For Royals fans, FanFest signals unofficial start of baseball season

02/01/2014 9:48 AM

02/01/2014 9:48 AM

Eight-year-old Bailey O’Brien of Liberty went to Bartle Hall on a mission Friday.

“I’m planning on getting autographs (of Royals ballplayers) and giving a bracelet to them,” said Bailey, who showed off a “triple-single” bracelet she made out of blue, white and clear elastic bands.

She wanted to give it to her favorite player — Eric Hosmer.

“He gets a lot of runs — and he’s fast,” Bailey said. But if Bailey couldn’t find Hosmer, any Royals player would do.

Bailey was among several hundred fans who flocked to the Royals FanFest at Kansas City Convention Center’s Bartle Hall on a wintry day in Kansas City. They were there to dream of summer and the promise that the upcoming baseball season holds.

“We are season ticket holders and we love the Royals,” said Lindsey O’Brien, Bailey’s mother. They were there with Bailey’s 4-year-old brother Braden and their father Jay O’Brien.

“I got two of the loudest fans on the planet in my family,” Lindsey O’Brien said of her two children. “They are very, very loud at games. They love going to games. They both went to their first games by the time they were two weeks old. They are lifelong Royals fans.”

Royals FanFest got underway at noon Friday. The excitement for the new season was visible as about 150 season ticket holders waited in line for the doors to open.

The annual event continues 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, with exclusive access for the first two hours to season ticket holders.

“The idea behind FanFest is to celebrate Major League Baseball in Kansas City and the start of a new season,” said Toby Cook, vice president of community affairs for the Royals. “Pitchers and catchers report on Valentine’s Day and we are literally right there.”

Because of the success of the Royals last season, there’s a buzz among fans who think this could be the year the Royals reach the playoffs.

Boyfriend and girlfriend Patrick Carroll and Heather Lathery, both of Kansas City, said they were excited about the upcoming season and saw FanFest as a way to kick it off.

“We are the type of people who think there are just two seasons — winter and baseball,” Carroll said. “We’ve been looking forward to FanFest for the past month.”

Carroll said he has been dreaming about the start of the new season ever since the last one ended.

“We are super stoked to get out here with the other baseball people,” Lathery said. “That is the best part of it.”

They are optimistic about the upcoming season.

“I think they will do pretty good,” Carroll said. “I’m really hoping for playoffs this year to be honest with you. It would be cool to win the Central (Division).”

Lisa and John Quigley of Kansas City, North, shared in that enthusiasm as they watched their children — Taylor, 7, Lindsay, 4, and Ryan, 8 — run in the Stealing Home Challenge.

Waiting at the home plate was Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who greeted the runners and posed for pictures.

“The kids are all huge Royals fans and they wanted to meet their favorite players and they love doing all the activities,” John Quigley said. “We’re having a hard time keeping up with them.”

After running the Stealing Home Challenge, Taylor got Perez to autograph a baseball.

“That was really cool,” said Ryan, who was looking to also get the signature of his favorite player, Alex Gordon.

“He’s the Royals’ best player,” Ryan said.