FanFest is taste of summer in snow

20,000 expected to `talk, think baseball' with O's

January 21, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles will reach to their past, get reacquainted with the present and take another peek at their future this weekend during FanFest 2000 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

What began as a one-day celebration of baseball at Memorial Stadium in the mid-1980s continues to grow in size and popularity. Over the past two years, an average of 15,000 fans have poured into the spacious downtown facility since the event was moved from Camden Yards to accommodate the larger crowds.

"We kept outgrowing ourselves. That's why we had to take it over to the convention center," said Michael Lehr, vice president of marketing and broadcasting.

"I think it's great. You watch it snow outside today and you think about the fact that somewhere around 20,000 people will be there the next two days to talk baseball and think baseball. It's an incredible thing and it shows you how much support the Orioles receive."

Fans will be treated to clinics on both days, with second baseman Jerry Hairston, third base coach Sam Perlozzo, first base coach Brian Graham, bench coach Jeff Newman and reliever Mike Trombley participating tomorrow, and manager Mike Hargrove and shortstop Mike Bordick taking part on Sunday.

There also will be plenty of fan forums, always a popular feature. Left fielder B. J. Surhoff will be available for questions on Sunday. On both days, Hargrove and members of his coaching staff will discuss the coming season, and front office personnel including vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift and director of minor-league operations Don Buford will discuss the inner workings of the organization. Also, members of the print and broadcast media who regularly cover the team will give their views on the season and answer questions.

Players and coaches will be available for autographs and photo sessions over the weekend. Among those scheduled to attend tomorrow are Bordick, Surhoff, Albert Belle, Mike Mussina, Will Clark, Charles Johnson, Jason Johnson and Sidney Ponson. Harold Baines, set to begin his third stint with the Orioles, will join Sunday's cast.

Former Orioles Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor, Mark Williamson and Joe Durham will sign autographs on both days. Prospects including Matt Riley, Larry Bigbie, Keith Reed and Rick Elder also will be dispensing their signatures. Fans also will get an early introduction to some of the new Orioles who joined the organization over the winter, including Hargrove, Trombley and reliever Buddy Groom.

In addition, the Club MLB Road Show, a traveling interactive exhibit, will be on display throughout the weekend. It features two semi-tractor trailers that convert into a baseball playground complete with batting and pitching cages, interactive computer kiosks, a baseball millennium exhibit featuring the 100 greatest players of the century, a radio broadcast booth and a huge video screen for fans to relive memorable baseball moments.

"We also brought back the McFarlane exhibit, which has the home run balls from the [1998] home run chase with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa," Lehr said. "And we're bringing back a couple of our Hall of Famers, Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer."

Weaver will discuss his sterling managerial career and answer questions during one of tomorrow's forums, then join Palmer for another forum on Sunday. They also will sign autographs -- Weaver both days and Palmer on Sunday.

"It kind of ties the past, present and future all together," Lehr said.

"There's going to be a lot of activities so fans should plan their day. There are great things happening on both days."

FanFest facts

What: Orioles FanFest 2000

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Baltimore Convention Center

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and children 14 and under

Proceeds: Benefit the Orioles Charitable Foundation

Features: Baseball activities including clinics, exhibits from the Babe Ruth and Ripken museums, interactive games, baseball card and memorabilia dealers, fan forums, autograph and photo sessions and tours of the Orioles clubhouse

Headliners: Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer

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