Orioles may not hold FanFest this winter, plus some thoughts on a few other topics from over the weekend.

This weekend was a pretty good weekend, personally. My alma mater has been holding their Fall World Series, meaning I’ve been able to spend my time at a baseball field again after a long hiatus since the end of the 2019 Baltimore Orioles season, and the New York Yankees lost last night, meaning no World Series for the Evil Empire.

However, Roch Kubatko’s small bomb on Saturday didn’t make things any better. The Orioles beat reporter for MASNSports.com is hearing that the O’s will not hold their annual FanFest event this season. MLB.com’s Joe Trezza says he is hearing the same.

Nothing has been made official, but here’s the quote from Kubatko’s piece,

“I’m hearing that the Orioles won’t hold the event next year – it’s usually done in January – and are considering other ways for players to interact with fans. Nothing is planned at the moment.

There have been multiple changes on the business side that might have influenced the decision, with people evaluating ways to present a fresher approach, improve the experience and modernize the operation”

This has, of course, sparked some disappointment among diehard fans on social media who look forward to the annual event at the Baltimore Convention Center.

I’m going to reserve judgment until we have official news from the organization and know what other events the Orioles decide to do this year, but no FanFest this winter is a bit of a bummer.

I’ve only been going for the last three years, but the event quickly turned into a quality father-son trip with my dad and younger brother. With the birth of my first son last month, we were all looking forward to introducing him to Birdland at FanFest this offseason. However, if a year of no FanFest means the emergence of a bigger and better FanFest, I’m all for it.

Personally, the appeal of FanFest was the opportunity to get excited about baseball again. Listening to current players interact with fans, hearing story after story from Orioles legends as they reflect on their playing days, and interacting with thousands of fellow diehard fans, and of course, the giveaway table, all made for a fun experience.

But the event did have its downfalls. Representatives from minor league affiliates crammed into a corner in front of the downstairs entranceway, mixed in with the always gigantic bingo crowd, memorabilia vendors with so much stuff and so little space, making it difficult to actually look around and rummage among the crowd, and just not enough space in general.

Maybe the Orioles decide to do a few fun events this winter to give fans the opportunity to meet this young roster and when FanFest returns (if it really is a no-go this year), I’m excited to see what the organization can do with a little forward-thinking.

Austin Hays as leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles?

Early Sunday morning, Roch Kubatko ended his morning column with a question for Orioles fans– Would you consider Hays for the leadoff spot, bat him second or put him more in the heart of the order?

Based on last year’s numbers, Hays appears to be settling into the second spot in the batting order.

Hays spent the majority of his time in Triple-A hitting fifth in order, without much success. Through 111 at-bats, Hays hit just .198 with 30 strikeouts. He hit first in the order for 11 games and second in the order 13 times. His .595 OPS out of the fifth slot was nearly 200 points lower than his OPS in the leadoff position (.739), which was more than 300 points lower than his OPS in the second spot. Hays slashed .370/.393/.704 with nine extra-base hits there.

During his brief stint in the majors, Hays saw 32 of his 75 plate appearances come in the two hole, where he slashed .310/.375/.586 with four extra-base hits.

His career .327 on-base percentage in the minor leagues doesn’t scream leadoff guy and isn’t ideal for the second spot, but his speed and ability to find the gaps could be beneficial. If he returns, the leadoff hitter in 2020 is Jonathan Villar. Also not an ideal leadoff guy, but will likely be the best option with the roster next season.

Did you miss anything from this week?

As you settle in for some NFL action this Sunday afternoon, take a look back at some notable pieces from Birds Watcher we shared throughout the week!

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