Thursday, January 26, 2012

12 Simple Rules for Surviving TwinsFest 2012

By The Common Man

This weekend, as you might already know, is TwinsFest, the annual autograph party/baseball card show/memorabilia auction/other stuff put on by the local Minnesota nine. Last year, due to the actual collapse of the Metrodome, the Twins were forced to relocate their celebration to a venue that was excessively crowded, confusing, and generally unpleasant for everyone involved. This year, though, with the Teflon baggie back up, the Twins and their fans are for once glad to be headed back to the team’s former home.

The Common Man and Bill will be there on both Saturday and Sunday, with special guest and fan of experiences Carson Cistulli, of FanGraphs and NotGraphs fame. He is pictured, sans his new, unwieldy mustache, to your right. If you see a really tall guy walking around with a really short guy, that’s probably Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito reliving their glory days in Twins. But if you see a marginally tall guy with a marginally short guy arguing about something or cracking themselves up, while the skinny guy pictured to the right looks on bewildered, that’s us. Say hi. (Or conversely, shoot us an email or a message over Twitter, and we’d love to meet you.)

Anyway, a couple years back, The Common Man wrote up his TwinsFest experience, and included a list of rules to help the uninitiated get the most out of their TwinsFest experience. As a public service, TCM thought it was time to update the list to reflect some changes in the rules for the event, and to account for the fact that TCM is a much better writer now. Anyway, here are a dozen simple rules for having a blast at TwinsFest:

1) Don’t show up early on Saturday.

You would think that getting to the Dome long before the doors open will increase your chances of getting the early autographs you want. However, the lines at the door quickly turn into mosh pits as a desperate group of souvenir dealers, unentitled d-bags, housewives, young blondes in tight clothes, and small unhappy children with over-zealous fathers crowd the doors so they can race to get in front of Joe Mauer. You will just be cold, cranky, and trampled by the time you get inside the gate and weasels who showed up as the orderly line devolved into chaos will get in before you. The Common Man doesn’t recommend following the examples of these weasels, as he doesn’t advocate acting like an ass, but just be aware.

2) Choreograph your day ahead of time.

It is so important to think ahead to what autographs you want, and to understand that you might not get all of them in one day. The demand for guys like Mauer and Morneau is incredible,* and you need to consider how much time you’ll need to stand in line. Don’t spend a lot of time during the day making decisions, as that leads to confusion and you’ll miss out on something you really want to do. If you have a plan ahead of time, you’ll be much quicker, more efficient and ultimately happier. Also, be realistic. To get in to see Joe or Justin, you need to be there early and be willing to sacrifice other autographs you could be getting in the meantime.

*Note: the Twins have changed the rules somewhat for this TwinsFest, dumbing down their rules to allow idiots who can’t plan in advance the chance to get Mauer and Morneau’s autograph through some kind of strange system involving wristbands and random drawings. It will be incredibly disappointing if this means that the lowest common denominator, who can’t be bothered to plan ahead, end up with the advantage over smart fans who understand the system as it was set up.

3) Always go with an agreeable buddy.

Bill and The Common Man spent a lot of time in line together, allowing us to conduct two fantasy drafts Twins alumni (25 man rosters, one squad based on value while a Twin, the other based on overall career value), quiz each other about previous Cy Young and MVP winners, and snidely mock some of the more creatively-dressed fans walking by. Also, if you get in the Justin Morneau line at 9:00, and he doesn’t start signing until 11:00, each of you will have time to slip away and get Denard Span’s autograph in the meantime. Use the buddy system to your advantage.

4) Do not expect to get a lot of face time with your favorite players.

The lines need to be kept moving (because trampling could occur if Mauer’s not signing at a steady clip). Also, you can’t ask players to pose in pictures with you. Get them while they’re signing your stuff, or signing someone else’s (no one will ever know). You may be able to double your time with a guy if you’re working in tandem with a less talkative partner (sorry about that, Bill), but you’ll still have 15-20 seconds, tops. So enjoy them while you can, and don’t hold up the line like a jerk. Unless, of course, you can convince Bert Blyleven to call your 95 year old grandmother on your cell. Because that is totally worth it.

5) Mustard has perfected jeans-seeking technology.

We are losing the arms race. Avoid it, unless you aren’t terribly concerned about your appearance.

6) Bring money. Lots of money.

You can do TwinsFest on the cheap, if you really want to. It’s only $9 to get in, if you buy your tickets in advance. If you want autographs, however, TwinsFest can quickly become expensive. Minor leaguers are free, but current and former Twins can run from $10/panel to $35 for a Hall of Famers (Carew, Molitor, Blyleven, etc.), and Mauer and Morneau. Keep in mind that you may need to buy baseballs and other souvenirs for players to sign. An official MLB ball may cost $11-15 at the event. If you’re getting an unofficial ball, make sure it is made with real leather and not glossy. You can find these for around $5. If you have no intention of ever selling your autographs (The Common Man plans to pass his along to The Boy), this is a good strategy to keep the overall price down.

7) Bring decoys.

No matter how much you love the Twins, it’s tough to get excited for getting autographs from Frank Quilici, Jeff Gray, Rick Stelmaszek, Scott Diamond, Drew Butera, and Brian Raabe, amongst others. But it’s not cool to pull back stuff and say you don’t want them to sign it. That’s just rude. That’s why you need to bring random “memorabilia” that you don’t mind wasting on the autographs you don’t really want, but are too polite to refuse. TCM has a shirt with all the Twins minor league club logos on it that he uses to get the autographs of minor leaguers who he’s not terribly interested in. TCM also has a couple of junk baseballs he fills with these other signatures.

8) Hold onto your program.

As you go into the Metrodome, you’re going to be handed a program that contains the day’s autograph schedule. Keep it. The Common Man knows this is hard to believe, but some players’ signatures are hard to read. Particularly if you plan to get the autographs of minor leaguers, it’s good to have the program so you can remember whose autographs you’re getting (or got last year) and can follow their career during the season.

9) Think carefully about bringing your small child to TwinsFest.

Babies who can ride in backpacks or Bjorns are probably fine. Kids between 1-2 years old are ideal. They are cute, but relatively agreeable and quiet. And The Common Man says this next part as the father of a five-year old: your 3-5 year old is not equipped to stand in line for 3 hours to get Joe Mauer’s autograph. There is a lot to do at the Dome, but it is not aimed at really young kids. Six years old is about when TwinsFest starts to get viable, so long as your kid has built up a healthy hero worship, but avoid longer lines (get the free autographs of the minor leaguers, or some of the current/former Twins down on the playing field). Also, please don’t put your kid on a leash; that’s just uncomfortable for all of us.

10) Do not drink at TwinsFest.

This is a personal opinion, but The Common Man just thinks it’s unnecessary. There are a ton of people, it’s the morning or early afternoon, you’re going to get jostled, and your beer comes in a plastic cup. Either you or the Metrodome floor is going to get covered in Miller Genuine Draft. And nobody wants that. Stick with soda and save your liver until after you leave.

11) Coats are a pain in the ass. Leave them in the car, if possible.

The Twins have previously missed a golden opportunity by not working out some kind of coat check system. It’s January, so everyone is wearing their heavy jackets, particularly when they show up at 8:00 and the gates open at 9:00. But then you have to carry your jacket around with you the whole freaking day. The Common Man would have gladly pay $3-5 to have someone else mind his jacket while he walked around the stadium in comfort. As all the proceeds for TwinsFest go to charity, nobody should complain about this added expense. This is a great money-making proposition that The Common Man cannot believe has gone unaddressed.

12) If you enjoy people-watching, TwinsFest is a must.

