As most of you know (and if you don't you haven't been paying attention) I've been in Lakeland for the last week, soaking up baseball and sun. It has been a GLORIOUS experience and what follows is a brief synopsis of my week.
On Monday we headed out to Joker Marchant early to get a good place along the fence to watch the players emerge from the team meeting and head towards he practice fields. Thanks to Ian Casselberry, Editor Emeritus, who guided me in the right direction so I got a plum spot. And there they were! Smyly! Coke! Hunter! Jackson! And this guy:
We spent the next couple hours wandering around the practice fields watching batting practice, PFP and lots of very funny looking calisthenics. There was a player golf tournament that afternoon so workouts ended early and the players returned, signing autographs and posing for pictures along the way. Phil Coke was clearly in his element with the crowd. At one point somebody asked him where Drew Smyly was and he said, pointing at Brad Ausmus, "Gotta ask the Boss. Hey Boss -- where's Smyly?" and without missing a beat Ausmus replied "Oh we released him."
That was when I fought my way to the front to get Ausmus to autograph my Official MLB Baseball.
The next day was the Mocs game and I paid the extra $5 to get in to BP at 10 AM. My impressions from that short outing were that Omar Vizquel was all over the place and looks like he could step in at SS should the need arise. I also got to watch Don Kelly going over signs with the new guys and then turning to the Mocs players lined up behind him and watching to say "Now don't you go tweeting our signs." Donnie -- what a card he is!
When the game started I was just so happy to be watching baseball in 70 degree weather from these seats
Funny thing about the crowds at Joker Marchant -- 85% of them are old, sweet as can be and totally clueless. Conversation with a guy sitting next to me, right after Jim Leyland walked by to a round of applause and then sat down amongst the fans about five rows behind home plate:
Old Man: Who's that?
Me: That's Jim Leyland
Old Man: Why isn't he down there? (pointing to dugout)
Me: Well, he's not the manager any more.
Old Man: Oh yeah. They hired that young guy!
Being able to see all these prospects and unfamiliar (at least to me) players was a real treat, though confusing at times (especially when two players would wear the same number -- you'd think the organization could find another jersey or some duct tape or something).
The next game I attended was Friday against the Yankees, where my seats were farther down the first base line. Imagine my delight when Victor was announced as the starting first baseman. Thank you Jesus and Brad Ausmus.! So yes, yes I did spend most of the game staring at Victor.
Old Man Moment from that game:
"That Cabrera could be a Hall of Famer if he stays away from the booze"
Old Man Sitting Behind Me is now banned from BYB.
Today's game was absolutely the best. PERFECT weather (not that the other days were any too shabby), great seats in the shade and a chance to see Lobstein pitch an impressive three innings and both AlAl and Rondon in the later innings.
And it was full of Old Man moments
Old Man to my right (As people are crowding around Dave Dombrowski for pictures and autographs) "Who is that?"
Me: That's Dave Dombrowski
Old Man: Who's he?
Me: The General Manager.
Old Man: So what does he do?
Me: Um...he's the one who makes all the trades.
Old Man: I bet they pay him good for that.
And in the middle of fourth inning, from Old Man behind me:"They should take some of these starters out of the game and let the young kids get a chance to play" (Ausmus must have heard him because I'll be damned if he didn't do EXACTLY that when the sides changed!)
And and Old Lady moment, from later in the game, saying something you would never hear on BYB: :"Dirks is hitting next! SWEET!"
My bittersweet shot from the 6th inning
Victor! Don't leave me!
Alas, all good things come to an end and I've already gone on far too long. I haven't even mentioned meeting up with Kurt and Alli and PhilCokesBrain and a bunch of Tiger reporters that I'd only known on Twitter.
If this hotel internet connection wasn't as slow as a Molina headed toward first I'd post more pictures, but I'll leave you with one -- my last shot of Joker Marchant taken today. Thanks, Lakeland! I'll be back next year!