A couple minutes into Jon Daniels's 90 minutes of straight answers to a lot of excellent questions, one of you raised your hand and said, "First, I want to thank you for not trading the players we've heard you would have had to trade to get Roy Halladay."
The room erupted into a wild ovation that shook the walls.
JD smiled and said, before the fan who made the comment could get to his question: "I should do nothing more often. That was awesome."
It set a tone for the Q&A.
Not really. The tone had already been set. Will Carroll and Kevin Goldstein were spectacular as the warm-up act, handling questions for more than an hour (rather than the usual 30 minutes or so - so many of you got there super-early this year, so we got microphones in the hands of the Baseball Prospectus duo right away), and, really, based on the generosity you all showed upon arrival - we raised over $7,000 yesterday for the Hello Win Column Fund through the Texas Rangers Foundation and I'm going to write a separate $1,000 check to the Wipe Out Kids Cancer Foundation that Michael Young and Cristina Barbosa-Young support - there was plenty of positive energy in the room from the start.
I'm not going to recap the entire event because (1) I'm exhausted and (2) I know that many of you will do so yourselves. In the next day or two, I'll send out links to the various blogs and message board threads summarizing things. (Feel free to post your own recaps on the Newberg Report message board if you want. And if you have photos, email them to me and we'll post those, too.) There were lots of cool exchanges.
Including the presentation made by Jeff Kuster and the Texas Rangers to eight-year-old Ryan Stokell, whose leukemia is in remission and whose family had to remind him - since he was too humble to say so himself - that he was not only healthy enough to get back on the Little League fields this summer but hit .889 while he was at it.
Goldstein's humble yet authoritative responses to questions about just about every Rangers prospect you can think of. (Justin Smoak's upside: "A switch-hitting Justin Morneau.") Goldstein's command of the Rangers system - suggestive of the command he has of all 30 farm systems - frankly scares me. But what a good dude he is.
Carroll's explanation of what he understands Tanner Scheppers's shoulder issue to be - and one obvious yet overlooked reason why it's been difficult to accurately diagnose.
JD talking in stunning terms about 16-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar and engaging Goldstein in the discussion.
A fan asked JD early on whether the plan was to activate Neftali Feliz in time for last night's game, since reports had already come out that he was in the Ballpark and would be added to the roster Sunday night or, possibly, not until Monday. JD responded, "Looks like tomorrow night."
A cascade of groans. "Tomorrow night" meant on the road in Oakland. "Tonight" would have meant everyone in that room would be there to see it.
(The only other negative reaction from the room all night was when Carroll and Goldstein suggested that while Smoak is a plus defender, Chris Davis "um, has a glove." JD set them straight later on.)
Anyway, after JD had fielded his final question at 6:30, I thanked him and, having noticed three or four times during his 90 minutes at the podium that he was looking down at his phone at an email or text message - once or twice actually typing in a response - while never skipping a beat with the Q&A, I said something like: "My vision from 10 feet away is so good that I noticed he was sending a text to actually go ahead and activate Neftali so he can get out of this room alive."
I shook JD's hand and he leaned over and whispered something to me. And walked out of the room.
A few minutes later we were all in our seats in Sections 37 and 38, watching Feliz make the walk from the dugout to the bullpen, sporting the pink Disney Princesses backpack, as a member of the Texas Rangers roster.
My stupid little joke turned out to be no joke at all.
It would have been very easy for JD - especially having disappointed the crowd an hour earlier - to have told the whole room, "Hey, there's been a development. We've changed plans. Neftali tonight." Who among us wouldn't have taken that opportunity to make that type of monster announcement in front of a captive audience, bringing on a standing ovation, starring in our own Home Run Derby?
Instead, JD preferred to save the surprise for when he was gone. It was classic JD, a subtle, poker-faced, limelight-eschewing move, with all the cool of a split-second Omar Vizquel decision to let a pop-up fall in front of him to erase Ichiro from the basepaths and replace him with Jose Lopez.
When JD had arrived, he made a couple brief remarks before inviting questions (choosing this year to "warm up" with a few others before putting himself in the line of Grant Schiller's fire), telling us that when you get right down to it, what the 320 of us in that room represented goes right to the heart of why he and everyone else in the game do what they do all day, every day, 365 days a year. For that reason, he said, Newberg Report Night is always one of his favorite nights of the year.
It's mine, too, for lots of reasons. Thanks to everyone who participated.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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