It's official, the date you've been waiting for to plan your late-January social calendar.
Mark it down. Jan. 21 is FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. It'll run from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (but if you're a season ticket plan holder, you can enter an hour earlier, at 10 a.m., because of your Orange Carpet perks).
The Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau is the presenting sponsor of the event, a day-long celebration of baseball in Baltimore that will include everything an Oriole-centric fan could ever hope for to take the chill off a winter afternoon. There will be clinics, exhibits, interactive games and - of course - appearances by Orioles players and staff.
FanFest is considered the kickoff for the baseball season in Charm City, and that day, individual game tickets for the 2012 season will go on sale at 10 a.m. Fans can purchase tickets at the Convention Center, at the Orioles box office at the north end of the Camden Yards warehouse, via phone at 1-888-848-BIRD and online at www.orioles.com. Tickets will also be available at the Orioles Team Store in the York Galleria in York, Pa.
One of the highlights of FanFest is the opportunity for fans young and old to beef up their collection of Orioles autographs, and there will be plenty of hands cramping from all the signing that will be going on. So bring your bats, balls, gloves, cards, photos and whatever else you want signed. The lineup of Orioles and O's alumni who will be signing will be announced later - check back at Orioles Buzz, and we'll have the list when it's available - but it's not too early to start thinking about whose signature you need the most.
Because the autograph policy from the 2011 version of FanFest worked so well, the Orioles will replicate those rules and regulations for this year's edition. This process reduces fan disappointment by limiting wait times and helps support charitable youth endeavors through OiolesREACH. Not familiar with the policy from last year? Here are the key points:
* Children 4-14 will have a specially designated kids-only player autograph station presented by ESSKAY that is free of charge and will operate continuously throughout the day.
* All other ESSKAY autograph stations at FanFest will require the advance purchase of autograph vouchers, which will be available exclusively at www.orioles.com. All proceeds to benefit children's charities through OriolesREACH. A date, time and additional details pertaining to the sale of autograph station vouchers for autograph stations will be announced at a later date.
Other activities include question-and-answer sessions with Orioles players, staff, front office members and media; clinics for kids on a youth-sized baseball diamond; an exhibit about spring training in Sarasota; and opportunities to apply for seasonal employment opportunities with the team.
FanFest tickets are now on sale and are available online at www.orioles.com/fanfest, via telephone at 1-888-848-BIRD and at the Orioles Team Store at the York Galleria in York, Pa. On the day of the event, FanFest tickets will be sold at the Convention Center and the Orioles Box Office. 2012 Season Plan Holders will receive complimentary tickets as part of their Orange Carpet Benefits program.
Complimentary FanFest parking will be available at Lot B/C at Camden Yards.