Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring Training in Tampa

Baseball is a tremendous sport. Combined with the grind of 162 games and the excitement and intensity it provides to fans, it is a sport like no other. It is a tool that unites individuals from a variety of locations and cultural backgrounds. It also provides many with an escape from the reality and turmoils of life that often times come our way.

For me, the first experience I had with the game of baseball came in 1996 when I was around 9 years old. I was in Orlando for vacation and my mom took my brother and I to Tampa for a day to see the Yankees in Spring Training. I was young and didn't know much about the team or players, but I played softball so there was some excitement in seeing a real Major League baseball team up close and in person.

Back then, Spring Training in Tampa was fan-friendly and you had easy access in getting close to the players. The fences were at a decent level in which you could see over them without being obstructed. My mom still remembers how excited I was from this trip and how had begged her to take me back there the following day (she never did since our plane was leaving the next day).

It wasn't until I was a senior in high school that we made the trip back to Tampa. I was the only one in my family who enjoyed baseball, so it was struggle convincing my mom and brother to agree on taking the trip down south. I begged and pleaded and we eventually made the trip during my break from school. It is a tradition I have continued every year since that trip and is something I look forward to once baseball season is over.

Collecting autographs was something I didn't have much interest in doing when I first started going to baseball games. It was really the thrill of being at the ballpark and seeing my favorite players live and in person that was the highlight of making the trip. My first autograph was a ball that was signed by Jorge Posada. It was exciting but it wasnt something that I found myself seeking to do every time I was at a game.

Over time, the thrill of collecting autographs developed into a passion. Initially it was easy to come across. You would wait by the field after practice and the players would come by and sign for you. You had balls filled with autographs; sometimes in which you would come home and be unable to even figure out the player that had signed the ball. The players made kids and adults happy just by taking a minute or two to stop and sign their name on a ball.

As the years went by, it did become harder and more of a challenge to get autographs. With persistence and going to the field early, you were able to come away with something. Over the years I have a collection of an array of players; each having a different story of how I came across the autograph. The most impressive from last year was getting Derek Jeter's autograph. Anyone around spring training knows how difficult it can be to get him to sign. But players like Rivera, Swisher, Damon, and a variety of others have always been easy to come across.

It's difficult at times for the players because they do have a job to do. Last year, Mariano Rivera was around the side field, waiting around the fence before practice began. Many of us asked him to sign autographs; a plea the led to his response of "do you want me to work or sign". In the end he ended up coming over to sign, taking five minutes out of his time. Kids were excited, adults were excited. That's the point of spring training for the fans, isn't it?

You have to keep in mind that signing autographs is tricky for players. You might stop and sign 20 autographs. At some point you have to stop and get to work and that 21st person there is left without an autograph and is often times upset. As a fan it sucks, but you have to realize that they can only sign so many.

That is the difference between this year and the previous years. Very few players are even stopping to sign any autographs, let alone twenty. I have been here for five days and have never seen the players act like this. I talked to a few security guards and fans and they mentioned that they noticed the same thing. The one guard didn't know why- but assumed it was because there are so many people out there that show up every day wanting to sell the autographs online. It sounded like it made sense to me, though I didn't think it seemed very fair to those who are not there to sell them (and someone did point out that eventually, every autograph does get sold, look at those such a Babe Ruth's).

But then came the word that perhaps the lack of signing was coming from someone upstairs. I am not a reporter or someone who works for the Yankees. But a situation occurred in which Eric Chavez was signing autographs for fans on the side field. Tony Pena approached him, saying that he needed to stop signing or he might be fined. Chavez looked up at him, dropped the pen and left the fans. A person in the crowd mentioned in response to this observation that he heard this was coming down from Hank. Word was that he was so angry about the Yankees not making the World Series that he wanted them to focus more on playing and less on autographs. And with this situation, a guy like Chavez has more to lose than a guy who has made the team.

Now I do not know if perhaps there is a certain rule that they have for the players to follow. How would I know since I do not work for the team. But Pena said what he said and there's no denying that. As for what he meant, perhaps the players aren't allowed to sign at a certain time before practice. Who knows. But I will tell you this, regardless of if the Yankees deny it or not, there has been a huge drop off in players signing. Am I saying Jeter cares of he is fined? No, He can afford it even if it is a rule in which they are fined. He's just being himself. Heres the perfect example for you--The other morning when the Yankees were away, there were about 30 people at the field watching Jeter, A-Rod, and a handful of other players taking batting practice. After practice ended, not one player stopped to sign for anyone. Not one. Their day was over as they were not traveling with the team and they couldnt stop for any of the 30 fans.

