It’s Fan Fest Season; Well, For Most Teams

Spring training is just around the corner. (Finally! At long last! Hallelujah!) Pitchers and catchers for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers report on Feb. 6 and Feb. 8, respectively, as those two teams get ready to open the season in Australia on Mar. 22. All other pitchers and catchers report the week of Feb. 10. It’s not just the players and coaches who need to practice for the season, though. Marketing and ticket sales representatives need to get in shape, too. So do the fans.

Which brings us to the season of Fan Fests and Caravans. Fan Fests are typically one, two, or three-day public events sponsored by teams, at which fans have the opportunity to talk directly to players, coaches and team executives; wait in long lines for autographs; check out the latest team gear and merchandise; and buy tickets for the upcoming season. Caravans take players and coaches on the road to the fans.

Most MLB teams host some kind of come-one, come-all Fan Fest, either at the ballpark, or a hotel or convention center nearby. Those teams with fan bases spread throughout a state or several states also conduct Caravans. Some do both.

But not all teams. The Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Angels and Marlins will not be hosting any type of public, fans-meet-players event before the 2014 season starts.  One of those teams is not like the others. Or is it two teams? More on that later.

Let’s talk first about the Caravans: the Fan-Fest-goes-to-the-fans party. Literally. Groups of players, coaches and team representatives load up a bunch of decked-out buses and travel around the team’s regional area meeting and greeting fans. The Astros are travelling around southern Texas this week. The Tigers are doing the same in Michigan, as are the Reds in Ohio, and the Braves in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina. The Mariners just finished up their three-week journey across Washington state, as did the Twins, who cris-crossed Minnesota, and the Blue Jays, who tramped across Ontario Province.  The Cardinals made 20 stops in Missouri and Illinois over the Martin Luther King weekend.  The Royals road show kicks off next week. Caravan events are typically free of charge.

All of those teams — except for the Blue Jays and Braves — have held, or will hold, Fan Fests, too. Redfest took place in early December at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati. The Cardinals Winter Warm Up was last weekend at a hotel near the St. Louis Arch. The Astros, Tigers, Mariners, Twins, and Royals will open the gates for fans over the next few weeks. All of these teams — save for the Astros — charge an entrance fee for their Fan Fest.

Like the Cardinals, the Pirates held their Fan Fest in December — a one-day event at a Pittsburgh convention center in December. The Cubs entertained fans over three days last weekend at Cubs Convention, held at the Sheraton Hotel. The team has sponsored Cubs Con — as it is colloquially known — for 29 consecutive years. Take a look at the program. There were activities for fans of all ages and interests.

Most of the teams not mentioned so far will also be hosting Fan Fests over the next several weekends. I’ve collected links if you’re interested in information on your favorite team’s event: Giants, Orioles, Rays, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Nationals, A’s, Brewers, White Sox, Indians, Rockies, Dodgers, Marlins, and Padres. The Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Astros, Marlins, and Rays will not be charging an admission fee. My guess is that the Giants and Dodgers don’t charge a fee because they can afford not to, while the Diamondbacks, Astros and Rays can’t afford to impose any impediment that will keep fans away.

Wait, what about the Phillies? Well, they fall somewhere in between. The Phillies don’t host a traditional Fun Fest or board buses for a Caravan. Instead, according to James Trout, the team’s Director of Marketing Services and Events, the Phillies host banquets with each of their minor-league affiliates, and send players, coaches and, of course, the Phanatic, to meet with fans in those cities. The Phillies also invite all season-ticket holders to a breakfast or lunch at Citizens Bank Park, where they dine with players, coaches, and, of course, the Phanatic. During the season, the team puts on the Phillies Festival, a charity fundraiser attended by all active players, and open to the public.

That brings us back to the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, and Marlins.

Let’s talk first about the Mets. As ESPN reported earlier this week, the Mets used to host a winter caravan that featured players on the active roster at various stops around New York before the start of spring training. The Mets stopped doing caravans after the 2005-2006 offseason because “there is only so much they can ask of any player,” according to Mets VP of Marketing Dave Newman. “It’s how we use our players knowing what we ask of them, whether it’s related to media, community, business partners — the Citis of the world, etc. It’s a limited amount of time,” Newman told ESPN.

This year, some fans stepped into the breach and organized the Queens Baseball Convention, which was held last weekend at a restaurant at CitiField. Former players Ron Darling and Ed Kranepool attended and there was a panel with folks from the Mets ticketing and marketing department.

The Angels have also come to rely on a fan-sponsored event for revving up the fan base before the season starts. The folks at — an Angels community blog — started hosting a fan fest-type gathering seven years ago. At first, just a handful of people showed up. This year, they expect more than 200, according to Geoff Stoddart, the Editor-in-Chief of AngelsWin. The event takes place in Tempe, Arizona, where the Angels have their spring training complex. Team executives, broadcasters, and players have attended in the past, and are expected back this spring. Money raised through entrance fees is donated to one of the team’s official charities.

I reached out to both the Yankees and Red Sox to ask why neither team sponsors a fan-fest or caravan type gathering before the season starts. I didn’t receive a response from either team. Draw your own conclusions.

