The Awards Dinner and Fan Fest.

The Awards Dinner/Fan Fest weekend is always a predictable rush, a 24-hour marathon that hammers home that it’s time to for baseball season.  You go into it knowing you’ll see and hear things that get you fired up, and sometimes choked up, but you can’t always predict what those will be.

I still laugh every time I think about that lousy Elvis impersonator (not hired to perform – just a fan walking around in that get-up) asking during the 2001 Fan Fest (I think it was called something different then) for broadcaster Bill Jones’s autograph . . . on Jim Sundberg’s baseball card.

In 2002, prospects Hank Blalock and Justin Duchscherer putting their artistic touches on each other’s promotional photos . . . Craig Monroe showing up for his Newberg Report autograph time slot even though he’d been claimed off waivers by Detroit the day before . . . and Jeff Zimmerman, both his remarkable Awards Dinner introduction of the recently retired John Wetteland and his moment on Saturday when he accidentally smudged his own signature on a fan’s 8 x 10 glossy photo and promising to mail him a new one (and keeping his promise).

In 2003, hearing what had just happened to Space Shuttle Columbia as I arrived at Fan Fest.

Juan Marichal’s 2004 Awards Dinner speech just ended.

Juan Dominguez’s demeanor that same night was shockingly strange.  Almost emotionless, but not in a shocked or petrified way.  More like the Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year was brooding.

Last year: I won’t forget T.R. Sullivan’s moving award presentation to Josh Hamilton, or Vernon Wells showing up to present Michael Young (and his wife Cristina) the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.

I may or may not remember that the 2010 Awards Dinner/Fan Fest weekend was also when Erica scored her first basket in a league game or when my law firm, having outgrown our space, moved to a new building, but I will remember that there were what had to be twice as many fans in the Omni Fort Worth Hotel banquet room as the event has had in years, that the highlights of the night were at the beginning (a spectacular, up-tempo season preview highlight montage that I’m sure was a Chuck Morgan, Rush Olson, and Hugo Carbajal creation) and the middle (Dale Hansen’s wheelhouse roast of Jim Reeves – and Nolan Ryan’s rebuttal on Revo’s behalf) and the end (Annette Leslie’s spot-on remarks about Michael Young, and Young’s perfect words right afterwards to close the evening).

I also appreciated the idea – whoever in the organization gets the credit – for seating Clayton Kershaw next to Michael Young at the head table.  Was there a subtle design at work (other than putting a childhood Rangers fan next to a childhood Dodgers fan)?  Who knows?  I liked it.

Every one of us knows all about Martin Perez the player by now.  Let me tell you this:

He’s going to be the Elvis Andrus of the pitching staff when he gets here.

And I don’t just mean between the lines.

The star quality (magnetic, but not pretentious) is unmistakable.  You noticed it Friday night if you were there.

Every year there’s one minor leaguer at the Newberg Report set-up at Fan Fest who I gain a whole new appreciation of.  This year’s winner of the Chad Hawkins/Ben Kozlowski/Justin Hatcher Award goes to Mitch Moreland.  That man is Big League.

Until you spend an hour with guys like Justin Smoak and Tanner Scheppers, you’d never imagine that they’re just a couple of normal dudes.  Normal dudes who are very good at baseball.  Rock-solid, regular guys.  

The crowds were huge – wonder how much bigger they’d have been if it weren’t 27 degrees (which felt at times like 27 below).

A few of Eleanor Czajka’s photos from our set-up: http://picasaweb.google.com/EleanorCzajka/FanFest2010NewbergReportBooth#  

Grant Schiller’s writeup from the weekend: http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/2010/01/fan-fest-review.html

Memorable moments aside, the significance of the weekend was, like it is every year, its place on the calendar and its clarion call to the baseball fan to get geared up.  Michael Young nailed it:

“When you get to this point with FanFest and the banquet, that’s when it starts to hit.  It’s baseball season.  It’s about time to get ready. . . . This is a great time to be a Ranger.  I see great times ahead for the organization.  As players, we feel this organization is set up to be good this year and it’s set up to be good for the future.  This organization is ready to take off and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Seventeen sleeps.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

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