And this is not saying that NOBODY is signing. Swisher and Granderson have been great this year. But in general, the team has been worse than usual.

I personally have all the autographs I want. Sure, I'd love Tino's, but I couldn't care less if I got his or not. The goal this year was to get some for the kids I tutor. The little girls are not into baseball much, but I remember being young and getting my first autograph. Now here I am at age 24 going to games in Tampa by myself and having a great time watching baseball. It can turn you into baseball and that is the hope I have for the kids. Dont get me wrong. The kids will survive in me not having autographs for them but it is just terrible seeing how ridiculous the Yankees have become and how little they care about their fans. They want your money and the support from the fans but they can not take five minutes to sign for a few people who came there early to support them. And if its true Hank did threaten to fine the players, he must really have no care at all for those who spend a great deal of money coming down to support this team.

At some point in time people are going to get frustrated and stop coming. For me, this trip has not been worth it. My own personal reason goes beyond the autograph issue; more in how I was forced out of a seat by a security guard during the Red Sox game. It was uncalled for and I still am in shock and don't understand the reason for why they did it. I decided that it may not be worth the money next year coming down. I would miss the great fans that I meet while down here but I wont miss the way in which the Yankees treat the fans.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I am backkk! Lets hope I can keep it up!

Life has been busy and I have just not had the energy to blog. But I am going to go at it again, this time with more consistency. I now have my Master's degree in Literacy and just added an extension to that which allows me to teach mathematics up until 9th grade. Now the fun starts to find an actual teaching jobs. NY is the probably not the best state for finding a job in teaching.

Anyhow, this past month I have started my baseball excursions. I went to see a Mets game a few weeks ago at the new CitiField, saw the AAA Yankees on Sunday at Syracuse, and visited Coney Island which happens to be located right next to the Brooklyn Cyclones (home of the Single-A Mets). The trip to Syracuse was fun as I ended up sitting behind the Yankees bullpen. You definitely hear/see some interesting things while out there. The relievers are quite bored at times it appears. I will write about that tomorrow and show you some pictures i took while I was at the game on Sunday.

As for the trip I took to Coney Island on Saturday, that was an experience in itself. It took 5.5 hours to get from Albany to Brooklyn (I went on a bus trip). I do not know why it took so long but it made from a very long and grumpy trip. It was an interesting experience in which I went to the New York Aquarium and walked around Coney Island (which apparently is not an island nor is it anything like Ellis Island). The highlight of the trip was when I noticed there was a baseball field a few streets down so I begged my friend to walk down the streets to discover the team that made this field their home

I was surprised to see that this field was home to the short-season Single-A Mets. While the season doesn't officially begin until the end of June, I was able to take some pictures and walk around the outside of the building. It looks like a nice establishment and a great place to catch some baseball. Perhaps another game to add to my agenda this year. Here a some pictures from the trip:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thursday, March 4th: Yankees vs Phillies in Clearwater

Ah, Clearwater, Florida. Home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Not only is this ballpark close to Tampa (about 25 minutes or so), but it is probably one of the nicest minor league stadiums I have visited. The berm in center field, tiki bar in right field, and the huge scoreboard makes for a tremendous environment to watch a baseball game. There isn't a bad seat in the house (with the exception of sitting on the first base side in the afternoon, as that is where the sun sets which makes for a chilly experience) and the cheap berm seats are even worth buying. The stadium, known as Bright House Field, was built in 2004 and can hold around 8,500 fans.

While the weather was still on the chilly side, the match-up for the game was one I was looking forward too. While it is ONLY spring training, having two starters named CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay was an exciting one; especially considering I am a huge fan of the great Roy Halladay. This was his first "start" ever as a Philly and I was able to stand about a foot from him as he was warming up in the bullpen. It was fun nonetheless, regardless of the fact he was only in the game for two innings.
Below are some pictures from the game:
  • MLB Network was in the area once again, this time to film the Phillies in action for their 30 teams in 30 days. Here is Peter Gammons chattin it up
  • While Halladay was warming up, I was right next to him by the fence and decided to declare to him that he needed to return back to the Jays. He looked at me and smiled. Everyone around me found it funny and started laughing. Sad thing is that the Jays are really going to hurt not having him pitch every 5 days, and also the lack of his presence in the clubhouse.

