KANSAS CITY -- Ready for a warmup before Spring Training starts?
The Royals are inviting you to exercise your curiosity, pull out your autograph pen and tune up your cheering voice over several upcoming days.
The Royals FanFest will be held on Saturday at the Overland Park (Kan.) Convention Center. It will be open from 9 to 11 a.m. CT for season-ticket holders only, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all fans.
Along with that comes the Royals Caravan, which will be divided into four parts during the two days prior to and the three days after FanFest.
Twenty current players, including new pitchers James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis, are scheduled to attend FanFest. There also will be appearances by more than 15 Royals alumni, including George Brett, Kevin Appier and Willie Wilson. For a complete list, visit royals.com/fanfest.
Unlike recent FanFests, this year's event will be confined to a single day.
"We just made the decision that we wanted to do a sort of a one-stop shop," said Toby Cook, vice president of community affairs and publicity. "The feedback we've gotten is that autographs are the biggest thing that people want, so we decided to consolidate it all into one day, so fans know when they come out on Saturday that they've got the best chance of getting the most guys. All of them are going to be signing that one day, and it's going to be four continuous autograph booths from the time we open at 9 o'clock for season-ticket holders right through 6 o'clock."
FanFest also will have interactive games, a team store, booths and several stage events. Designated hitter Billy Butler (Player of the Year), closer Greg Holland (Pitcher of the Year) and shortstop Alcides Escobar (Special Achievement) will receive their awards at a special session at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Butler also will be recognized for winning the Silver Slugger Award and Edgar Martinez DH of the Year Award, and left fielder Alex Gordon will be recognized for repeating as a Gold Glove Award winner.
During the session, Brett, general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost will comprise a panel to discuss the players.
There was no Royals FanFest last winter, the event yielding to the All-Star Game FanFest in Kansas City last July. The first Royals FanFest was held in 2008.
"Most of the feedback from fans is, 'We're glad it's back and we plan to be there,'" Cook said.
Advance tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for youth ages 6-17. Tickets on Saturday will cost $14 and $8. Children 5 and under are admitted free. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Royals Charities.
There's a diverse and wide-ranging schedule for the Royals Caravan. It begins with two caravans on Thursday and Friday. One goes into Kansas with pitchers Aaron Crow, Everett Teaford, first baseman Eric Hosmer and Wilson. Another goes into Nebraska with Butler, Holland, second baseman Johnny Giavotella and alum John Mayberry.
Teaford enjoys mingling with the fans and answering their questions, in his case mostly about whether he prefers being a starter or a reliever. The influx of new starters might affect the way he answers that question this year.
"With the guys that we've brought in, the competition for the five-spot is going to be tough," Teaford said. "There's no way to get around that."
But that, he said, is a good thing.
"Competition is what drives good teams," Teaford said. "The deeper teams are normally the best, and everybody is going to push each other. Competition is what drives everything."
On Sunday and Monday, a group that includes pitchers Bruce Chen, Danny Duffy and Will Smith, along with alum Dennis Leonard, will make stops in Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas.
Next Tuesday, Jan. 22, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie will join Brett and fellow alum Jeff Montgomery in visiting military personnel at Ft. Leavenworth and Ft. Riley in Kansas.
A new feature at Caravan stops is a collection by USO chapters at Ft. Riley and in Missouri. Fans can donate items -- washcloths, individually wrapped toothbrushes, beef jerky, drink packets and pudding cups -- to be distributed to military members serving overseas and returning from duty.
Fans can also bring hand-written "Thank you" cards for troops. Royals Charities will donate $1 to the USO for every card received, up to $10,000.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com.