Friday was indeed crowded for at least the second straight year. Gone are the days where you could go from autograph session to autograph session without much waiting on opening night. The reason? It's pretty clear that Friday is not only for hotel guests despite what's advertised. A significant number of season ticket holders and perhaps others were issued Friday-only passes. Buying a weekend hotel package no longer gives you a great opening night of autograph collecting. It merely gives you another day to collect autographs.
It was nice to see so many retired players brought back. I think this year set a record for former players in attendance. I hope a similar number are booked for the future.
Saturday's after-hours party left a lot to be desired. No ample supply of pizza like last year. Mini-Jimmy John's sandwiches ran out in a hurry, leaving a couple sad tables of chips and dip left for people who didn't arrive for the party's opening.
In a welcomed change from some previous years, players arrived for their autograph sessions on time from my experience. Lots of players were great with fans. Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas are phenomenal with all fans, even the wacko ones. They get what a fan fest is all about. They're extremely respectful and accommodating regarding specific requests. Tom Paciorek was very friendly and downright jovial with everyone.
On the negative side, Jermaine Dye jagged me once again when signing a bat, purposely signing it way off center. It's too bad he feels the need to be like that. But Dye pales in comparison to Steve Stone, who belongs in his own Jag Hall of Fame. He singlehandedly ruined hundreds of dollars of baseballs by signing every ball on its side panel. Whenever a fan asked him to sign on the sweet spot as is the standard practice, his stock answer was, "No, you're just going to sell it on eBay." Really? If you wanted a picture signed, he'd personalize it, as if there's a big market to sell Steve Stone photos. Someone asked him what he thought of Chuck Tanner. "Overrated," Stone said with relish. The Sox need to end his autograph duties. He does way more harm than good with his swarmy, combative attitude.
The autograph lines were well-run. The kids working them did a good job. Things ran smoother than usual. I didn't see/hear any of the usual complaints. The one thing I'd add is the MVP speed pass didn't look so speedy anymore because of the number sold.
The Garage Sale was a mixed bag. Rios bats were only $50. Beckham bats were $50, too. I picked up a well-worn Baines jersey for just $100. Plenty of '72 throwback items were available. They were a bit pricey, but many fans love those uniforms. Vizquel autographed balls for $200 were ridiculously overpriced. So were lineup cards at $125 a pop. Mystery bags for $20 featured better-than-average items including player bobbleheads and World Series baseballs.
A few random bits of info from my player interactions...
Rowand has watched the '05 World Series DVD "quite a number of times."...When asked if Rios was going to bat third, Ventura said, " I just hope he shows up to spring training." I could be wrong, but it sounded as if he was taking a dig at Rios for his Soxfest absence...The Big Hurt has yet to start writing a Hall of Fame speech...LaRussa displayed his three World Series rings at his signings. I commented on how it would have been nice to have an '83 ring. That triggered a burst of passion. "If Dibber didn't screw up on the bases," LaRussa said. "And it wasn't just his baserunning blunder. He screwed up the bunt, too!" Whoa!...Peavy expressed confidence in Flowers, but said the team will miss A.J.'s bat. "We need a left-handed bat!" Peavy said...I commented to Baines that nearby LaRussa was his best manager. "That's a fair statement," Baines said...I told Konerko he should retire with the Sox. "We'll see what happens," he said in the most unsure way possible.
This Soxfest had a low-key vibe. The team's 2012 fade and a relatively uneventful offseason have expectations at a modest level.
Last edited by BainesHOF; 01-27-2013 at 11:56 PM.