Merrillville, IN. – For the third consecutive winter, throngs of Gary SouthShore RailCats fans flocked to the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville from all over Northwest Indiana for Fan Fest, a fun-filled day of baseball despite the cold and snow outside which featured current and former players and a celebration of the RailCats Tenth Anniversary.
“Three years into this event, it’s still amazing to see the tremendous turnout from Northwest Indiana every year at Fan Fest” said President/General Manager Andy Viano. “Even the great blizzard of 2011 couldn’t stop our legions of devoted fans, corporate partners, coaches and players from descending on the Radisson and we as an organization are sincerely touched by the support from everyone who makes our continued success possible. With another Fan Fest now in the books, we can’t wait to get to Opening Day!”
A swarm of RailCats fans were lined up at the Radisson before the doors opened at 10 a.m. eager to get the festivities underway and to ensure their chance each of the day’s giveaways which included a commemorative poster and program for the first 1,000 fans and a free t-shirt for the first 500 adults and 300 kids. The Third Annual Fan Fest began with a packed house at the Opening Ceremony where the RailCats introduced the day’s special guests including New York Mets Pitcher and former ‘Cat Tim Byrdak and former major leaguer and Gary Roosevelt High School grad Wallace Johnson, in addition to the 16 former and current RailCats players and coaches in attendance.
After the Opening Ceremonies, fans broke out across the Radisson to take part in a wide range of activities including a number of their favorite ballpark games and challenging their favorite RailCat to home run derby on the Nintendo Wii. Down the hall, RailCats players and coaches were available for hour-long autograph sessions throughout the day. Young RailCats fans had an opportunity to participate in five different baseball clinics and receive expert instruction from RailCats legends including former Player of the Year Tanner Townsend and former major leaguer Tony Cogan. Players, team administrators and special guests also took part in the always popular Question and Answer sessions. Byrdak and Johnson also each had their own autograph sessions at the First Midwest Bank booth in the Main Room.
The RailCats and the Post-Tribune displayed all entries to the Photo Contest and crowned a winner in Linda Drinski, who took home a luxury suite night for 20 people and four VIP parking passes at an upcoming ‘Cats home game. A number of fans also took part in the “Dress like a RailCats Player” photo session taking turns trying on actual sized jerseys and pants in both serious and comical poses.
Hundreds of fans stuck around for the Closing Ceremony and the unveiling of the RailCats Tenth Anniversary Team which celebrates ten wonderful years of professional baseball in Northwest Indiana.
The RailCats would like to thank each and every sponsor who made this year’s Fan Fest a huge success including: Presenting Sponsor First Midwest Bank; Grand Slam Sponsors North Coast Distributing, Radio One Communications, Radisson Hotel and the Post-Tribune and Home Run Sponsors Barry’s Photography, Century 21, Edward Jones, Garman Printing, Lakeshore Public Television, Miss Pam, Popo’s and Red Hot Chicago.
The RailCats now turn their attention to the countdown to Opening Day at U. S. Steel Yard, which is only 102 days away. The 2011 home opener for the RailCats is Friday, May 20 at 7:10 p.m. against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Season tickets and flex packs are all on sale now by calling the RailCats front office at 219.882.2255 or visiting www.railcatsbaseball.com.