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Rockies Fest preview: Game-used memorabilia, player Q&A sessions and autographs highlight annual experience

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Heading to Rockies Fest a couple of Saturdays from now? Here's a handy guide to the event.

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It's got the Rockies. It's got you, the fans, and it's "fest-y." That's right -- it's this year's Rockies Fest, to be held at Coors Field on Jan. 24. Above all else, it's an opportunity to get down to the LoDo in the middle of winter and be present again at the ballpark (it's already been a long winter, and I'd do whatever it takes to get some baseball lifeblood back into my life, even if it's schadenfreude).

So what is Rockies Fest?

★★★

Player Autographs

This is the main draw. You have the chance to get a one-on-one with the players. Will it be Troy Tulowitzki? Will it be Carlos Gonzalez? You never know, though I have had my fair share of bullpen guys and up-and-comers. Still, you get tickets for a specific time and a specific (usually unique) place. Then you show up at that time, wait in line with the others, and eventually get a few seconds to get the player's autograph and chit-chat with them. My all-time favorite in this event was Dexter Fowler (sorry, Jordan Lyles). He was very gracious and really did have an enjoyable smile.

Player Q&A Sessions

Don't be fooled: the autographs are the headliners, but this is the best event in the house. Usually held in specified groups, such as "infielders," "starting pitchers," or "coaches," a group of Rockies assemble at a pulpit and are moderated by a Rockies media personality (anyone from PR?!). You can submit questions, most of which will be answered. Questions can run the gamut -- anything from, "How does it feel to be a father?" to "How do you prepare for a road game?"

These sessions truly are fantastic. This is mostly where I'll miss the Todd Helton. His fan sessions were truly epic; he was always the funniest player on the panel, but also the most humble. Indeed, someone asked the Toddfather (I believe this was in 2012 or 2013) who was the hardest pitcher to hit, and he thought for a moment and replied, "that lefty kid in Los Angeles" (that would be Clayton Kershaw, aka the best pitcher in the galaxy, though probes are still approaching the Delta Quadrant).

In 2009 I went to watch a hodgepodge session of infielders and outfielders hosted by Drew Goodman and featuring Jason Giambi. I sat on the edge and there were a few empty seats open. As the session began, Drew commented that some Rockies prospects would be joining us, which they did, sitting immediately beside me. Drew introduced them and introduced the skinny guy next to me as "the catcher of the future:" Wilin Rosario. Unfortunately, the dude didn't speak a lick of English, but luckily because of a short stint in South America, I was able to converse in Spanish with him. I thought it was cool to interact with a prospect, especially one from another country.

Rockies Museum

You can see and buy some cool Rockies memorabilia downstairs at the Rockies museum. Among the interesting items: Tulo's No. 14 jersey; an old school, dingy, nasty, perfectly personified original Dinger costume; bases from the World Series (affectionately known as "our World Series"); Manager of the Year trophies; and all kinds of bats and balls. In fact you can purchase team balls from most seasons, game-used items, and even the occasional Coors Field seat.

I recommend you head here first because the sweetest merchandise usually goes quickly and it's not uncommon to be met with lines for the best stuff.

Facilities Exploration

Touring the home and away clubhouse is an unusual perk for Rockies Fest. The tours offered during the season only let you go in the visitor's clubhouse, and only under certain circumstances. Of course both clubhouses are empty, and in fact it will be weird to go in there and not see No. 17's locker. This is just wrong! You can also (weather dependent) go out into the dugout, spit, and otherwise pretend you're waiting to go in to pinch-hit.

Other cool spots are also open such as the press box, batting cages and interview room. It's a chance to see behind the scenes at Coors Field. Also you'll see players walking around to the aforementioned Q&A and autograph sessions. But here is a word of etiquette: leave them be in these scenarios. Most are gracious and will stop and chat or sign, but still it's good protocol to let these guys do their job. After all, they are barely scraping by, pulling late nights and having to stretch their $100-plus million contracts. All joking aside, how would you like it if someone was grating on you while you were trying to get home from work?

Games

The highlight of my son's Rockies Fest experience was the one year they had a Wii set up with "Just Dance" on it. Joseph played that stupid game for hours. It all turned out good, though, when out of the ether while playing "just one more song," Eric Young Jr. happened by wanting to bust a move. My son got to dance with EY2 in an epic mismatch of skills, I must say. It was very cool to see my three-year-old jamming with a major leaguer. If only he could appreciate it!

There is also a mock Root Sports desk, where you can do an interview with Tracy Ringolsby or Jenny Cavnar or another Root personality (Spilly anyone?!). They even put it on a DVD for you to take home and show to all of your friends. Somewhere I have footage of me speaking with Alanna, and since news had just broken of Giambi reupping, I was in the right place at the right time.

Also available are activities such as Family Feud, Bouncy Castles (ya know, for the kids!), button making, face painting, batting cages, tee ball, and pin the target on the Dinger (OK, I made that last one up). There is plenty to do in between player sessions.

★★★

An underrated part about Rockies Fest is that it's a chance to pull the Rockies Jersey out of hiding, locate your Rockies bag, and see the infield covered with snow and a scary looking coyote decoy in the outfield. It's a great event that, while once only open to season-ticket holders (those were the days), is now available to anyone with a free Saturday and $20 ($1 for kids!).

As we round third base and head toward the home of spring training in just over a month (hang in there, we can do this!), Rockies Fest can help us get the taste of baseball brewing. I'll be there with my kids -- look for us at the Wii setup, where you never know who might join.