Orioles on agenda with FanFest

Move to 1-day format proving fortuitous

January 12, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

As the Ravens captivate an entire city with their march toward the Super Bowl, Baltimore's other major professional sports team will try to get noticed this weekend.

Anyone remember the Orioles?

They'll drop a few not-so-subtle reminders tomorrow with their annual FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and include a rare appearance by outfielder Brady Anderson, along with the usual autograph signings, photo sessions and exhibits.

There will be some changes this winter, most noticeably in length. Rather than stretch the activities over two days, the Orioles will pack everything into tomorrow.

It's a fortuitous coincidence that the event won't overlap with Sunday's AFC title game between the Ravens and Oakland Raiders. The Orioles say they didn't have an eye on the postseason calendar back in October when choosing a date. There's usually a decline in the number of people showing up at FanFest on Sundays, even without competition from the Ravens, so that day was eliminated.

"We had no idea about the Ravens at the time we needed to make the decision," said Stephani Lewis, the Orioles' community relations manager, who's in charge of the event. "We couldn't have predicted this."

"In retrospect, we look like geniuses," said club spokesman Bill Stetka. "Certainly, we'll be like everyone else. We'll be watching the game on Sunday."

Last year's FanFest brought an estimated attendance of 16,000 over two days. The Orioles probably wouldn't have matched that total this winter, especially after another fourth-place finish, the backlash accompanying the loss of ace Mike Mussina to free agency and the battle for the city's attention with the Ravens.

"Our attendance is better that first day, so we decided we were going to try a one-day event with extended hours," Lewis said. "Everything's been pretty smooth so far. We have a good list of guys who are coming back, a nice mix of the young guys and some of our former players. And it will be nice for the people in the autograph lines. With it being a longer day, they'll have more of an opportunity."

Besides Anderson, who will take part in a fan forum, other Orioles expected to venture inside the Convention Center include newly signed pitcher Pat Hentgen and shortstop Mike Bordick, who returned to the club after being traded to the New York Mets in late July. Also scheduled to appear are Albert Belle, Jeff Conine, Brook Fordyce, Jerry Hairston, Jason Johnson, Ryan Kohlmeier, Chuck McElroy, Alan Mills, Melvin Mora, Greg Myers, Sidney Ponson, Chris Richard, B. J. Ryan and Mike Trombley.

Cal Ripken, who fielded questions from fans last year in the most popular segment, won't be able to attend because of business commitments that have taken him out of town.

Fans can have their pictures taken with first base coach Eddie Murray, who also will participate in a coaches forum along with Sam Perlozzo, Terry Crowley, Elrod Hendricks, Tom Trebelhorn and Mark Wiley. Trebelhorn will serve as the Orioles' third base coach this year. Wiley has replaced Sammy Ellis as pitching coach in his second stint with the club.

Manager Mike Hargrove, vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, farm director Don Buford and scouting director Tony DeMacio also will be available for questions, and former Orioles Boog Powell and Mike Flanagan will participate in a "retro-forum."

Other former Orioles who will attend include Paul Blair, Al Bumbry, Joe Durham, Dick Hall, Dave Johnson, Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor, Bill Ripken, Larry Sheets, Ken Singleton, Fred Valentine and Mark Williamson. Ripken will conduct one of the clinics.

"Overall, we have more players than we've had in recent years, past and present," Stetka said. "We'll also have more clinics and instructional sessions. It'll be more interactive for the kids."

One new feature involves Hentgen, who will chat with fans on the club's Web site at www.the orioles.com.

"FanFest is always important for us, to get people to start thinking about baseball," Lewis said. "Spring training is right around the corner in February, and this is always a nice kickoff to the year. "

NOTE: Anderson also will be host to a party tomorrow night at the Hard Rock Cafe at the Inner Harbor, featuring the Los Angeles alternative pop band Creep. The show begins at 10 p.m. Admission is free, and you must be 21 or over.

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