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 of the Ballpark 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. There is even a chance to run around the bases like a Major League Baseball player.
Additionally, there are various state of the franchise forums where team management outlines their expectations for the upcoming season.
Fan Fest is also a place where fans can purchase player autographs, past promotional items and other things with the proceeds all going to the team’s charity.
On the surface, Fan Fest is a win for everyone and is a great way to spend a sunny Saturday in January.
Unfortunately, much like the Astros players have a tendency to strike out at the plate, the past couple of Fan Fests have been mostly a swing and a miss from my perspective.
I have attended around six or seven Fan Fests through the years, and this was the second 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.
For the second year in a row, instead of letting fans move throughout the whole ballpark with activities spaced out, activities were limited to a U shape on the concourse which created log jams of humanity having to turn around and move back upstream like spawning salmon when they reached the two black curtain dams.
This meant that there was less elbow room than in past years, which 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.
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.
This year when I arrived, the garage sale was already sold out of items. I find it very hard to believe that there were more people buying items this year to the point that they would be sold out an hour after the doors opened. I more likely scenario is that the team made less items available for the fans to purchase.
Speaking of things for fans to purchase, both team stores were open to allow people to stock up on hats, shirts and other gear ahead of the season.
The only problem with this was the proximity of the children’s bounce house zone to the store.
I have nothing against bounce houses, or even children inside bounce houses. My issue is with the proximity of the bounce house to the team store.
Anyone wanting to get to the main team store had to fight their way through lines of people waiting to get their bounce on.
There has got to be a better location for the bounce houses that allows the children to play and the adults to get to the store without having that salmon feeling again.
It is very likely that there were people who did not even go to the team store since they did not want to fight their way through bounce house land to get there. So, in this way, the placement of the bounce house zone likely cost the team money.
I did not venture to the Club level to hear any of the forums with team personnel since that would have been another upstream battle to get to the stairway that led to the forums.
In previous years, the fan forums were located in the Union Station lobby next to the team store and were easily accessible without battling the compressed humanity.
I am sure that the forums were good. I certainly wish I could have seen for myself, but it just wasn’t to be.
After two straight disappointing Fan Fest experiences, I will certainly think long and hard before returning next year.
I am sure I can find other ways to mark the arrival of the baseball season without swimming like a salmon with thousands of other fans crammed into a tight space.
Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about salmon has me hungry for some seafood.
Copyright 2015 R. Anderson