Fan Fest Shows View is Back

This past Saturday the Houston Astros hosted their annual Fan Fest.

Fan Fest is a time when fans can go to Minute Maid Park and take in the sights and sounds before the team heads off to Florida for the start of Spring Training.

There are games for the kids and opportunities to take batting practice or run around the bases like a Major League Baseball player.

It is also a time when fans can purchase player autographs, past promotional items and other things with the proceeds all going to the team’s charity.

Fans line up to take batting practice at Minute Maid Park during the Annual Astros Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson
Fans line up to take batting practice at Minute Maid Park during the Annual Astros Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

I have attended around five or six Fan Fests through the years but this was the first one that I had attended since the new ownership took over the team.

While I am sure there are still growing pains to address I was really not too impressed with what I saw.

Instead of letting fans move throughout the whole ballpark with activities spaced out this year featured a more compressed Fan Fest.

This meant that there was less elbow room than in past years and made for a bit of a claustrophobic situation.

I am sure that there were many nice activities but with so many people in such a small space it was hard to tell.

In the future I would recommend spreading the activities out a bit more to avoid the packed sardine feel.

Of course with no heat in the Ballpark and a colder than normal Houston day perhaps they packed everyone in on purpose in hopes that the close quarters would help warm the fans through shared body heat.

Milo Hamilton, former broadcaster for the Houston Astros, was one of many legends that were availible to sign autographs during the Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson
Milo Hamilton, former broadcaster for the Houston Astros, was one of many legends that were availible to sign autographs during the Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

Another disappointment came in the annual garage sale of past promotional items.

In previous years I have been able to get many team hats, shirts, and bobbleheads at the garage sale while doing my part to help charity.

The selection this year was very slim and led to a far reduced haul than previous years and also a smaller charitable donation.

Of course the team did not really give that much out last year in terms of promotional items so that would help explain the lack of items at the garage sale.

The promotion schedule released for the upcoming season looks equally thin meaning that there will be little of value at next year’s garage sale as well.

Of course, with the roster in a constant state of flux and players going up and down to the Triple-A club like they were on an elevator it stands to reason that the team would not want to invest in bobbleheads for players that were likely to be traded by the time their bobblehead day arrived.

Of course not everything about Fan Fest was disappointing.

While there were limited items at the garage sale and too many people confined to a small space there was a glimmer of hope in the outfield.

Photo R. Anderson
After blocking the view of the outfield train and the Houston skyline with ugly Minor League baseball style billboards last year it appears that the team is restoring the view since the billboards were gone during Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

After blocking the view of the outfield train and the Houston skyline with ugly Minor League baseball style billboards last year it appears that the team is restoring the view since the billboards were gone.

I never understood why they were there in the first place since the view of the downtown skyline was one of the unique perks of Minute Maid Park.

With the signs removed fans can now once again look out into the sunset when the on field action is too unbearable to watch.

Off course with the construction of apartments outside the Ballpark underway it will remain to be seen how long the view lasts.

It very well could be that the signs were removed to give the people buying the apartments a better view inside the Ballpark.

I am sure those units will fetch quite a nice price.

Of course I will take a view of a high rise apartment building outside the Ballpark over Minor League billboards any day.

Of course the completion of Fan Fest means that the Baseball season is that much closer to becoming a reality.

With one more football game to go this season baseball cannot arrive soon enough.

It is definitely beginning to look a lot like baseball and I could not be any happier about that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make some plans to catch some games.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

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Whose Hall is it Anyway?

The other day it was announced that three players had been selected as 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees and one other player missed induction by the narrowest of margins.

The inducted players are Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

And if the trio felt like partying like it is 1999 one could not really blame them since it was the first time since 1999 that three players appearing on their first ballot were voted in for induction by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA).

Long time Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine were named to the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class along with Frank Thomas. Photo R. Anderson
Long time Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine were named to the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class along with Frank Thomas.
Photo R. Anderson

Maddox received 97.2% of the votes, followed by Glavine with 91.9% and Thomas with 83.7%.

Craig Biggio, who spent his entire two decade career with the Houston Astros, fell just short of the 75% threshold required for induction. Biggio, in his second year of eligibility, garnered 74.8% of the votes to fall two votes shy of Cooperstown.

