This weekend the Texas Rangers held their annual Fan Fest at the Arlington Convention Center, and I was fortunate to be there for both days. While I’d been to Fan Fest before, this one proved to be a rather unique experience. I recommend going at least once to really get a feel for the atmosphere. These two days were great opportunities for fans like me and you to get to see the players, coaches, and staff through autograph signings, Q&A sessions, and photo booth opportunities. This weekend is about a connection to the fans, and the organization honoring those who support the team. Without fans, there would be no team.
As far as autograph sessions go, they generally run smoothly, but I’ve had very little luck with them. The better known players, like Kinsler, Beltre, and Darvish are lottery picks, and I’ve been to every day of Fan Fest since they started running the lines that way (in 2012) and never won a lottery. The lesser known players were first come, first serve, and since there is so much going on, and a lot of people in attendance, sometimes it’s difficult getting autographs. This all has to do with the success of the team, so I’ll take these inconveniences if it means the team is doing well. Someone gave me their number for Adrian Beltre this year (thanks a million!), and a friend of mine took me as his +1 to a Nelson Cruz private meet and greet. Those were the only two autographs I got this year, but I’d still call that a success.
For the so-called “non-fan,” I still think it’s worth going just for the Q&A sessions. Jon Daniels gives up very little information during the offseason, but his session allowed fans to ask and dig around to see what he’s hiding. He still didn’t give up much. Saturday he discussed the possibility of getting a veteran pitcher or possibly trading to make moves, but he also said he doesn’t see any more big moves being made. For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’s done. Daniels also said Ian Kinsler would be the team’s second baseman this season. A fan later asked Kinsler during his Q&A what position he’d be playing next season, and he responded with, “You’re asking the wrong guy.” He said he wasn’t sure where he’d be playing on opening day, and he told the fan (a young boy) to ask again after Spring Training. Even AJ Pierzynski got a chance to soften fans’ opinions by talking about how his children, who’ve known nothing but White Sox their whole lives, have a table with the White Sox logo on it that they want to paint red for the Rangers.
Fan Fest used to be free, and there are people who think it’s not worth the money, but for me, it definitely was. I met a handful of Rangers players, plus Emily Jones and Jon Daniels. I was able to see the Rangers award show, and listen to players like Colby Lewis update everyone on how rehab is going, or Robbie Ross tell everyone that he’s working on his changeup because a starting rotation role is something he’d like. Free merchandise is given away frequently and some of last season’s gear is sold at a discount. I will tell you, though, that the only weird thing about it this year was walking in to see absolutely no sign of Michael Young. No banners or pictures of him anywhere. It’s still strange. But the future is now, and Jurickson Profar banners and pictures took the place of the missing Young ones. Yu Darvish clips were played regularly, showing us just what we can look forward to this next season. It can’t come soon enough.
Twenty-eight days until pitchers and catchers report. Fan Fest will have to tide me over until then.
Emily Cates is a Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can reach her at Emily.Cates@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter at @EmLikesBaseball.