Consider the 2014 Astros FanFest a success.
After the big winter storm watch the past couple days, the clouds opened up and the sun came pouring out onto the field at Minute Maid Park (yes, the roof was open!) as fans poured into the ballpark as soon as the gates opened at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. This year’s event was amped up with what seemed like more activities, access, and Q&A sessions.
“You learn from past events to make future ones even better,” said one event organizer who was happy with this year's turnout.
While fans waited for their turn to get autographs, which were done in groups, they enjoyed numerous activities on the concourse, but the ones on the field – batting practice, running the bases, bullpen sessions, photo/autograph opportunities in the dugouts – were the most popular.
Clubhouse tours for $20 were also a hit as well as all six Q&A sessions emceed by either Bill Brown (Astros TV broadcaster) or Steve Sparks (Astros radio broadcaster) in the Diamond Club. They included The Future with Asst. General Manager David Stearns, Dir. of Player Development Quinton McCracken and prospects George Springer and Mark Appel; Q&A with manager Bo Porter, All-Stars Jose Altuve and Jason Castro; Story Time with Milo Hamilton; New Faces with Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain; and Q&A with general manager Jeff Luhnow.
Over 3,000 fans attended the event, and it seemed the players were enjoying the FanFast as well, even after participating in several Caravan events throughout the week (and continues until Monday).
“Today has been a lot of fun,” said new Astros pitcher Jesse Crain, who also played college baseball at the University of Houston. “I was able to go on the Caravan a couple days this week, too. I always enjoyed doing that. I did a lot with the Twins when I was with them, so to get out and meet the fans and show them you’re a regular person and not a robot or anything, I think it’s important to show the fans that, and it’s a good time.”
“Houston has always been a great town,” said pitcher Chad Qualls, who was with the Astros from 2004-2007. “I always have my fond memories here. Obviously, spring training is right around the corner so to start getting this close and start interacting, it’s pretty cool.”
The majority of all proceeds from FanFest will benefit The Astros Foundation’s programs serving at-risk youth in Houston.
A few observations from FanFest:
Many players haven’t even met each other yet. After the first autograph session got up from its table, new Astros pitcher Scott Feldman went over to another newbie, Chad Qualls, to introduce himself. Feldman said he hadn’t even met half the guys on the team.
General manager Jeff Luhnow also met some of the players for the first time on Saturday. Luhnow’s Q&A session followed the New Faces session, so as he walked up to take the stage, he introduced himself to the players who participated in that session – Crain, Qualls, Feldman and Albers.
Players seem enthusiastic and re-energized heading into this season, and members of the Astros organization said it’s rubbing off on everyone within the organization, adding it was obvious in their interaction with fans at Caravan stops throughout the week as well as at FanFest. Some players even came before their assigned autograph session time to hang out and mingle with fans on the field, including signing additional autographs and taking photos outside of their normal session.
Pitcher Josh Fields, a good ol' Georgia boy, won over fans with the best accessory of the day -- his black cowboy hat.
Click here for a photo gallery of the 2014 Astros FanFest.
Great meeting you all at #AstrosFanFest!!! Hope you had a great time!!!— Max Stassi (@MaxStassi10) January 25, 2014
2014 fanfest was a blast! Thanks to everyone who came out! Hope to see everybody at minute maid this season!— Dallas Keuchel (@kidkeuchy) January 25, 2014