CLEVELAND — Cleveland's biggest preseason baseball party is back, albeit under a new name.
"Guards Fest" returned to the Huntington Convention Center Saturday for the first time in three years, with scores of players, coaches and alumni mingling with fans over two separate sessions. Season ticket holders were allowed in during the morning, while the general public had their turn in the afternoon.
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The festival featured everything from autograph sessions, souvenir opportunities, and even chances for kids and others to try out their skills on the diamond. In the morning, 3News' Austin Love and Guards employee Austin Controulis got to test their arms on the pitcher's mound, with our Austin besting their Austin in the speed challenge.
Children had the opportunity to take their cuts on the "Field of Dreams," with current and former ballplayers such as Nick Sandlin, Myles Straw, and Charles Nagy among those serving up the pitches.
Elsewhere, members of the team were out commiserating with attendees. In particular, James Karinchak took part in a Mario Kart battle (and appeared to come away with the loss).
Top members of the organization also took questions. Manager Terry Francona seems to be reenergized off the Guardians winning the American League Central Division title, and general manager Mike Chernoff also pulled back the curtain a little bit on last year's José Ramírez extension.
Slider even took questions from the kids, and some of them were... a bit out there, let's say.
Additionally, All-Star second baseman Andrés Giménez joined Jonathan Hrusovsky and Hrusovsky Custom Kicks to hold a cleat design competition at the event. As a part of the competition, fans were able to submit a custom cleat design for Giménez during Guards Fest, with the winner having the design replicated by Hrusovsky Custom Kicks for Giménez to wear during 2023 Spring Training. The winning designer will also receive their very own pair of custom cleats.
All in all, it was a successful afternoon for everyone who was there, and you could feel the buzz in the room as the Guards gear up for (hopefully) another playoff run!
Here is the full roster of players, coaches and alumni attended this year's event:
- Gabriel Arias
- Josh Bell (morning session only)
- Will Benson
- Will Brennan
- Emmanuel Clase
- Xzavion Curry
- Enyel De Los Santos
- Tyler Freeman
- Andrés Giménez
- Oscar Gonzalez
- Sam Hentges
- James Karinchak
- Steven Kwan
- Bryan Lavastida
- Angel Martinez
- Triston McKenzie
- Eli Morgan
- Cody Morris
- Bo Naylor
- Josh Naylor
- Jhonkensy Noel
- Richie Palacios
- Brayan Rocchio
- Amed Rosario
- Nick Sandlin
- Myles Straw
- Trevor Stephan
- George Valera
- Brian Anderson
- Paul Assenmacher
- Sam McDowell
- Charlie Nagy
- Terry Francona
- Chris Valaika
- Carl Willis
- Current Guardians and alumni autograph sessions (additional tickets required)
- Gold Glove photo opportunity (additional tickets required)
- Player appearances and more on the Main Stage
- Player photo opportunities (additional tickets required)
- Field of Dreams baseball diamond, batting cages, speed pitch and more
- Honorary contracts from Guardians executives
- Appearances from Slider & The Dogs (photo opportunities w/ additional ticket and band performances)
There were also several Guards Fest community events on Friday the day before the event itself, including:
- Steven Kwan and Triston McKenzie visiting the Valley View Boys' Leadership Academy
- Tyler Freeman and Will Brennan taking questions from Hannah Gibbons-Nottingham School in Cleveland
- Gabriel Arias and Bryan Lavastida hosting a practice at Estabrook Rec Center's batting cage in Cleveland