Baseball was in the air this weekend at the Palmer House Hilton. Soxfest always gets me pumped up for the start of the new season, and this year was no exception. As soon as I entered the hotel I saw Gordon Beckham. Baseball was back. As I checked in I also saw Juan Pierre and Moose Skowron. Immediately I was thinking happy thoughts about a summers day at The Cell, even though the temperature outside was struggling to reach 0.
After getting to the room it was time to make the big decision of which autograph wristband I was going to grab first. The choices were A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Mark Buehrle, Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko. I chose Buehrle given his contract status, the fact that this was his only signing of the weekend and because I wanted to get this photo signed.
After running up a few flights of stairs, and almost suffering a heart attack along the way, I grabbed my wristband and went back downstairs for the opening ceremony. I thought the artwork thing was dumb, but enjoyed the bag pipers. At first I thought Rowdy Roddy Piper was a surprise guest. Anyway, when they introduced the players I was surprised at just how big Adam Dunn is. The dude is a monster. It was also nice to welcome back Roberto Hernandez and Jose Valentin, 2 of my favorites when they were in uniform.
I stayed for a little bit of the Ozzie/Kenny seminar before I headed back upstairs to get Buehrle's autograph. I asked about Andruw Jones and Dayan Viciedo. Williams said the 2 million dollar price was too much for the Sox to cover for Jones and that Viciedo will be playing the outfield this season. I bit my tongue and didn't say "2 million is too much for Jones but you made it rain on Teahen last year" like I was thinking. I was happy to hear they are taking my plan as it relates to Viciedo though.
I ventured back upstairs for the Buehrle autograph. Loverboy's Working For the Weekend was the only song being played in his autograph room. It replayed at least 15 times. When I got up to the stage my comment to Mark was "dude you throw a perfect game, won a world series and they only give you one track" to which he started cracking up and said "I said that 30 minutes ago". I also declined to buy a bottle of his Buehrlot wine, which he was hocking for 30 bucks a piece.
I also grabbed a Juan Pierre and Jose Valentin autograph that night. There was a seminar with Karkovice, Hernandez and Valentin in which all three had nothing but good things to say about the organization and their time here. Roberto described how good Bobby Thigpen was to him- saying that not many people would groom a younger guy to take his job. Just like South Side Expat described, Buehrle, Konerko and AJ were very funny together at their Seminar session that followed.
It was on to Miller's Pub after that for some post game festivities. Even though SSE snubbed my invite to buy me a beer, I was cool with seeing Sergio Santos and Matt Thornton come in with their girls and wait 20 minutes in Bill Veecks corner for a table. Thornton was sporting an Urlacher jersey and Santos was watching his LA Lakers. After a fine meal it was back to the hotel, where I stopped in the lobby bar area. Ramon Castro and Roberto Hernandez were kicking it with the fans, some of which were very scantily clad females, so I had to stay and get my drink on for a little bit.
Saturday morning, I went downstairs at 6 AM to get in line. There were plenty of people there before us. Soxfest isn't for everybody in that regard as it is a lot like Great America. You are in line for hours for 15 seconds of satisfaction. I got AJ's autograph on this, and also snagged Sergio Santos and Matt Thornton.
Some interesting tidbits from the seminars on Saturday were that they are opening "Comiskey's Bar and Grill" in the former TBD's. The blueprints look very nice and it is set to open on Opening Day. Rick Hahn was a very good speaker and I am starting to lean towards keeping him around here for awhile. He went into depth on how the Sox are trying to start rebuilding their presence in Latin America with Jerry Krause as the new front man for the organization down there. Juan Pierre was also very good in his seminar about base stealing.
The biggest event for me Saturday was the seminar that included Frank Thomas, Adam Dunn, Greg Walker and Ed Farmer. In this seminar, Thomas claimed he wasn't a home run hitter, predicted 50 for Adam Dunn this year and seemed very interested to help Dunn out in his adjustment to becoming a DH. Dunn seems like an old school ballplayer who says he doesn't do any baseball activity until Spring Training starts. He also is too lazy to shave and lifts weights 3 times a week during the offseason but doesn't do much running. The part that concerned me was that he says he is a slow starter, which would be fine, but we have a team full of slow starters. Hopefully this year they get it going a little quicker than last.
Sunday was a good day for me because a lot of people didn't show due to the Bears game. I got Alexei Ramirez autograph early, followed by Bill Melton, Roland Hemond and Edwin Jackson. However, the best part of the weekend came at 1:30 when myself, my dad and my brother all walked up onto the photo stage and got our picture with Frank Thomas. My dad was getting choked up in line because he remembered waiting with me for Frank's autograph back at the original Soxfest, when I was 12 years old or so and how now it has kind of come full circle as Frank is retired, my dad is older, my brother (who was 2 when these things started is now 21) and I am married with kids that I hope to bring to Soxfest in a couple of years to meet Frank Thomas. That is what Soxfest is all about for me, a chance to go back to being a kid again for a weekend.