Me, I've been attending the event for the past few years and have never gotten a single signature.
I don't care for standing in line for autographs at all, but I'm not adverse to standing in line to take a picture with a former White Sox player:
Jon Garland was apologetic about forgetting to bring his 2005 World Series ring to SoxFest. I told him my "2005 happened" shirt would make up for it.
SoxFest was as crowded as I've ever seen it Saturday afternoon, so I was stunned to walk past the photo stage and see no line whatsoever to chat with a Hall of Fame player, Tim Raines. That's an opportunity I couldn't pass up as a baseball geek.
Everything they say about Jose Contreras is right: He's one of the nicest people you will ever encounter. He's gracious to fans, much like another former Cuban Sox player, Minnie Minoso. Contreras was hired as a team ambassador for good reason.
Aside from these three pictures, I spent most of my time hanging out in the seminar room, listening, learning and asking questions. A few things I found out:
- General manager Rick Hahn said if there's one move left to make this offseason, it would be to add one more relief pitcher to stabilize the bullpen. Hahn said he's looking for the next Anthony Swarzak, who made the Sox's roster last year as a nonroster invitee and ended up being traded for a useful prospect (Ryan Cordell) at midseason. Since Hahn made that comment, the Sox have signed right-hander Bruce Rondon to a minor-league contract. I doubt he's going to pitch like Swarzak did last season, but hey, at this time last year, did any of us think Swarzak would amount to anything?
- I asked Hahn how the outfield situation might sort itself out to start the season. Avisail Garcia, of course, is the right fielder. The other two starting spots and the backup outfield spot seem open, with Leury Garcia, Nick Delmonico, Adam Engel, Willy Garcia, Charlie Tilson and Cordell competing. Hahn did not rule out a veteran acquisition when I asked, but the Sox seem content to go with what they have. He noted that Tilson and Cordell missed significant time with injury last year. Both likely need more time at Triple-A, which is good news for the other four men on that list. Interestingly, Hahn said Cordell has been asked about by three different teams during offseason trade talks.
- Hahn and Renteria shared some thoughts on relief pitching and bullpen use in response to one of my questions Saturday. Renteria said he tells his relievers not to worry about what inning they are going to be used in. Rather, he wants them to be thinking about getting outs. He doesn't want to place guys in set roles -- a sixth-inning guy, a seventh-inning guy, etc. He did note that he considers himself to be old school in the sense that he wants starting pitchers to go as deep into games as possible. He isn't necessarily going to adhere to the theory that a starter's job is to get through the batting order two times and hand it over to the bullpen. He's aware that batting averages go up the third time through the order, but he's not going make decisions solely upon that. I asked Hahn if the organization in their scouting process is looking for "super relievers," guys who come in and work two or three innings in the middle of game -- the way Cleveland uses Andrew Miller, for example -- or do the Sox just try to stockpile starters, and whoever isn't one of the five best ends up in a bullpen role? Hahn's answer: yes and yes. If they find a guy who they think can be a dominant reliever in the middle of a game, they might draft him and try to develop him as such. But it's also likely that a sixth or seventh starter could end being that guy who works in middle relief.
- I asked director of player development Chris Getz about outfield prospect Luis Robert, who will be playing in the U.S. for the first time in his life. I'm wondering what minor-league level he'll start at, and Getz said that decision has yet to be determined. It depends on what Robert shows in spring training, of course, but it remains to be seen how the 20-year-old Cuban adjusts to life in a new country and a new culture. Getz said the organization will err on the side of caution with Robert, meaning if there is a debate over whether to start him in Low-A or High-A, they are going to put him in Low-A. The thinking being, if he destroys Low-A pitching, it's an easy adjustment to move him up to High-A. Better that than having him struggle at High-A and face a possible demotion to Low-A. Also, Getz said the organization sees Robert as a center fielder.
- The optimism was overflowing all weekend long. There was one fan who wondered how the Sox could trade Fernando Tatis Jr. in the James Shields deal, but there wasn't a cross word uttered otherwise. Coaches, players and fans alike seem excited for the second year of the rebuild, and there was a lot of talk about how well the current players and prospects in the system enjoy being around each other. Players have an overwhelmingly positive view of Renteria and his leadership capabilities. I'm not a big believer in chemistry -- I think you win with talent and execution -- but it doesn't hurt that the players in the Sox organization actually want to be with this team and want to win here. Time will tell whether they have enough talent and the ability to execute in pressure situations.