Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Training Report (or: The Longest Post in the History of the World)

My mom and step dad were here last week for a whirlwind Spring Training tour. They flew in Wednesday morning, and right off the bat we had a game Wednesday night. They left Monday morning, but that didn’t stop me from continuing on my manic baseball spree. I have been to seven games in seven days, a feat I don’t think I have ever accomplished. Here’s a (not so) brief rundown of this magical week.

Wednesday

Game: Twins vs. Yankees
Location: Legends Field, Tampa
Highlights:

  • Seeing Biff Henderson filming a segment for the Late Show.
  • My mom and Dean making fun of the grown man sitting in front of us obviously there with his parents sending text messages the entire game rather than watching it. He also had on a pink polo shirt with a popped collar. He was asking for it.
  • Seeing the New Yorkers with their gelled hair, chains, stogies and accents. It never gets old.
  • Seeing Joe Mauer face off with Derek Jeter after Mauer beat Jeter for the batting title.

Thursday

Game: Orioles vs. Twins
Location: Hammond Stadium, Ft. Myers
Highlights:

  • The guy who screamed “You got Neshek-ed!” after Pat Neshek’s two stikeouts (he threw 8 pitches the entire inning).
  • Being amongst “my people” (i.e. Twins fans).
  • My step dad obsessing over not getting the last batting practice hat at the gift store and then questioning if he even wanted one in the first place. (Sorry to tease!)
  • And, as always, the playing of the old school “We’re gonna win, Twins!” song over the loud speaker.

Friday

Game: Phillies vs. Tigers
Location: Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland
Highlights:

  • A 12” Little Caesar’s pizza for $8.
  • Seats only a few rows up from the first base line.
  • The “Detroit Superfan” sitting a couple rows ahead of us wearing a Tigers hat, world series jersey, ticket lanyard, beads, wrist bands, watch, a towel tucked into his shorts for waving when runs scored, and the piece de resistance: prescription glasses just like Nate Robertson’s. The guy was out of control and he was there with his wife, baby and in-laws who were obviously a little embarrassed. And he looked like Dwight Schrute from the Office.
  • Oooh, and after the game we went to the “lake” behind the stadium and saw about an 8 foot long alligator sunbathing on the bank. I’d never seen one without a fence separating us, he was absolutely breathtaking. And a little scary. I ran like a maniac when he roused a little from his sleep and lifted his head.

Saturday

Game: Twins vs. Pirates
Location: McKechnie Field, Bradenton
Highlights:

  • The St. Patrick’s Day street party before the game in Bradenton. There was free food, pop, iced coffee, free picture postcards of fans, beads, and a dressed up Pirate singing karaoke of Unchained Melody.
  • The St. Patrick’s Day Pirates pin giveaway (I collect Spring Training pins, so this was very cool).
  • I got Torii Hunter to sign my favorite Twins hat. It made me happy even if he probably won’t be with us next year. All Dean had was a blue Sharpie, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to look on my pink hat. It actually turned out purplish, which looks VERY cool.
  • We moved from our expensive seats to the bleachers to get some sun because it was chilly out, and the bleachers were next to the visitor’s clubhouse so we could switch between watching the game and watching the starters hangout in the clubhouse after they were done for the day. Boof played around with some of the young fans and flirted with some of the older ladies. He seems like a good guy, I hope spending more time in the big leagues doesn’t screw with him.

Sunday

Game: Dodgers vs. Indians
Location: Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven
Highlights:

  • Being comparatively tall and slender compared to most Cleveland fans (sorry, Clevelanders…).
  • Watching my lover Grady Sizemore take batting practice up close at the practice fields.
  • Driving one car ahead of Bob Feller out of the stadium parking lot (he waved us ahead from his gigantic Buick).

Monday

Game: Reds vs. Tigers
Location: Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland
Highlights:

  • Dean’s birthday (28!!) and his choice for a birthday activity. He has the week off of work and is traveling the state right now with his dad.
  • Dean being mortified at my conversation with a woman who worked in the gift shop. She noticed my handbag (with cats on it) and we got to talking about taking in strays which led to my explaining the TNR process. Apparently not appropriate conversation at the ball park.
  • Arroyo versus Rogers was a fun match up even though Arroyo didn’t look great. Rogers was in classic form already.
  • Pudge and Maggs both played, two of my favorite non-Twins players.
  • The guys that rake the field mid-game at that stadium do a funny YMCA dance. They rake for awhile and when the chorus starts they do the classic moves. Then during the bridge they break it down which is hilarious because they are all pretty big guys.

Tuesday

Game: Twins vs. Red Sox
Location: City of Palms Park, Ft. Myers

Highlights: I hadn’t planned on going to this game at all. I went back to work yesterday and late in the morning I got a call from Anonymous Blog Buddy reminding me she and her girlfriend were going to the Sox Twins game in Ft. Myers and assuming Dean and I were going as well. When I told her that no, we weren’t going and by the way I hated her for getting to go, she said she had an extra ticket. They were leaving at 3 with their roommate to tailgate. The ticket was mine if I wanted it. I consulted Dean, who couldn’t have gone anyway, and he agreed I should absolutely go since I had never seen the Red Sox facility at it SHOULD HAVE been a good game. Even though they were at a visiting park, they were in their home city so all the starters would be in. I snuck out of work early, gambling on the fact that I had already met with Dr. Hari and he wouldn’t come looking for me again. We drove to Ft. Myers, grilled burgers and hot dogs outside the stadium and included a stray Red Sox fan who came by himself and asked where the nearest sports bar was. He was grateful for a beer and a burger and asked questions like “So where were you all in ’04?” I had to laugh to myself as I was reminded what Red Sox fans were like. I had a fantastic time catching up with Anon whom I hadn’t spoken to in weeks, talking baseball with Girlfriend and meeting Roommate. Anon and Girlfriend went onto the concourse for more beer and Girlfriend recognized Torii Hunter signing autographs. She ripped the tag from her new shirt she had with her, and had Torii sign it (the tag, not the shirt) and then gave it to me. She was obviously high from meeting a ballplayer, and recognizing him as one of my favorites. It was too cute.

*****


What I realize is apparent with the highlights is that very little has to do with the game. I don’t even remember who won many of the games; it is the whole experience which makes Spring Training unlike anything else. The starters get taken out after 4 or 5 innings and your attention begins to wonder. You see the little towns who thrive on this time of year for their economy and how they turn into Little Cleveland or Little Pittsburgh because people vacation or even retire there just for Spring Training. The real baseball know-it-alls pay close attention to the prospects (which I do occasionally), the fanatics scope out autographs (Deano) and the vacationers soak up the precious Florida sun before going back to the snow.


My mom and step dad took pictures of most of these things. They did it the old fashion way, you know, with film? So maybe if I’m not too lazy and I get some pictures from them I’ll scan a couple in and post them. But I’m not making any promises. You’ll just have to take my word that all this stuff really happened.

6 comments:

mom said...

you forgot to mention that you "pulled a deano" on us. you got SO excited about the free spring training pin that you rushed through the gates and left tom and i standing OUTSIDE the gates without our tickets. and when i said tal "you've got our tickets" you said "nuh uh"!

magnetbabe said...

Thanks, Mom.

spants said...

I need visual evidence, Natalie. Pronto. Especially of Sizemore's behind.

Jackie said...

sounds like fun! I've said it before and I'll say it again, I wish Hockey had "spring (or fall, or summer) training" and it all happened close to where I live! I am totally jelous!!

e.b. said...

Okay that is a lot of baseball - I honestly don't know if I could have done it. You are a champion.

Hot4Teacha said...

Next time I rip my bra off for a ball player to sign, I'll think of you.