My dad, brother and I made our annual journey to SoxFest this past weekend. It offers a chance to escape the winter blues and immerse yourself in all things White Sox. As we were checking in, Gavin Floyd was at the desk next to us. Baseball season was officially underway.
If you are an autograph hunter, a key is getting in line early. My plan was to get in line early enough to secure a wristband for Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham and make it back on time to see the Kenny Williams and Robin Ventura seminar. Unfortunately that meant that I missed the Bud Selig seminar, but he is pretty painful to listen to anyway. I got the wristband that I wanted and made my way upstairs to see the opening ceremony. Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox organization got an award for their volunteer group, and members of that group got to go on stage during the ceremony. The players were introduced with Paul Konerko getting the biggest ovation for the current team, only rivaled by Robin Ventura. Kenny Williams received a smattering of boo's and alumni Joe Crede and Pablo Ozuna getting a nice ovation. Adam Dunn was conspicuous by his absence.
Price: Friday at SoxFest is only open to hotel guests with a weekend pass. The Sox started this practice a few years back in order to give the people willing to dish out the cash a chance to have a day where the crowd isn't as big. In recent years the price to attend SoxFest has risen dramatically. It cost $315 for the 2 night hotel stay, $75 per person for the weekend pass ($60 for season ticket holders), $74 to park in the lot for the two days (although the Sox open up the parking lot at the ballpark so you can take the Red Line to the hotel if you choose). They also offer Saturday and Sunday passes. I believe Saturday was $50 and Sunday was $35.
Highlights from Friday:
- Getting autographs from Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, AJ Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo. Autographs can be had at SoxFest, but the key is to line up early. I was able to get Ramirez and Beckham pretty quickly and was able to get a wristband at the back end of the Pierzynski line which was cool.
- Hearing Robin Ventura speak. He might be a quiet guy, but he has a good sense of humor and expects a lot from his players. At one point in the Your 2012 White Sox seminar, Kenny said "these guys are in trouble" meaning that Ventura is going to run a tough camp.
- After the night ended, we went to Miller's Pub for a meal and a couple of drinks. Upon returning to the hotel, Alexei and Dayan were drinking at the hotel bar which gave me the opportunity to have a drink and get a picture with Viciedo.
- Adam Dunn not attending the Opening Ceremonies. I would have liked to hear the reaction he would have received.
- Most of the 2012 White Sox seminar was indeed a love fest. It was the only time to be able to ask Kenny some tough questions, but he got off easy.
- John Danks and Chris Widger both were sick and missed their autograph signings.
- Hearing Ventura say that he will sit guys down if they are struggling, all year if need be. Also Robin is really going to be stressing the team concept, which in my opinion is a nice change. I think there has been too much emphasis on individuals the last couple of years.
- Steve Stone repeated Kenny's assessment from the previous night that if the Sox hit, they will compete.
- Chris Sale has taken up swimming and distance running in his preparation to be a starter.
- Will Ohman is a pretty funny dude. He made fun of himself for his age and the fact that he has a " 5 minute rule", meaning he takes the mound for a maximum of 5 minutes.
- Rick Hahn is pretty big on the minor league starters they acquired this offseason.
- Buddy Bell is in love with Jared Mitchell. I think he wants to start him at Birmingham this year. He says the organization is torn on him starting with the Barons or on Winston-Salem.
- They also are very high on Tyler Saladino and Trayce Thompson. They think Saladino could contribute in Chicago some time this season.
- Doug Laumann thinks Yoenis Cespedes is a special player.