My Epic #RaysFanFest Recap

Today was such a whirlwind and I didn’t even leave my apartment. It was Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, and I was stuck in Arizona. However, as long as you’re armed with a computer and a phone, you don’t have to miss everything in life. If you have fantastic friends on Twitter that is, which I do.

Last year, Matt Joyce called me from Fan Fest. This year, so much more happened. I began taking notes in a text document to try and capture it all, and just a bit ago got rid of the headache that was keeping me from writing. Excitement and nerves can cause some gnarly pain haha!

Two of my friends on Twitter, Amanda )@MandaGator) and Heather (@Rocky20106) had planned weeks ago to try and get me a call from a player at Fan Fest this year. Unlike last year, I’ve had plenty of time to look forward to it. Last year I had no idea anything so amazing could be orchestrated by a stranger until the day before. I still wonder whatever happened to that fan who got me a call from Matt Joyce. Anyway, back to today.

Last year I missed a call from Dave Wills. I had the voicemail he left saved for months before I lost it. This year, I didn’t miss his call. Here is how this morning went. I slept in a bit and had settled down to drink coffee and read Twitter after feeding Jayden. Let’s take this directly from the notes I took after the phone calls, shall we? (I’ve periodically added times and such to the notes but aside from that, they are as I jotted them down as the day went.)

***

9:58am Manda Texted telling me to get by my phone, told her I was and then shortly after another text, first calls coming in in 5 minutes.

***

The texts aren’t word for word, just what I jotted down as the morning progressed. At that point, I knew it was too early for the Phone-A-Fan thing to begin, so I wasn’t sure what she meant by “calls”. We had talked about having her just grab people, but I had no idea what to expect.

***

Dave was excited.

He said to let him know if I get there and I’ll get the royal treatment. Said he was glad not to leave me a voice mail like last year.

***

I knew his voice the moment he spoke and asked him if it was Dave Wills before he could tell me who he was haha! I don’t remember why I wrote, “Dave is excited”. I think he said he was excited to talk to me because he remembered getting my voice mail last year. I was very low on caffeine unfortunately so the memory is foggy. I do remember thinking I should have asked him if the royal treatment meant hanging out in the radio booth during a game. Oh, thinking back, I think he was excited the season was near, because we both mentioned that. He said he and Andy would be on my radio in a couple weeks. Yay!

Not long after that call ended, my phone chirped again. I had given Amanda the crickets ring tone so I’d know it was her and because crickets remind me of her. I answered the phone and it was Steve Carny! (@stevecarney)

***

Steve Carny was fun and scolded me for not being there, the one person he wanted to see was all the way in AZ haha!

***

When he got on the phone and said his name I got excited. He’s a name I hear a lot on Twitter and he had me laughing with his talk of disappointment I wasn’t there. He had me promising to be there next year and I said I’d start saving now.

Shortly after that call ended, more chirping. Neil Solondz!

***

Neil was very gracious, I asked if it was his first fan fest and he said yes, I could hear his wonderment over the phone. He said he’s usually in Durham this time of year, when he said his name I got excited, so I hope that made him feel very welcome, not that he isn’t already feeling welcome, but yeah. Very cool to talk to him.

***

I was very excited to talk to Neil Solondz. I listened to him call a number of triple A games last season and liked his voice and his knowledge of the game. He is the Rays new pre and post game host on the radio, news I was very happy about, so when he said his name into the phone, I gasped. I wasn’t expecting him and it was so cool! After he said this was his first Fan Fest, I said something about him meeting the crazy Rays fans. I think he definitely got to see how cool the Rays family is, as did Steve and Dave.

That was it for phone calls for a bit. Amanda and Heather basically just stuck the phone at people and asked them to talk to me hahaha!!! I love it! Can you sense my excitement? Are the unedited notes and tone of this post conveying to you just how amazing this was?

Oh, I think it was when Neil and I had wrapped up and he tried to get Amanda to talk to me, I could hear her and Heather in the background giggling, saying they weren’t talking to me. I asked about that on Twitter and they said they didn’t want to detract from the experience. Ladies, talking to you would have been a highlight. You can be honest and say you were conserving battery. 😉

I knew it was getting close to Phone-A-Fan time so when I didn’t get anymore calls, I figured the girls were in line. I started reading through Twitter and jotting down notes about the calls. If you tagged your tweets with #RaysFanFest, you could win prizes and/or have your tweet show up on the video board at the Trop.