And while Biggio fell painfully close to admission and will likely get elected next year, others were not so lucky.

Once again players who were deemed tainted by the steroid era in baseball were left on the outside looking in.

In fact several of the roughly 500 men and women who comprise the voting members of the BWAA have gone so far as to say that they will not vote for any players who spent their careers in the steroid era regardless of whether or not they ever failed a drug test.

By all accounts through their careers Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were locks for first ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.

Both men had lengthy careers and put up the type of numbers that made a statistician blush and opposing players and fans curse.

Unfortunately late in their careers both Bonds and Clemens were caught up in the net of suspicion regarding performance enhancing drugs and were brought in front of a congressional subcommittee to face charges that they lied about their use of PEDs.

Despite both men being acquitted and with Hall of Fame caliber numbers they still are not in the Hall of Fame despite calls from more than 75 percent of fans to let them in.

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other platers were were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting memebers of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them. Photo R. Anderson
Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players were were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them.
Photo R. Anderson

And therein in lies the rub and the disconnect related to Hall of Fame voting.

The Hall of Fame is decided by around 500 people who have been BWAA members for at least 10 years.

There is no requirement that they ever played the game but merely that they have covered the game as members of the media who have paid their club dues for 10 years.

Another wrinkle in the BWAA rules is that only 10 people can be included on any given ballot despite there being more than 10 eligible players each year.

At least one BWAA writer determined that the process of leaving the public out of the process was flawed so he crowd sourced his vote to a website that conducted a poll to determine who should be included on the ballot.

As can be expected the BWAA did not take too kindly to the news that one of its votes had been given to someone who had not paid the 10-years of membership fees.

Once the member revealed himself the BWAA acted swiftly and banned this particular member from ever casting a Hall of Fame vote again and also suspended him for a year. One can only hope that he was refunded his membership dues as well for the year that he will not be allowed to be a member.

This crowd sourcing of a Hall of Fame vote garnered reaction on both sides with some people agreeing with the BWAA postion that it was cheapening the Hall of Fame to let not tenured people decide who was worthy while others have felt that it was about time for a fresh look at what constitutes a hall of famer.

I have mentioned before how I do not like the ballot stuffing that occurs during the All-Star voting which allows a single fan to submit as many ballots as they can get their hands on so I am not necessarily thinking that a fan internet vote for the Hall of Fame can be a good thing.

I am also not suggesting that the Hall of Fame turn into a sort of American Idol situation where fans can call in their votes for their favorite players.

But, I am also not sure that allowing 500 members of the media who have different philosophies on what constitutes a tainted player should be the only people guarding the gate and determining who is in and who is out.

In all likelihood I will never be a member of the BWAA with enough tenure to ever cast a Hall of Fame ballot.

But if I were able to ever cast a ballot I would be sure to do my homework on the players and consider their numbers as a whole and not in a vacuum. I would also not use my vote as some sort of political platform.

For example if steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should count.

And by all means with players such as Bonds, Clemens and others who never failed a drug test one cannot ban them from the Hall of Fame because they might have been dirty.

I might have run a red light today on my way to work today, or I might not have. Should I get randomly pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket just because at some point when no one was looking I may have run a red light? Of course not.

That would be overstepping the authority of the police and in many cases it is why cities with red light cameras are removing them.

So players need to be judged on their on-field performance and if their numbers support admission they need to be admitted.

Yes, there was a time when the game of baseball was riddled with steroids but it was not the only time in the history of the game where players sought to get an edge.

Are we supposed to go through all the way back to Babe Ruth and others to determine if their numbers were enhanced through supplements? No we are not.

I am glad that drug testing is part of the sport and I do hope that the use of steroids can be contained. However, players always have and always will look for an off the field edge to help their on the field performance.

And unless a player drops their pants at home plate and injects steroids in front of 35,000 witnesses we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and give those players with a Hall of Fame career their proper enshrinement in bronze if they have never failed a drug test.

So the BWAA member who gave away his vote to the people certainly exposed a flawed system but it is certainly not a system that can be easily fixed. Until it is there will be deserving players who are only able to get into the Hall of Fame with a paid admission.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about baseball has me craving a hot dog.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson