FOXBOROUGH — Rowena Babalato stuck to her plan. She left Cranston, R.I., at 8:40 Tuesday morning, car filled with a niece, a nephew, her son, and his friend. For the line she knew awaited them, she packed chairs and books.
Then, after a four-hour wait outside Gillette Stadium, the plan worked: Even on a day with a record number of fans watching the New England Patriots training camp, Babalato snagged a second-row seat.
“I’ll tell you why it’s worth waiting four hours on line,” Babalato said. She gestured toward the sideline, 20 yards ahead of her, where quarterback Tom Brady was speaking with owner Bob Kraft.
Among the 14,830 fans attending the training session, Babalato and her crew were close enough to see the tattoos on the arm of tight end Aaron Hernandez and for Babalato’s nephew to try, unsuccessfully, to get wide receiver and sometime-musician Brandon Lloyd to reveal when his next album will come out.
The Patriots may have come up short in this year’s Super Bowl, but more fans than ever before have streamed to training camp this week seeking a close look at favorite veterans and promising newcomers.
Even with the record crowd, Tuesday brought more revealing glimpses than the regular season typically offers.
“I didn’t think Brady was that tall,” 15-year-old Justin Landry said.
Landry and his father Randy arrived from Lawrence too late for a seat in the stands. Not to be deterred, they stood at the top of the bleachers for a brief look before heading toward the crowded slope separating the practice fields from the main stadium.
At the top of the slope, 72-year-old Harry Koblantz sat in a chair, scanning the field with binoculars.
He focused on the players, matching numbers against a lineup sheet on his lap. But the scene unfolding around his binoculars impressed him, too, the Plymouth resident said.
“This is the first time in eight years I’ve seen so many people here,” Koblantz said.
Indeed, the crowd was the largest ever for an outdoor practice session, said Stacey James, Patriots spokesman.
Fans looked on as players completed tackling and conditioning drills. During passing drills, fan favorites earned cheers during their turn.
Tuesday’s session also offered a double feature, as the New Orleans Saints, who play the Patriots in their first preseason game Thursday, practiced, too. After completing drills on side-by-side practice fields, the two teams faced off in a touch football scrimmage that delighted fans.
Although the crowd skewed heavily in favor of the home team, a diving reception near the bleachers by a Saints receiver earned murmurs and shouts of, “Nice catch!”
Players concentrated on the on-field action, but that hardly stopped fans from trying to grab the attention of favorites. such as tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Gronk! Rob!” shouted Babalato, holding her phone up to take pictures.
Two seats down, her 18-year-old nephew, Kevin Pamorada, declared himself the biggest fan in the family. Taking his eyes off the field briefly, he predicted this year’s team will go undefeated.
Training camp sessions attract many parents bringing children. That included Dave Wood, who came with sons Frank, 9, and Danny, 7.
Clad in navy Patriots jerseys as they slurped frozen lemonade in a shaded seating area, Frank and Danny said they had enjoyed their first training camp visit.
After the session ended, Babalato and her Rhode Island contingent waited around again, this time for autographs. Her son Brendon, 13, snagged signatures from Gronkowski and Jabar Gaffney. Kevin, her nephew, landed the autographs of several offensive linemen.
Again, Babalato said, the wait had been worth it.
Correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this story mischaracterized the gender of New England Patriots spokesman Stacey James.