  • The Philly Phanatic was out of control. Doing the worm on top of the dugout. It was entertaining actually, and I typically am not a huge fan of all the animals dancing on the field.
  • CC Sabathia warming up
  • Cody Ransom is back! Except he's a Philly now and has somehow decided hes a power hitter. So far 3 HR's in Spring Training.
  • Yanks in the dugout. The zoom on this camera is amazing.

Jesus Montero at bat... Was interesting because Austin Romine was substituted directly after Montero. I assume one of them was placed as a DH.
  • Mark Melancon warming up. He's looked good so far this spring
Additional Pictures

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Time for Spring Training!

Well here I am, in the beautiful Tampa, Florida for a week of fun and baseball. I wish i could say I arrived to the warmth of Florida, but that wouldn't entirely be the truth. Among stepping outside of the airport on Wednesday, i was hit with the cold weather and high winds. The actual temperature at noon was in the 40's, but with the wind chill, it had to be in the mid to high 30's. So much for escaping the cold New York weather. Regardless, its time to make the best of the trip and be thankful that I am in Florida and am lucky to be around baseball 24/7.

As for Wednesday, it was exciting being it was the first spring training game of the season. The Yankees introduced each of their players along with the coaches and special instructors. Even Bernie Williams made an appearance, which always makes for a nice time to reminisce down memory lane.Since my flight landed at 11am, I had to rush from the airport to the stadium. There was no time for batting practice and certainly not enough time to try for autographs. From what I heard, Reggie Jackson, Mariano, and Tino signed for a while. I was able to get a Rivera autograph last year, and while he takes an hour to sign each ball, his handwriting is meticulous and one you can actually decipher (the polar opposite of my Giambi and Matsui ball).

Not much to really report from today. The weather was sooo cold that nearly everyone left the game easily, despite the fact it was a tied game. Me being the nut I am decided to stick around in the cold; a decision that seemed to work out well as the Yankees came back to win it in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Here are some photos from the game:
  • MLB Network was here for the game, filming their 30 clubs in 30 days. Some random guy gave me a photo of Hazel Mae. My life is now complete (sarcasm)
  • The Yankees announced all of the players and the support staff. Among them was Tino, Yogi, Reggie, and even Bernie was on hand today to see some of the guys.
Other photos:

Old ST photos that I just found on my laptop:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Get well soon, Geno

The NY post is reporting that Yankee trainer Gene Monahan will be missing his first spring training in 48 years. The source states that it is a "significant illness that possibly could sideline him for the beginning of the regular season."

I've run into Geno on several occasions while in Tampa and in Toronto and he seems to be a good guy. He's been that mainstay with the Yankees for years and is someone the players seem to like. Him and Bobby Murcer were extremely close; a relationship that formed when Bobby was a CF for the Yankees. If you're not familiar with him, hes the guy the announcers always talk about when someone has a memorable hit and they write the accomplishment on the ball (As documented by Tyler Kepner of the NY Times)

Heres to a speedy recovering Gene. Hopefully he will be back to action soon.

The best invention

I recently purchased a DVR player for me room. It is probably one of the best inventions out there. Not only can I ditch the VHS tapes when I was to record a show (yes I am wayyy behind technology-wise), but I now have digital cable so I am able to catch the MLB Network.

First thing that I have to note is the phenomenal guys talent they have on this network. Bob Costas does an amazing job, along with Victor Rojas, analysts that are former players, including current players into aspects of the show, and of course, the addition of Al Leiter is always a positive thing in my world.

I mean a channel focusing solely on baseball 24/7.. It's like heaven in my eyes.

Today i was watching an old Blue Jays/ Devil Rays (it took a year to get used to call them the 'Rays', but now its hard to see them called the 'Devil Rays') game on the MLB Network. t was the game in which Delgado hit 4 homeruns in one game; a feat that was never accomplished by a Blue Jays before in one game. It's always fun to look back at past games; seeing the different players on the teams and how much they have aged since the game took place.

