I finally managed to make it to Orioles FanFest this year. Prior to that, the only times I’d been in the Convention Center were for Otakon, the largest anime convention on the East Coast (I have yet to go as an artist, but I’m working on it). It was unusual to be in the Convention Center with baseball fans instead of cosplayers and otaku, but it was quite the event!
There were numerous kiosks at which you could peruse merchandise (or grab free swag from promotionals the team had extra merch from), learn about women’s baseball (seriously! I expressed interest in playing!), visit some of the Minor League affiliates (for some reason, Norfolk, the AAA club, was absent), or just play games – Orioles Bingo was upstairs, and Orioles Family Feud was in the main hall. There was also a panel section in the main hall where various collections of players, media members, and coaches came to speak. But the main attraction was, obviously, the autograph sessions, for which you had to buy vouchers prior to the event. My roommate and I had vouchers for three sessions, and we met a total of ten players. Of course, I had to be the odd person at the convention and draw fanart of all of the players we were signed up to see to have them sign.
So here’s how it all went down.
Our first session was at 2 pm, and we were due to meet Chris Tillman, Adam Jones, and Robert Andino. After waiting on line for some time, we finally got up to the autograph station, and I handed Chris Tillman his drawing. He was extremely bemused:
Robert Andino then signed mechanically, and after that we reached Adam Jones. I don’t have a picture of him because we were talking, but he said he’d love a copy of the drawing to hang in his locker because right now he only has a picture of Nick Markakis in there. I tweeted about this after I got back from FanFest, and he responded to me, so he’s holding me to it!
After wandering a little bit, we went to our next autograph session, at which we were to meet Mike Bordick, Brian Matusz (my personal favorite) and Jason Berken.
Upon seeing the drawing I presented him with to sign, Bordick exclaimed, “Awww, I’m so cute!” Quality response. But things would only get funnier at this station when I handed Matusz his art.
He looked down at it and started laughing. Then he turned to Berken and asked him if it looked like him or Justin Bieber. Berken pointed out that the drawing did, in fact, have Matusz’s hair. I then handed Berken his drawing, too, and he was very excited and asked someone behind him if it actually looked like him. Quite loudly, too, so I got a bit shy (not that I didn’t upon meeting Matusz, of course – let’s say I got somewhat shier). But man, he was FUNNY about it.
So after I calmed down and my face returned to a normal color, we moved on to the third autograph session of the day, where we got to meet these four:
Luke’s signing was somewhat uneventful, since the man ushering people along handed him the drawing and kept him going pretty quickly. The same could not be said for Brandon Snyder, who was so unbelievably excited over the fact that someone had taken the time to draw him (the picture was called “so awesome”). We then had a conversation over whether I should have drawn Arrieta with his new beard or his moustache from earlier this season; Snyder and I agreed on the moustache, and then he jokingly handed me his Sharpie so we could add it in. Arrieta, who was sitting right next to him, kept staring at him in confusion.
I was actually least nervous around Mike Flanagan, even though he’s a Cy Young winner and that usually daunts me. He was friendly with me, though, so that helped a lot.
Essentially, my point is this – if your team does a fan event such as FanFest, do your best to go, because it’s a wonderful opportunity to interact with the players and other fans. I had a number of people tell me I should sell prints of my artwork yesterday, and it was fun to talk to people and just explore. It’s absolutely worth it. Especially if you’re like me and you miss baseball terribly during the off-season and need something to help you get through it.
And if you want a real conversation-starter, bring the players something really odd to sign (I saw one woman carrying a sparkly pink guitar for the players to autograph). Not only can you show your friends what you got MLB players to write their names on, but you get to chat with the players themselves. And it reminds you that they are, in fact, real people too.
Sometimes, they can even be downright silly people.