Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hounding Report: Rangers Fan Fest, January 25

Alternatively titled "The one where a giant clusterfuck turned out alright."

The Rangers need to figure it out. And by "it," I mean everything. The first problem was with the entrance. Of the four gates, the Rangers opened ONE. It took some people an hour to get inside. AN HOUR.

Once we got inside though, that was simply the beginning of our troubles. We got the program with a map and schedule of who was signing where and when.

Or so we thought.

The schedule only listed the big names (Beltre, Choo, Fielder, Andrus, and Rodriguez), the alumni, the photo booth, the Q&A sessions, and the prospects. It listed nothing specific on the current players aside from the big names. So figuring that maybe they'd have players at all the areas, Chris and I decided we'd try out the signing spot in center field. It was Michael Choice, who we got two weeks prior in Frisco.  So we decided it was alumni time first.  We figured we could follow the map and go via the outfield to the signers in left field. Seemed reasonable, right?

Apparently not. Everything was blocked off through center field. To go from left field to right field, we would have to go around home plate.

What. The. Literal. Fuck.

So, we figured we would try the Rangers' Hall Of Fame Third Floor and see who was signing there.

We went in the Hall of Fame and the employees told us to go on upstairs. We went up the stairs to find the staircase to the third floor blocked off.  We were told by yet another employee that we had to go back outside and around.  So we did that, going up the stairway all the way to the third deck, finding nothing.  ANOTHER employee took us back down and finally pointed us in the right direction. No one was signing there until Choo's session.

Obviously no one employed with the team knew what the hell was going on or where it was going on. Yet again, the Rangers failed. If the front office is run anything like this Fan Fest, then it whould be obvious why they have yet to win a World Series. Congratulations Cleveland Browns, you apparently aren't as incompetent as I thought.

Actually, yes the Browns are far more so, but that's neither here nor there.

So more than a little pissed, Chris and I made the walk around toward where it said the alumni signers should be. We got there, and there was nothing.  No signs, no info, not a damn thing.  Eventually we found another security person who told us that it was going on in the tunnel UNDERNEATH the Ballpark. While the map said "tunnel" on it, IT'S A GODDAMN STADIUM. THERE ARE TUNNELS ALL OVER THE PLACE. SPECIFY WHICH ONE NEXT TIME AND HOW TO GET TO IT.

Needless to say I was livid. Eventually we found our way to the elevators down to get the alumni.  At this point, Chris and I realized what epic acts of clusterfuckery the Rangers were engaged in with this and decided we would just stick to alumni and hope to be lucky enough to get raffle spots for the big names.

I'll save everyone the time: Neither of us got any spots for the big names. But when only about 4% of people going in have a chance at each one (less than 200 of 5000 got the coveted spots), your chances are better that you'll go home empty-handed on them. The Prince Fielder 'shopped image remains unsigned.

At least with alumni, you're going to be lacking in quality, but you'll rack up some major quantities.

First up in the two alumni lines were Mark McLemore, Mike Jeffcoat, and Ellis Valentine in one line, and Benji Gil, Mark Brandenburg, and Mike Bacsik Sr. in the other. Since we both wanted Valentine, we hit that line first.  McLemore showed up late, but since we both racked on him in Frisco, we decided to go ahead and get the other two.  The signs and announcements all said one autograph per person per guest, but the players seemed to be in no mood to follow the team's rules. Good for them. I had five Jeffcoat cards and he signed two before the handler told him "Just one per person, please." Valentine signed three of the six I had on me. One of those will go to Corey up in New York as it was on a Mets card.  We then made our way across to line two, which was shorter.  Benji Gil signed four, Bacsik the three I had of him, and I got one of the promotional alumni photos of Brandenburg as well.  We even saw Gil signing more on his way out, but I didn't feel like shuffling through my bag for more.

I carried a ton with me. I had an empty Topps vending box that I carried my extras in, and it came in handy.  Occasionally you'd find a kid who didn't have any cards of certain players, so I could hook them up. Sometimes collectors would want to trade if I had a card they were lacking or vice versa. Plus I could pull my signed cards off and stow them safely and even add on more cards if I wanted to go through a line again.

We went back to line one, as next up were Kevin Mench and Cecil Espy.  Espy was one Chris and I both wanted, and we got near what would become the front of their line at the start.  A collector with us in line helped me out and got four Espy cards done for me, while I also added on four. I picked up a photo of Mench as well.  From there it was back to line two, with Curtis Wilkerson and Ken Hill.

Hold up, wait, stop.  Ken Hill?  He wasn't on the list.  Sadly, neither of us had cards for him, just getting him on the promo photo.  Wilkerson did sign eight cards for me as well. Donnie Sadler was supposed to be there as well, but had to cancel at the last minute, so we missed him.  We went back over to Espy's line again, where I got him on five more cards plus an extra promo photo of Mench.  As we got through that line, we ran into Matt, a collector we've run into at several events and who I believe I mentioned in my Waco write-up.  Matt either knew about Hill or carried him just in case and hooked us each up with two cards-- that was all Hill was willing to sign anyway.  So we went back, Hill signed two, and I got Wilkerson on four more cards.

So far, so good. We went back to the line two line again because a new trio was set to begin soon-- Dan Smith, Ray Burris, and Claude Osteen.  Smith showed late, but we went through and got Burris and Osteen.  Ray Burris was the only strict one-per there.  The guy ahead of us had four cards and Burris asked him which one he wanted.  The guy said it didn't matter and Burris told him "They're your cards, you pick which one."  So I went up more prepared, still putting down four but when he asked I said either the Mets or Expos one would be fine. I still got the "They're your cards" spiel, so I went for the Expos one.  Meanwhile, Osteen signed the two I had of him.  Osteen signs very slowly, but you'll get a GREAT 'graph from him.  We looped the line again, this time getting Burris on my Mets card (going to Corey) and Smith on the lone card I had of him. I also picked up an Osteen photo.

While in line, I ran into an old friend and co-worker from my Wildcats days, Mr. Danny Gonzales.  He was one of our account managers the first year I was there and is a huge baseball fan, having played against some future major leaguers in college.  Always good to catch up with him.

Never know who you might run into!

Chris went for some of the prospects while I headed for the line of Jeff Russell and Mike Simms.  Simms handed me a photo before I even put the cards down.  I told him I have cards here for him and he said "Cool, here take this one too," handing me the photo. Obviously, I will not try to complain about a free autograph.  He signed all four, as did Russell.  I went back in their line again later once Chris was back downstairs, and Simms did the same thing, handing me a photo, then signing the three cards I had left, while Russell did four more.

Since I was already right there, I jumped back for Mike Munoz (4 cards) and Dave Chalk (one card and one photo).  Chalk commented on my Penguins winter hat asking if I was staying warm. Quite, actually.  Chalk's a good guy-- tried to tell me he was Nolan Ryan at alumni weekend this past season.  As Chris went up for more prospects, I headed for the line of Donald Harris, Rich Billings, and Kevin Belcher.  Having no cards of Billings left (note: as a player he was Dick Billings, retured he is Rich Billings, so know this if you search for cards of him), I got one of his photos, while Harris signed four cards, and Belcher signed four as well.  I jumped back in their line again, hoping for the best.  But it was slow moving because Harris has TOO good of an attitude toward fans.  He only played 82 games, but the fans love him and he loves them.  He was taking time to give a good signature, chat, take pictures, everything anyone could want.  I didn't get through the line a second time, but I was right at the start at least for the next group.

Luis Ortiz signed three cards, David Hulse four, and Rick Henninger a photo.  As I left the line, who was still there but Donald Harris, still signing, chatting, and taking pictures even after his required hour was over.  He signed another four for me, and I asked if he would be willing to sign the others I was carrying for a friend (Chris left them with me as he went for the prospects).  Of course Harris was cool with it.  I let the others nearby get their autos and photos first, then he signed Chris' five cards as well.  I only wish every ballplayer was that great.

Signing over in line one was Rusty Greer with Dave Hostetler.  Since Rusty was a huge fan favorite, I knew his line would be ridiculous, so I didn't even bother with it.  I jumped back in line, and Hulse signed four more cards for me, while I got photos of Ortiz and Henninger again.  Chris also got me an extra Hulse signed.

The final two groups were Jose Guzman with Don Stanhouse, and Danny Darwin with Ken Suarez and Tim Crabtree.  We hit the latter line first, with Crabtree (a native of Jackson, MI, where I used to often spend summers with my grandmother) signing four and Darwin signing four as well as giving me a photo.  Suarez was running late. We then went to the Guzman line where Jose was the lone signer; apparently Stan The Man Unusual was a last-minute cancellation too.  Guzman signed eight cards for me though.  We headed back for one final trip through the Darwin line, where I got photos of Suarez and Crabtree and Darwin signed 8 cards for me, bringing my day to an end.

So despite the shithouse start to the day, I ended up destroying a personal single day record with 131 autographs (111 cards for me, 5 for Chris, and 16 photos for me).  Overall the experience was great. I just hope the Rangers get the early issues figured out for next year if I decide to go. It's been 4 hours since it ended and my knees, feet, and ankles are still sore. If I'm not at least 30 pounds lighter by the time this rolls around next year, please shoot me.

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