It was also interesting to see the how different the turf used to look. The improvements to the game in that regard are amazing as the surface has somewhat more of a "less fake" look of grass. Here is a look at the purpose of playing on artificial turf. I have never heard anyone really talk about enjoying to play on artificial turf, but I perhaps it works better for other sports.

Spring Training is Near!

The best time of the year is approaching us soon. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Tampa on Thursday; a signal that spring is on the way and Major league Baseball will be returning back to action.

For me, it is a time of the year in which I am busy trying to catch up with HW and the preparation for my annual trip Tampa. Though many think I am crazy attending all these games by myself, it is the best type of atmosphere one can ever embark on. The fans you meet down in Tampa are like none other. Their knowledge about baseball is vast and you can hang around the field all morning before the games starts, just talking solely about baseball. I can't think of anything better.

I am purchasing a laptop soon so that I can document my week long travels down to Florida more extensively than I have in the past. The players are easier to see down in Tampa and the autographs are much easier to come by than if you are going to a game in the Bronx.

Is anyone else heading down to Tampa soon? I have gone to spring training during the practices in February and also the games in March.

Advantages of going to practices:
  • Admission into the stadium is free (parking was free back in the day, not sure if it still is); you can sit wherever you want
  • Players are friendly and autographs are easier to come by
  • Player development
  • You can see the different drills the players engage in to build strength
  • Catcher activities are always fun to watch. The players also have fun with this which makes it entertaining
Disadvantages of practices:
  • Its only a practice. Players are running and doing sprints. Not a great deal of action, though you can watch the pitchers throw a BP session.
  • Only pitchers and catchers for the first week. If you head over the Himes field you can try to catch a glimpse of the position players. Forewarning, do not park close to the field. You could get your car smashed by a ball. Seen it happen first hand.
  • Last i checked, the practices were maybe 2 hours long. Not a great deal of time at the field, especially if you're traveling from far away.
Advantages of games:
  • Player development- If you are into seeing the guys in the Yankees farm system, this is the place to catch a glimpse of what is in store for the future.
  • Autographs are easier to come by, though you need to get to the games early, when the players are practicing in the morning before the game.
Disadvantages of attending games:
  • $$$... The tickets are pretty expensive, especially considering the fact you are seeing the stars play for only 3 innings or so. Parking, last I checked, was 7 dollars. I work 3 jobs and tutor a handful of kids just to afford this. But it IS worth the money, I assure you.

For the record, if you attend spring training during the beginning of March, the regulars are only going to be starting about 3 innings. Starting pitchers start out slow and will be pulled after a certain pitch count (typically going 3 innings, which is built up during the last week of camp). if you go to see big players such as Jeter or Arod, then your best bet is to try heading down at the middle to end of spring training. Those who enjoy player development are better off going in the beginning. As camp starts to progress and wind down, players are sent to the minor leagues, which is located a few minutes away from the GMS complex.

Those with kids and jobs may only be able to attend spring training in February when kids are on break. While I think the games are better, I still recommend going to the workouts. Not only do you see the players close up, but its Florida and the weather is amazing as it is. Attending practices is certainly cheaper than games too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wang to the Nationals

It looks as if Chien-Ming Wang has decided to sign with the Nationals. This signing shows me that the Dodgers must either not have faith in Wang or that they are done spending money. Though with that, I can't imagine the salary that he was demanding and/or why they wouldn't put that commitment towards Wang. I know Wang is a huge fan of Torre and Bowa, and if there was interest by the Dodgers, I think he would have signed there in a heartbeat.

Given that, I am curious as to how many years/ how much money the Nationals are going to sign him for. I would bet an incentive clause would be good for Wang, considering how healthy he is after coming back from surgery. Since I am going to assume this is a short term deal, an incentive-based contract may not be a huge deal. There is risk with him, but there is also the potential for great reward if he comes back to the pitcher he was before that injury. But really you never know how a guy will come back.

It appears as if this post turned out to be very wishy-washy. I guess it stems from the fact there are some unknowns with this deal.


2 years 8 million?

1 year 5 million?

Do you think that's going too high for Wang?

It appears we will know for sure within a week or so. I hope for the best with Wang. He was our ace until these injuries and has the potential to return back to that status if he can recover from the surgery and continue to stay healthy.