Another year, another attendance record broken for FanFest. I’ve gone to FanFest three out of the last four years and hope to not miss another year again. FanFest is an event the Dodgers have been putting on for the last few years to get fans excited for the beginning of the season. Players come out and sign autographs, do meet and greets as well as go on stage and do interviews and answer questions about the upcoming season. The autographs and meet and greets cost money unless you’re able to catch a player walking away from a booth and get him to sign. It’s really a fun event and I suggest attending it next season if you have yet to make it.
I purchased the meet and greet for Clayton Kershaw and had to be at the stadium by 9:00 am to check in. Auto gates were supposed to open at 9:30 am and the stadium to open at 10:00 am. When I pulled up to the stadium at about 8:50 am the lines to get in were already down the streets surrounding the stadium. Because I had the VIP experience to meet Clayton Kershaw, I had an express pass to get in early at 9:00 am and get into the stadium at 9:30 am so I could check in. I have no idea what happened, but at 9:00 am they opened up the auto gates and stadium and allowed everyone to go in. My guess is that they didn’t expect so many fans to show up as early as they did and it started to cause traffic on the streets.
When I made it into the stadium I walked over to the bobblehead display that’s next to the Don Julio Baseline Club restaurant to pick up my VIP pass for the meet and greet. We had to stand around for about 30 minutes before they allowed us to go up to loge level. After walking us up to loge level, we had to get in line again and wait about another 30 minutes. At exactly 10:00 am security walked us down to the Lexus Dugout Club where Clayton Kershaw was waiting.
I was one of the first six people in line so I was able to get in the front row. At this point Kershaw was about 5 feet away from me and I was having a slight panic attack. Everyone that walked into the room was in complete silence. Nobody could believe that he was right there in front of us. The only people who could manage to say anything were the little kids and even they were starstruck at first. After everyone sat down it was still silent and Kershaw had this smile on his face almost as if he knew why were all so quiet and couldn’t speak. Even the woman who was handling the questions had to ask the crowd more than once if anyone wanted to ask a question, because no one would answer.
Once someone could actually ask him a question, they asked him who his favorite was in the Super Bowl. He explained that because he’s a Cowboys fan, the Eagles aren’t doing it for him and that he respects Tom Brady and what he has done. But, that he was most excited for Justin Timberlake’s halftime show. Which actually led to the next question, which was who his favorite JT was; Justin Turner or Justin Timberlake. At first, all he could do was laugh. He said both guys had a lot of talent, but that he spent more time around Turner. But he did say that he’d rather go to a Justin Timberlake concert instead of a Justin Turner concert. The last question came from a little boy who asked Kershaw who his favorite Dodger of all time was. As most of you would expect, his answer was Koufax. He just asked the group to not tell any other Dodgers that.
After the questions, everyone got to take a picture with Kershaw and get an autograph from him. When I went to take my picture with him I had put my hand slightly on his waist like you would with someone you barely know, but not in a creepy way. But still, I was touching Clayton Kershaw and he was just barely making contact with me, but he was touching me with his CY YOUNG FUTURE HALL OF FAMER LEFT ARM. I almost died. It was maybe for a second, but I don’t care, it happened and I’m going to freak out about that forever. For my autograph I had him sign a picture I took of him and AJ Ellis on Opening Day in 2015. I was able to get Ellis to sign the picture at Spring Training in 2016, which happened to be the year he got traded. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance to have Kershaw finish the picture and when he did I was absolutely ecstatic. When he saw the picture, he said “Aww AJ,” and signed it. It was easily one of the greatest experiences of my life.
After meeting Kershaw I made my way onto the field where all the other events were taking place. Weirdly enough, Kershaw was already on stage doing an interview when I walked out there. The first thing I did when I got on the field was check out the Pantone 294 booth that was set up. The line was insane, so I skipped the chance at getting any prizes and went and said hello to the Pantone 294 family. I ran into quite a few friends at FanFest and it made me that much more excited for the season to begin. There’s something different about baseball family. You could disagree about every other aspect in life, but as long as you were a Dodger fan you got along. It’s actually pretty rad when you think about it. I’ve also met some incredible people thanks to the Dodgers and some who have become very close friends. Baseball is a weird, but amazing sport.
At this point the entire field was crowded with people and it was hard to even walk around. The autograph lines had been fully booked, so those were crowded all day. The line to get on the field to take a picture with the #DodgersFF sign was up the stairs on field level and starting to wrap around to home plate. Everything had insane lines. Dodgers Foundation had their annual “yard sale” where they sell Dodger related items that have been worn by players or were given away years ago at other events. They also did their mystery grab bag, which is always a fun one to participate in. For $40 you grab a brown paper bag from a bucket and inside the paper bag is an autographed ball by one of the players. Yes, you can even pull a Kershaw autograph for $40. All of this money is donated to the Dodgers Foundation which makes it even better.
FanFest is free every year and always a great family event or even solo event. It’s at that time where everyone has healed or finished celebrating from playoffs and everyone, fans included, are ready for baseball to begin. It allows interaction with players you usually wouldn’t be able to have, but also the chance to meet up with baseball family you haven’t seen in a while. I was lucky enough to do both of these things when I went and had a great time. I hung out at the stadium for about three hours before it started to get hot and I decided it was time to go. But, right before I left, an LAPD helicopter was hovering the stadium pretty closely, when all of a sudden I hear “Go Dodgers!” from the PA system in the helicopter. The crowd in the stadium all heard it and started cheering before the helicopter took off again. It was the perfect way to end my day and an even better reminder that it’s almost time for Dodger baseball again.