Rays Fan Fest 2009 Photo Blog
I came through the center field opening about 9:03 a.m., and it was a sight to see how well spread out the Rays had done the event this year. It was also the clam before the storm as over 35,000 fans ended up coming into the dome today to meet and greet the 2009 Rays team members at either the autograph tables or during the many team player events throughout the Fan Fest.
I do not think this sign needs any more introduction other than to tell you it is the last thing the Rays team players see before they step down into the dugout and onto the field. To say that the Rays have their own brand of doing things might be an understatement. They are a team that takes on the personality of their manger Joe Maddon and fights to the last out every inning, every game.
As you can see by the above two pictures, Rays Manager Joe Maddon is big on quotes of inspiration and influence. Maddon is a firm believer in the mental side of the game, and it effects on a team. All throughout the clubhouse you will find saying and antidotes bringing up character and honest effort on and off the field.
This is the scene at 10 a.m. just after the front door were opened to regular fans who did not have a season ticket. As you can see, the lines in the autograph area have not truly formed yet. Near the end of this photo blog, you will see the chaos that unfolded around 2-3 p.m. in the dome. The second photo is a from my seat right there at the bottom of Section 138. One of the great features of having Season Tickets is that you get a black nameplate on your seat to show that you are a true fan, and that you sit there. Believe me, during some of the series in the Trop., you have to shoo people away with a bat from that prime seat for foul balls in Batting Practice.
These photos are of the kid’s zone area that catered to young Rays fans and tested their skills out in front of the crowds. Talk about pressure cooker situations.
In the first photo is famous boxing corner man Angelo Dundee who was signing today for fans and also taking pictures. Many people might remember him as the corner man for boxing champions Muhammad Ali, and Floyd Whittaker. The second photo is of the tandem of Dave Willis and Andy Freed who do the Rays Radio broadcast of every game. These guys have an awesome chemistry and are some of the nicest people you ever want to meet in baseball.
Here we have Dick Crippen, local sports legendary sports anchor announcing the members of the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame. The wall now hold the names of over 100 enthusiastic Rays fans who have been nominated by the Rays management and the Fans for their spirit and involvement in the Rays games. I was inducted into this wall in 2004, and up until 2007 I also helped build the Pepsi displays that served as the background for the events. I have to say, that the displays have been getting bigger and better evey year. I can not wait to see what the 2010 display will look like and how big it will be. Pictured above is Pieter Wiemken, who was enshrined today in the Fans Wall of Fame. Most people might recognize him for his wig and his signs during the Boston series this year and by him banging his cowbell in the upper deck right behind home plate. He is a great addition to the Wall of Fame.
Here we have the awesome Rays calliope that was a piece featured in the Schrader’s baseball collection display. The collection is touted as being the “World’s Largest Privately Owned Baseball Collection.” The calliope itself is an amazing centerpiece to the display. Also pictured is the styrofoam “Maddon’s Maniac” character that graces all of that special Rays club’s cowbells and t-shirts given out to the club’s members. I will talk more about the 2009 expectations of this great club in the future.
Starting with the first photo here, we have Rays starting pitcher James Shields and speedster Fernando Perez taking a photo with a Rays season Ticket holder. The event went on all afternoon long with two players each standing their for photo opportunities from 1-5 p.m. At one point, the line stretch about half way into the right field street hallway before finally slinking down towards the 5 p.m. time. The second photo is of Pat Burrell recording a voice mail message on my cellphone for people to hear when they call me. This event sponsored by Metro PCS went on from 1-3, and also featured Rookie David Price and other players calling friends and family during the event. The third photo is of the Rays Radio team doing an interview with Buck Martinez in the Budweiser Brew House. This is the event that Martinez talked about the uphill battle the Rays might have to take in 2009, but he sees it as a positive for the team, and stressed that this is also a better team than the one that won the A L Pennant in 2008.
In the first photo in this set we have Rays reliever Grant Balfour and new Rays Matt Joyce up on the signing tables waiting for the fans. You might notice that I am sitting in my Season ticket seat right now taking in the last few hours of the event. I even have a pretty good sight line when I am at Fan Fest. In the second photo, you see Rays reliever Jason Hammel looking over at Carlos Pena, who also has his charming young daughter up on stage with him drawing during the autograph session. In the last picture is the greeting between Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pena before he leaves the stage at the event.
Here is an idea to show how crowded the autograph areas got during the day. The first photo was taken at about 1 :30 p.m. and you can see that the line snakes around past my seating area and into the hall beyond right field. The second one, I wanted to get the time in the picture to show you how it got even more congested just before 3:00 p.m. around the stage one area.
The first photo shows Rays Bullpen coach Bobby Ramos holding court up in the Stage one area with Maddon and Rays Hitting coach Steve ” Hendo” Henderson sitting their listening to Ramos. This group of coaches all seems to fit so well together. I have seen them after games at a few places, and they truly like to spend time with each other. The second photo is as Pena was leaving and dn he was shouting over to see if I was still going to be sitting their in 2009. By the way Carlos……….where else would I be except maybe the dugout…I wish. In the third photo, Scott Kazmir was coming off the stage area and asked if I was going for chicken wings. I hate that some of these guys know me so well they know I am bound for Ferg’s and his world famous chicken wings anytime I am down in St Petersburg.
And this last photo says it all. Here we are at the apex to spring training and the Rays have the enthusiasm and the confidence to even provide a “Magical Number” for 2009. It was a fantastic day to again chat and revisit with friends and players alike and dream about what might be in 2009. I hope you enjoyed my photo blog of my adventures at the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest.
All Photos today were obtained by the RRCollections and can be copied or used for advertising and promotion of the Tampa Bay Rays.