I got a tweet from the Rays Baseball account addressed to me and a few others that read: “check the video board, your tweet will be up soon, thanks!!! #raysfanfest”

***

Which tweet? Hmmm. Apparently it was this one, and Heather got a picture:

@Raynaadi: The #RaysTwitterFamily is the best!!! They are totally making me feel like I’m at #RaysFanFest. Sooo coool!!!!!

But Claudia said I made it on the board again, so not sure.

***

Claudia (@RaysAndGymChick) said more than one of my tweets made it on the board and one of her tweets said something like, so you are here buddy. I was, wasn’t I? *grin*

***

Aaron let me know Dave Wills was on the radio so I tuned in online. I had just talked to him on the phone and there he was, back on the radio where he first became part of my life.

***

It really was awesome to hear him on the radio not long after talking to him on the phone. I left the radio broadcast streaming for the rest of Fan Fest, having forgotten 620 WDAE would be broadcasting live from the Trop. Steve Carny was on at one point and I got to experience the “whoa, I just talked to him” feeling again. So cool!

***

It’s 11 now, listening to the radio, tweeting with Morgan as we both wait for our call. Who will it be? Was it about 11:20? Manda’s ring tone chirped. It was Marc Topkin!! We actually talked baseball. Like, early talked baseball. He asked what I thought about the season, i told him 97 wins, the ALE was going to be hard, the whole AL was going to be hard, he talked about the west, we talked about Jonah Keri’s book and how Topkin was quoted, he said he was the consolation call and I got to say nooo I love him etc etc. It was awesome!

***

Marc Topkin writes for the Tampa Bay Times and I don’t believe any Rays news until I hear it from his Twitter account. He has been the Rays beat reporter since the beginning of the franchise and he was quoted several times in Jonah Keri’s book, “The Extra Two Percent”. We talked about that and had a good laugh and I got to tell him how much I enjoy his interviews with Dave Wills and Andy Freed before the games on the radio broadcasts. I couldn’t believe how easily we slipped into baseball talk and it was incredible to talk about the sport with someone like him. I think we can say I’m awe struck at the memory. I wonder if his prediction about the AL West will come true. Oh, what prediction you ask? I’m sorry, that’s between Marc Topkin and me.

All of the phone calls were amazing and each one was more unexpected than the previous, at least as far as the calls on Amanda’s phone were concerned. I really felt like I was there! Soon it was time to wonder which Ray I would talk to. Another Twitter friend of mine, Morgan (@morganfox19), who lives in Minnesota, was also waiting for a call from the Phone-A-Fan booth. Amanda was in line for me, Heather for Morgan. She’s a huge David Price fan and he was one making calls along with Sam Fuld between 11am and noon my time. Morgan and I were both on clock watch, wondering who we would talk to. I at least had the call from Marc Topkin to break up the wait haha!

***

Is Manda still in line? I don’t know what’s up.

Almost noon. Manda just texted and said a few minutes. Morgan is waiting still. Nervous making!

***

Morgan and I were chatting in direct messages, waiting. Heather was sending Morgan updates and she was getting closer and closer to David Price as the clock ticked closer to the end of his shift. I just wanted Morgan to be able to talk to him.

Just after noon my time, Morgan tweeted that she had just talked to Sean Rodriguez. I was about to reply to her that that was fast when my phone rang.

***

Ok, I think Morgan got the first call from Sean Rodriguez, I was right after her I think.

The call probably came in about 12:05 or so. I was jumping up and down, I couldn’t help it. I told him so. He laughed. We talked about AZ, he told me where he used to live, I told him I’m in {city}, he said he’s been here. I asked if he was excited for the season and then said that was a silly question, he laughed and said there’s no silly questions.

I paced all over the house while I talked, he said Manda was videoing, he was looking right at the camera. I don’t remember what else we said. Lots of laughing like there was with Matt Joyce. Oh, I said he’s doing great on Twitter, he said he had slowed down because they had just bought a house, like we were buddies talking about our daily lives. we talked about tweeting during the season, tweeting not eh planes and such.

***

It was incredible! We really did talk like we had been friends who had lost touch. When he explained he had slowed down on Twitter due to his new house, it really did feel like he was just filling in a friend. When he found out I live in Arizona, he fondly recalled where his home had been and how he had done spring training here when he played with the Angels.

I’m not sure what the last sentence in the notes meant haha! I know we talked about how the guys tweet when they travel and how he could do that now. Come to think of it, we talked quite a bit about tweeting during the season haha!

