Hope this isn’t too much of a departure for ya’ll considering we are such a hard-core Reds blog here at OMGreds. But, we like baseball and we like getting out of town every now and again – so SoxFest fit the bill. It also gave us a chance to see how things operate on the other (south) side.
2010 SoxFest was held at the famous Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. The hotel is gorgeous and a fantastic setting for a mid-winter baseball get-together. Being in a hotel instead of a convention center space, SoxFest felt a bit more cozy and intimate, but made for getting lost often between different room and floors. I got the flow by the second day and was set.
Like any other fanfest, autographs are central to the draw of Soxfest. Over the three days I was able to get 27 autographs, and probably could have done a few more if I would have been prepared with more things to get autographed – I prefer baseball cards. Unlike Redsfest, the White Sox announce a set schedule of who’s signing when and where before the weekend. While the Reds prefer to announce just one hour ahead of time, trying to minimize the “line to get in the line to be in line”, the Sox let it all hang out. Now, in order to handle all that traffic – and remember this is set up in a hotel and not a convention center space – White Sox staff hands out wristbands for each line an hour before and pretty much guarantees your place in line. This allows you to actually get out of line and come back later – allowing you to enjoy the convention a bit more, eat, etc. You’re only allowed to have one wristband on at a time, so you’re not able to hop into another line and get another wristband. For the most part, this seemed to work pretty well. Of course, any line that involved Gordam Beckham was crazy and usually had a “line to get in the line to be in line”.
Some highlights included Jake Peavy, Ozzie Gullien, Bobby Jenks, Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson (left), Minnie Minoso, and third base coach Jeff Cox – that guy is downright hilarious. Lowlights include Steve Stone (right) signing my baseball card with ballpoint pen and telling me “I know it’s not going on eBay”. What a dork.
Just like Redsfest, there is a ton of swag being given out. Your typical t-shirts, foam balls and other knick-knaks that are common fare at fanfest are here too. The White Sox gave away a lot of nice items – Bobbleheads, commemorative figures and signed baseballs – all via Twitter. Some where password related, like yelling “300!” at the season ticket sales team to get a Jermaine Dye/Paul Konerko back-to-back 300th home runs commemorative figurine thingy. I scored one, and it was pretty nice, but I ended up giving it to a Sox fan that would appreciate it way more than me.
Loot for Sale
Like any other fanfests, the White Sox had a game-used equipment sale (White Sox Garage Sale) as well as official merchandise, memorabilia tables and supplies.
The “Garage Sale” was pretty solid, with tons of game-used jerseys ranging from $50-$500 and even $2,500 for a Ken Griffey Jr. jersey. They had a few vintage inspired jerseys for sale, as well as jerseys from the 2009 Civil Rights game. Click here for a look at some of the jerseys on sale and roaming around Soxfest, including those Griffey jerseys. Other items at the Garage Sale included game-used bats, helmets, hats, pants, as well as pennants, art prints, official line-up cards and the ubiquitous “Mystery Bag”. My two homies bought one a piece, but walked away disappointed. We did hear of folks pulling Jim Thome autographs in some bags.
There was no shortage of autographed baseballs, photos, bats and jerseys among the vendors, but there was one lone booth with baseball cards. Of course, they never had anyone I needed if I was short a card for someone to autograph.
Hands down, the vendors at Redsfest are much better than those at Soxfest.
Compared to Redsfest, Soxfest had MUCH less things exclusively for kids to do. It was noticeable in crowd that there just were not as many kids there. I imagine a couple of things were at play here: The price of weekend pass (~$70), time to get downtown Chicago from the ‘burbs and the set-up at a hotel instead of a convention center.
Sox fans treated me very well. Being a Reds fan, we share a mutual hatred for the Cubs, so that really helped. Fans were friendly, knowledgeable and generally well-groomed. At one point during the weekend, I was in an autograph line for White Sox Alumni Darrin Jackson and Ed Farmer. I didn’t have an Ed Farmer card on me, but a Sox fan came to my rescue and hooked me up with a sweet ’81 Donruss of Ed. Check out that collar!
I also met a sweet couple that were at their first Soxfest and pretty excited to meet Ozzie Guillen. They had a 1986 game-used jersey Ozzie Guillen jersey to show Ozzie and to get signed. They’ve had it for over 15 years and were pretty stoked for get in front of Ozzie.
So, yeah, nice folks those White Sox fans.
Just like the Reds, the Sox players were personable and accessible. As an outsider, it would have been great if the players donned their jerseys while making appearances to make it a bit easier to recognize guys. But, since they have to walk though the hotel like everyone else, it’s probably for better that the stay at least a LITTLE bit less obvious.
Jerseys are always a nice touch with the alumni – it helps put a name with a face that has changed a bit over the years. I would bet it makes them feel a bit more special to put on a team’s uniform at a fanfest. Just a guess, though.
Had a great time. Thanks to the White Sox and their fans for welcoming a Reds fan and not giving me too much grief. Shoot, bonding over our hatred of the Cubs was pretty fun. I’m up for that ANYTIME.