So get out there baseball fans. Go meet the players. Shake hands with the coaches. Check out the latest in team gear. Opening Day is right around the corner. Right there. I see it. Really.

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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and You can find her work at and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

27 Responses to “It’s Fan Fest Season; Well, For Most Teams”

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  1. Steve says:

    The Jays have a “state of the franchise” type thing, which (I believe) is like a barbeque fan event?

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    • paulnako says:

      For context, the Jays’ State of the Franchise is an event held at the ballpark featuring a Q&A and meet and greet with the President, GM, Manager, and sometimes another surprise guest. It’s a great event (aka free beer) but only limited to season ticket holders.

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  2. asdf says:

    Red sox spring training is a pretty big thing. Also, truck day, although no players are involved. Also, there’s like 10,000 events at fenway park all winter that never stops emailing you about. I’d say nobody is accusing the red sox marketing office of having too few events in the offseason, and red sox fans have no shortage of opportunities to give john henry more money…

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  3. ettin says:

    I’m surprised the Yankees don’t do this type of thing. All they have to do to interact with their fans is to contact their local prison system and arrange for a show and tell?

    The Boston front office can just hold their FanFest to coincide with the next Neil Diamond concert?

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  4. Rick says:

    I suppose the Marlins could hold a Fan (n., singular) Fest, as opposed to a Fan (adj.) Fest.

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  5. jerome atrick says:

    Pirates held a two day fan fest.. and did a caravan.

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    • PiratesHurdles says:

      Its actually was 3 days, season ticket holders get a special session Friday night, then general public Sat and Sun. The Bucs moved the event from January to December in 2012 if memory serves. I always liked it better after the holidays when less is going on, but I’m pretty sure they felt that people would spend more cash before Christmas.

      At any rate it is a blast and I would highly recommend. My only complaint is the nonsensical autograph booth line that is 2 hours long.

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  6. Wendy Thurm says:

    My apologies. The Marlins do hold a Fan Fest-type event. I’ve corrected the article.

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  7. joanne says:

    Growing up in a Yankee family, I did not even know such a thing as FanFest could exist until my baseball mind was opened up a bit and I started paying more attention to other teams. Interestingly enough, the first type of fan/player meetup event I actually experienced was when I went to watch my NL team (the Giants) play in Philly on what turned out to be their Fan Photo Day. All fans were welcome to line up around the outfield and parts of the infield and Phillies players and staff made the rounds greeting and taking photos with the fans. Now I know the Yankees are the exception and not the rule and while I’m not surprised by it in the least, it might be something worth looking into, especially with so many “new to you” Yankees passing under that facade.

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  8. King Buzzo says:

    The only conclusion I can draw is that they are self important aholes

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    • TishTash says:

      I believe the Sox & Yanks have enough of a rabid fanbase that they are not compelled to hold fanfests. As in most capitalist ventures, it’s all about supply & demand. That being said, the Yankees are holding a fanfest sponsored by their radio station, and I hear the Sox are planning something similar. (So the a-hole appears to be in your bathroom mirror.)

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  9. bob says:

    The Royals will have Bill Pecota. He could autograph my copy of “Baseball Between the Numbers” but how does that work with Kindle books?

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  10. Udo Lindenberg says:

    The Brewers Fest is free this year, after having been obscenely expensive in the past. They still charge for autographs once you are in there.

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    • bjoak says:

      Charging for autographs just seems dirty. The Brewers ought to be relegated to the Pete Rose wing of the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, they give the money to charity at least?

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      • paperlions says:

        Usually, though I am sure not always, proceeds from fan fest events (including autograph charges) all go to the team’s charity division. Usually, they are not money making events, but charity events.

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  11. Tony the Pony says:

    Last couple of years when I’ve been to the Tigers Fanfest events most of the Time is spent either giggling about the rest of the AL Central or crying about the Lions.

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  12. bjoak says:

    The A’s used to have excellent season ticket holder only events in the early 2000’s. I can’t remember if that changed to Fanfest or if it was in addition to, but it was way better. They still do some cool stuff for us during the season, though. Last year we were randomly invited with a small group of season ticket holders to hang out with players on the field while they took BP. That was pretty cool.

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  13. twac00 says:

    In 1996 I went to a Yankees Fanfest and I got Jeter’s autograph. I don’t know why they stopped. They obviously don’t need one, but I think they would develop more loyalty amongst the newer generation of fans if they did.

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  14. japem says:

    The Red Sox have Truck Day. While it’s not a time to meet the players, it has its own significance and is a big day for hardcore Red Sox fans. Lots of people show up to see the truck off.

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  15. Baron Samedi says:

    Greetings from Ontario Province!

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    • Tools of Ignorance says:

      Yeah, that doesn’t seem right. Province of Ontario. And I thought they spanned all over Canada Country.

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  16. jks says:

    The Nationals seem to charge the most – $25 admission for adults and $20 for an autograph voucher.
    The Angels look like they have the most exclusive event with only 225 fans allowed. I take it the $40 ticket price includes autographs.
    Hats off to those teams who keep the events free or have free autograph stations for kids.

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