I’m pretty sure the call was longer than last year. In fact I remember thinking that while we were on the phone. I could have talked to him for hours. He was just so easy going and laughed a lot! I’m soooo glad it was him I got to talk to. David Price or Sam Fuld would have been awesome too, but I feel like I’ve just “gotten to know” Sean since he joined Twitter. I hope he wins the short stop job! He can really play just about anywhere in the infield though.

I’m pretty sure he said to make sure Manda and I keep in touch with him on Twitter as we wrapped up the call. Hopefully his end of the conversation will be audible in the video. I can’t wait for that!

After the call with Sean I just tried to get rid of my excitement induced headache. I started catching up on Twitter and took some more notes. I wonder when I finally started writing this. I know it’s a long post, but I had to capture as much of the memory as possible. Heather got video but I’m not sure I’ll have it before I post this.

Morgan already wrote her blog post about her phone call from Sean. I look forward to her Q & A with him when she posts it! It was so fun to wait with her for our phone calls, both of us being long distance Rays fans.

I’m going to close out this post with the remainder of the notes I took, after other friends began posting about their day at Fan Fest. Another huge highlight for me was when Kaitlyn posted a pic with the caption, “Me and Jeremy Hellickson!!! OMFG I CRIED MY EYES OUT!!! “. When I heard that, I knew she had met him, and she’s his biggest fan. Very, very happy making!

Today was amazing!!! So, so amazing!!! Thank you, Manda and Heather, for making this happen. I will never forget this! (How could I, with this epic post written?)

Here’s the remainder of the notes. I suppose this is where movie credits would roll haha!

***

Now I’m just tweeting, naturally had to tell everyone I talked to him. My head hurts so bad haha! nerves and excitement.

Nearly two hours later, Morgan and I are talking in direct messages about our experience talking to Sean. It’s great to be able to share this with another! Both of us are just so happy to have been able to talk within and since our friends stuck together, we talked to him back to back. Yep, she just said the call came in at 1:00 her time. I checked my recent calls and heard: Incoming, 727-873-**** FL, USA Last call: 12:03 pm.

It’s 2:56 pm now. I think FanFest will be wrapping up there at the Trop. The last couple hours are a blur. I’m completely exhausted and all I did was stay at home glued to my phone and Twitter haha! I’ve been nursing a pretty awful headache I think I gave myself. I haven’t yet begun to write the blog post. My brain feels too foggy. I definitely want to get the frost up today, though.

I just checked Twitter and Kaitlyn got to meet Jeremy! I was so excited I covered my face with my hands and started squealing.

Everyone is starting to tweet about their day at FanFest. I’m so glad Claudia had a great time.

Kaitlyn is telling me about Reid Brignac recognizing her from Twitter.

Another fan tweeted that Sean Rodriguez stayed an extra hour to make sure every kid got a call. Wow.

Oh, Sean signed Heahter’s jersey.

***

I just checked Twitter and I had a tweet from Dave Wills @davewills34, saying he was glad we were able to chat today and he looks forward to seeing me at a game at the Trop soon. How cool is that? I wonder how many long distance fans of other teams have this much fun? Thank you, entire Tampa Bay Rays staff!

I’m still here. Steve Carny tweeted about talking to me and hoping I’d make it there and then I got a tweet from a fan asking if I had been there. I feel a bit like a tiny Twitter celeb haha! Maybe that’s just hunger and exhaustion talking. I think I’m really going to go post this now.

4 Comments

Filed under baseball, fellowship, gratitude, Jayden, matt joyce, plugs, Sam Fuld, sean rodriguez, twitter me this, wow

4 Responses to My Epic #RaysFanFest Recap

  1. Morgan Fox

    I <3 this post! It really made me think about our wonderful day! thank you for patiently waiting with me! it was sooo fun!

  2. So cool!!! I’m so happy for you!

  3. You gotta love that Dave Wills. He was the announcer for the Kane County Cougars (minor league team) in Geneva, Illinois when I lived there. The Cougars were cool enough to hire me to work in the ticket sales office back when I was having a hard time convincing *anyone* to hire me for anything. Dave was always so smart about baseball, thorough in his research and overall a sincerely nice guy. Funny, too! Best of all, his wife made *killer* deviled eggs that he’d bring into the office and share. Next time you talk with him(!) see if she’s still making those eggs.

  4. Ro

    Nice!!! I’ve sent him a tweet so we’ll see if he gets it and what he says. Maybe I’ll direct him here so he can read your kind words about him.

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