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FanFest builds buzz for both Dodgers players and fans

LOS ANGELES -- Driving to Dodger Stadium on Saturday for the team's first FanFest of the year, Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier wasn't sure what to expect.

What he found were droves of fans lined up for nearly a mile, waiting to get into the event.

"When it comes to the expectations of this team, all you have to do is look around," Ethier said. "When I turned and saw the line to get in going all the way to the gate, I thought that was where the FanFest was. I couldn't even believe it."

Ethier was just one of many players on hand to sign autographs and participate in on-stage interviews. Matt Kemp, Mark Ellis, Luis Cruz, A.J. Ellis, Javy Guerra, Nick Punto and manager Don Mattingly were also at the FanFest, which was presented by State Farm.

While Kemp knew his signature would be in high demand, he wasn't worried about getting writer's cramp.

"Luckily, I don't have too long of a name," Kemp joked. "Seriously though, we have some of the best fans in the world. Nothing surprises me when it comes to them. They are a pumped up fan base."

Los Angeles resident Valerie Walton and her son Jacob were the very first people in line as players began signing autographs at 11 a.m. Both were excited to be at their first FanFest, which took place behind the outfield pavilion and lasted more than six hours.

"We are huge fans, and just thrilled to see the players and get autographs," Valerie Walton said. "The line to get in here was super intense. We were just happy to be in the front of it."

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, general manager Ned Colletti and former Dodgers left-hander Fernando Valenzuela also took part in on-stage interviews.

In addition, fans played interactive games and were able to dine on Dodger Dogs and food from 20 local food trucks. Fans already decked out in Dodger blue were also able to buy even more merchandise at a 20 percent discount and purchase single game tickets for the upcoming season.

"Overall, I think the environment is great. I'm amazed at the turnout," said Whittier resident Laura Allarid. "It is really more than I expected. I got my face painted, ate a Dodger Dog and even got to take some cool pictures in a photo booth."

While many current and former Dodgers were at the event, newly acquired right-hander Zack Greinke was also on hand, ready to be introduced to fans for the first time and sign autographs.

Knowing only a handful of Dodgers players, Saturday marked the first time he'd met many of them.

For others, it meant the first time many had seen each other this offseason.

"We all live in different areas. Some of us might live in Arizona, some on the East Coast. We don't get to see each other too much during the offseason, so when we do, it is exciting," Kemp said. "You get that baseball feeling and know the season is right around the corner. We are excited to report to Spring Training and get ready for the grind."

119, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp