Spring Training, Episode 2
With only hours left until Opening Day at Busch Stadium and a full season of Cardinals baseball ahead of us, here’s the final part of my Spring Training report with highlights of my time in Jupiter watching our boys.
Some tidbits of Spring Training Magic. Enjoy!
Luck of the Late Arrivals
After driving the 4 hours from Tampa, we arrived at Roger Dean Stadium less than 2 hours before game time on Friday. We hit the team store briefly, then headed to the backfields as the small crowds were dispersing. Figuring we’d missed the fun, we weren’t expecting much. But we caught some pitchers taking batting practice, having fun competing for total distance, etc. Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan were taking turns in the cage and after they were finished, all three signed autographs for the fans that were still hanging around.
In camp for approximately 30 minutes and getting autographs from three starting pitchers? Why yes, I do believe in fairy tales! ;)
Pujols Smacks TWO!!
Albert Pujols is ……. Well, he’s Albert Pujols. What more can you say? The Spring Training crowd that Saturday went wild when Albert led off the 4th inning with a solo blast to left center field. Next inning, Pujols decided to do it again, with another homerun. We felt honored to be watching. Nothing magic about this one…. Just Pure Pujols. ;)
Morning Frivolities on the Back Fields
On Sunday morning, Lance Berkman was good-naturedly terrorizing Skip Schumaker in the batting cages. Yadi, Ryan Theriot, Skip and Berkman were taking turns in the cage. The sun was hot and the crowd was sparse when Berkman decided to have some fun. He started smacking the cage with his bat when pitches came in to Schumaker. This progressed to full-fledge cage rattling to distract him. Pretty soon Yadi and Theriot were joining in and all four were laughing. It was one of those behind-the-scenes moments that makes me smile. Nice to see Cardinal clubhouse chemistry alive and well. ;)
“Look! It’s Carp!!”
That’s what I said to Hubby on Sunday, pointing up the sidewalk. He mumbles something like “How can you see with that guy in the way?”
Turns out that guy was Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ Ace and starting pitcher for Opening Day. He was heading out for a run in shorts and a t-shirt. Nobody else was around. It was eerie and exciting all at the same time. Carp wasn’t stopping to chat though, and I didn’t bother him to ask for an autograph. Memories of the Carp temper and flashbacks to the icy glares he shot Brendan Ryan that time last season kept me from invading his personal space. I did grab my camera though. Carp in shorts?? I had an obligation to document that leg art. ;)
Blessed Are the Happy Autograph Givers
In my opinion, the best part of Spring Training is the accessibility to the players. (For autographs as well as great photo opportunities) The environment is welcoming and the smaller venue affords a better chance to interact with these players we watch from a distance during the regular baseball season. I adore observing Cardinals interacting with fans, especially with kids. Some of the guys are admittedly better about it than others, but those brief moments when a favorite ballplayer stops to take a picture or sign an autograph often will be more poignant memories for fans than the action on the field that day.
|Skip Schumaker making kids happy|
We certainly didn’t camp out for hours or pester players for autographs. Several players voluntarily made themselves available to sign for fans after practice and before or after games. I know some players are jaded by the fact that autographs may end up on Ebay instead of as treasured spring training mementos. However the players who take the time and spread some joy with a pen on a baseball make long-lasting, positive impressions on fans. Those moments are priceless, no matter how old you are.
Well, those are a few of my highlights from Spring Training. Game One of the 2011 Cardinals season is tomorrow!!! We here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries look forward to sharing the season with you all!