In addition to grown men wearing jerseys with their nicknames written across the back (such as the 45 year old guy with a grey goatee, sweat pants, and a beer gut with “Iron Horse” on his shirsy), you get to see the latest in Baseball Annie-wear (tight shirsy tied above the midriff, a lot of layering with lacy fringed tops, unrealistically long blonde extensions, Bump-Its, high heels (you do know you’re standing in line all day, right?), and charcoal-dark eyeshadow that cakes the eye-socket). My God, it’s like they’re a 16 year old Twilight fan auditioning for American Idol. Also, you get to enjoy the cuteness of little kids decked out to the nines in Twins-related gear, invariably wearing face paint.

Plus, you get to enjoy the following categories of Twins-fan:

The guy who just came off the ice because he caught his limit for the day and might as well come because he doesn’t have anything else going today

The woman whose t-shirt is not quite covering her belly (in a bad way)

The guy who is just trying to get out of the cold by finding a quiet corner of the Dome to hibernate for the winter

The loud woman who complains constantly about how the autograph system works and can’t wait to get down to Florida in three weeks because it’s way too cold

The sad man-child hero-worshipper

The cynical souvenir-hunter, dragging two suitcases stuffed with shit, including several bats sticking out of the top, who is looking forward to selling everything on Ebay tomorrow

The beleaguered dad who didn’t take TCM’s advice at #9

The beleaguered mom who can’t believe the beleaguered dad didn’t take TCM’s advice at #9 even though she told him she didn’t think this would be a good idea, and now he still refuses to leave, even though everyone is miserable.

And, of course, The Whaaaaaaa? (Completely indescribable, but it usually involves a triple take, a lot of pointing and whispering, and wondering about what could make a person decide to leave the house like that. Will try to come back with photographic evidence of this elusive creature.)

Anyway, The Common Man hopes this will be helpful as you plan your TwinsFest (or really, any fan fest) this year. We’ll have our emails and Twitters open and active, so if you are going to be there on Saturday or Sunday, drop us a line. We’d love to say hi. And above all, relax and have fun. Spring Training is on the way.


William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

That sure sounds like fun. I sure wish I didn't live in the middle of nowhere.

Bryz said...

You may need to edit #3 when it comes to using the buddy system for the Mauer and Morneau lines. With the wristband system, I don't think the Twins are even going to allow people into the lines if they don't have the right wristband. At least I'm working the event, so I can probably tweet something just as TwinsFest is starting Friday.

Speaking of the wristbands, I'm disappointed and annoyed to hear that this system will be in place, but I do understand it. I bet the exact scenario you suggested (use the buddy system to hold a spot in line while the others go looking for other things) has become an issue with other fans that have refused to leave the line. I'm sure there have been complaints about people joining or re-joining the line just minutes before the session starts, and the Twins chose to do something about it. However, I'm not pleased to know that I need some luck in order to get a Mauer or Morneau autograph this year.

JimCrikket said...

Some great advice and I think I'm good with almost all of it.

I'll be there Saturday whenever I get around to waking up. But since I already got my Mauer and Morneau bobbleheads signed a few Twinsfests ago, I'm not too concerned about plans and long lines and wristbands.

I also won't be with a buddy, unless I run in to another blogger somewhere. To make it easy to identify me, I'm thinking I'll wear the Nishioka jersey my son gave me for Christmas. Won't be too many guys with grey beards walking around wearing one of those, I'm sure.

I'll be there primarily for the whole people watching thing (and with camera, to capture what I'm watching). I'm not too concerned about a little mustard on the jeans and, to be honest, if Im going to spill something on myself or the Metrodome floor, I think MGD might be preferable to sticky soda.

Should be a fun time.

Clave said...

Last year was horribly cramped. I'm glad it's back to the dome.

Every year I take a $20, find a sweet baseball card vendor, and see how many cards I can haggle him down to for the full $20.

This year I got a whole stuck of cards, then immediately wondered what I'm going to do with my new stack of cards.