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A's annual FanFest a big hit

A's annual FanFest a big hit

OAKLAND -- The Oakland A's held their annual FanFest on Saturday at McAfee Coliseum, giving anxious fans their first opportunity to meet their favorite players and purchase individual tickets for the upcoming season.

More than 12,000 fans bought $10 tickets to the event, with proceeds benefiting the Oakland A's Community Fund and the fight against childhood obesity.

The event was a hit, as attendees purchased more than 35,000 single-game tickets for 2008. It also featured autograph and photo sessions with current players and Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers, question-and-answer sessions with players and coaches, behind-the-scenes tours of the clubhouse and dugout, and a Hall of Fame exhibit, among other activities.

In addition, the event gave the A's an opportunity to model their new jerseys, which were a major hit with the fans. All the players in attendance, including newlywed Huston Street, wore the jerseys, which are black with white and yellow lettering.

Fans also received some welcome news when shortstop Bobby Crosby and starting pitcher Rich Harden declared themselves healthy for the 2008 season. Crosby, who has frustrated fans by missing 194 games in the last three years due to injuries, said that his wrist, which was broken in July after being hit by a 98-mph fastball, was strong.

"It took a few weeks into the offseason before I could start lifting and getting back into my routine," Crosby said. "Hitting has been on my mind since I hurt my hand, and I couldn't wait to start hitting. I built a [batting] cage in my house, and everything has gone well."

Harden, who pitched in just seven games last season because of a strained right shoulder, also affirmed that he was strong and ready to go heading into Spring Training.

The most entertaining part of the 2008 FanFest came when the fans were given a chance to step up to the microphone and ask their favorite players, coaches and front-office officials questions ranging from what kind of product Travis Buck uses in his hair to why general manager Billy Beane traded Nick Swisher.

Broadcasters Glenn Kuiper and Ray Fosse fielded the questions as fans engaged the A's in a fun but serious quiz.

"I think this is absolutely great," said Fosse, who has been a member of the A's family for more than 20 years. "It gives the fans an opportunity to meet the players, get close to the players and interact with their ballclub. That's great for the fans." Beane responded by saying that he lost a great friend in Scutaro and that one of the hardest things he had to do was make the call to trade Swisher. He further explained that the emergence of prospect Donnie Murphy made Scutaro expendable.

The response didn't sit very well with the fans, but after Beane said that his own wife smacked him with a newspaper the day she found out he traded Scutaro, the faithful cheered, and both the GM and the fans shared a laugh.

The session ended with Buck, Dan Johnson, Murphy and Emil Brown on the stage. A girl asked Buck what he did to make his hair look so good. Buck hesitated for a while before admitting he didn't wash his hair often in order to bring out the curls. The response drew a loud applause and cheers.

Despite some mumbling and grumbling about the current state of the A's, who are in a rebuilding phase, the day belonged to the fans. Chris and Norma Pavao, two diehards clad in yellow and green, summed it up as they walked out of the dugout.

"That was the first time we ever got to go in the clubhouse," Chris said. "I wanted to see [Mark] McGwire's old locker because he was my favorite player, and now it's Crosby's. He's my favorite player now, so that's cool."

Jayson Addcox is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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