Matt Collier and his two sons stayed true to their spring training tradition Saturday by attending the Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex.
The Surprise residents and hundreds of baseball fans showed up in force for the annual event.
Baseball fans lined the bottom rows of seats in the stadium at Peoria Sports Complex to get autographs from San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. In addition, several activities for children and families were nearby to keep everyone busy and entertained.
“I really love fan fest because you can have interaction with the players that you don’t get at a Major League Baseball game,” said Collier, a Kansas City Royals fan. “It’s better than having to wait outside of a stadium, hoping to get an autograph and probably not happen.”
Fan Fest is the official start of the spring training season. The first 400 children through the gates received a nylon backpack, autographed baseball, a mini Sharpie and a pack of baseball cards containing Padres and Mariners players who call Peoria their spring training home.
In the early afternoon, several children participated in a free sports clinic where former major league players instructed children on the fundamentals of the game.
On Sunday, the Padres and Mariners played a charity game.
Chad Eaton, a Gilbert resident, never had been to a fan fest and decided to drive to Peoria with his three sons for the event.
Eaton, who grew up a Seattle Mariners fan in Washington, said he was glad to have some close interaction with the players.
“I think it’s really great to be this close to them and get their autographs,” he said. “It’s a neat experience for all of us.”
In addition, Eaton said he plans to come back for a few spring training games as well.
“Even though I don’t think they’re as good this year, I’ll be back to watch,” Eaton said.