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.
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.
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.
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