Fanfest reaction, Orioles sign Tejada

(To read the log of tweets from Fan Fest, check out our Twitter Page…)

Yesterday was a big day.

First off, fanfest was hugely entertaining and successful.  According to the Orioles over 12,000 people filed into the Baltimore Convention Center downtown to grab some swag and talk shop with other O’s fans.  After the morning Q+A session with Andy MacPhail and Dave Trembley, a wonderful complete recap can be seen right here, my friends and I pondered what to do next.

Barry got in line to grab a Nick Markakis signature and the rest of us aided our friend Matt’s quest for as many O’s car magnets as possible.  Esskay booth – two magnets; Chik Fil A booth – five more magnets; Back up-stairs at the entrance –  five more magnets.  More on this later.

Fanfest is always sort of a nomadic thing for me, I prefer to wander around and find adventure as it comes (wandering around netted us four more magnets).  After buying a great 1960 score card (Senators v Orioles, Orioles won) and grabbing some free stuff from the free stuff line (’09 Orioles yearbook and size small Ryan Freel shirts, HOLY CRAP! But surprisingly no magnets) We decided to forgo the high priced concessions and trek across the street to the Pratt St Ale House.  A very nice place, a little more formal than Pickles or Sliders, but still a comfy local establishment.

After we had our fill we pondered our next move. Upstairs at the convention center there sat two autograph stations and a room full of memorabilia. The memorabilia in this case was game-worn unis of former Orioles for super cheap. Even the pants. Seriously, the table said “Used Pants $15”. The silent auction showcased some fine items including a 50th anniversary autograhed bat. The bat was signed by virtually every great Oriole in history and pulled in an easily over $500.  All the proceeds from the auction were going to UNICEF’s on-going Haiti campaign. Portions of the gate and concession sales also were going to Haiti moreover the Orioles were matching all money raised that day. With 12,000 fans in attendance I am sure that hundreds of thousands of dollars will be going to a fantastic cause.

Matt, his brother Brian, Josh and myself decided to grab an autograph or two while we were near the station.  The new autograph policy was either annoying or exciting depending on who you asked.  No one knew who would be signing until one hour prior to that signing.  So if you were looking for the four o’clock signing, they would be announced at three. Then you would have to be one of the first 250 to queue up and then the line would be closed.  I liked the idea, in theory.  I have been to autograph signings and waited in line for hours only to have the session end with me nowhere near the front.  With this system, if you were in the line, you were getting an autograph no matter how long it took, which usually wasn’t that bad.  And because of that the atmosphere in the line was a bit more relaxed.  Friends and family that were separated were allowed to move around, within reason, people could get out of line to go to the bathroom without fear of reprisal.

My girlfriend Kate, saying she did not feel like spending two hours in line, trotted off somewhere else. But man did she get me. She got in the Matt Wieters line downstairs and was able to score me a nice, fresh, Matt Wieters ball. I am a lucky man I tell you what.

My friends and I were treated to three young stars: Josh Bell, Jason Berken and Brad Bergesen. The one thing that struck me about all the players at fanfest was they all seemed just delighted to be there. Berken and Bergesen were joking around with the fans.  Bell was genuinely trying to have conversations with people as he signed various balls and bats.  On the subject of Bell for a second, when he does make his way to the Orioles he will definitely hold the record for most ink on the team.  Bell is rocking the full sleeve.

Most of the key players on the team were in attendance. Roberts, Jones and Markakis (who looks like he spent the winter in a cabin living off of “varmints”) were their normal jovial selves at their forums. Guthrie and Berken challenged kids at Guitar Hero all day. Dave was nothing but smiles. It was a good day.

At 5:00 the time came for the “Blogging the Birds” forum hosted by MASN’s Steve Melewski.The last forum of the day was still well attended and it was a lot of fun.  Frankly, being up there I was a bit nervous at first.  But I settled in nicely and fielded questions like a pro. A huge thanks to the Orioles for allowing us to do that. The Orioles are not obligated in anyway to show us the kindness they did yesterday and last year.

The day though can honestly be divided in half. There was the part before the announcement, and then after. Right in the middle of the day it was leaked that the Orioles signed Miguel Tejada to a one-year deal. And the news rippled through the crowd.  Honestly I saw nothing but faces light up at the sound of the news. All of the sudden fans seemed genuinely excited at the prospect of Tejada coming back.

The question was posed our forum and the panel seemed rather non-plussed about the whole affiar. Stacey from Camden Chat seemed downright against it.  In her view every Miguel Tejada is “taking at bats away from Felix Pie, Michael Aubrey and Brandon Snyder.” To her signing both Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada is “redundant”. I didn’t respond at the time because I didn’t want to monopolize the forum with this issue but I really disagree with that assertion.

Miguel Tejada is not blocking any one that we can look at right now and say “this guy is the future”.  Michael Aubrey projects out to be a back-up at best.  Yes he had a fine September and I like him as well, but I am not counting on Michael Aubrey being the Opening Day first baseman. And if we were counting on Aubrey being that then we are in real trouble. Snyder is intriguing but we really need to see what he can do in AAA. As for the Pie situation, we are less than a month from “pitchers and catchers” and Felix Pie is still struggling with a quadricep injury and at last check was not running at “full-speed” the same can be said for Nolan Reimold and his injury. Can we really sit here and rely on them at this point?

While we are on the subject of Pie. I love Pie, I want Pie to succeed and I want to seem him play more on this team. But right now he is blocked by a superior bat in Reimold and a superior all-around player in Jones. If Pie has a future on this team it is as a fourth outfielder for right now, but that can change in a heartbeat.

The thing that makes the Tejada deal good is the contract. One year, six million dollars with incentives that could make it seven. Not only it is a great money-wise but this could be a very easy contract to move in the middle of the year if Josh Bell is tearing through minor leagues. This is an all-around good move for the Orioles. Tejada’s bat in the lineup makes the offense much more competitive and while he may have some defensive struggles at third to start I believe that Tejada is a good enough defensive baseball player that he will figure it out and be at least above league average.

All in all it was another great Fanfest.  My band of fans left as the staff was striking the booths and sets. Matt went off to find more magnets, having collected roughly two dozen that day on his own. He returned with his brother each carrying a small box with giant grins on their faces. Each box contained 300 (!) magnets. For 20 dollars Matt had secured over 600 magnets. Look out for the “O-mobile” this summer, trust me you will know it when you see it.