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Notes From Spring Training

Once again, here is your friendly neighborhood plug for the year: Go to Spring Training!

Seriously, it is fun. It’s a look at players from a much closer perspective than across the field of a major league baseball park. It’s a more intimate setting; more about the team aspect and being up close with the players than the games themselves, but after a winter away, it’s hard not to love any baseball game in the spring.

Once in a while, if you get lucky (or happen to accidentally sneak into part of a charity event; not that I know anyone who might have done that *ahem*), you actually will get to spend time with some players off the field. Granted, they will all be glued to a video game for the all-important challenge, but there is something about seeing your favorite players in street clothes that makes you feel just a bit closer to the team.

That night, we actually saw quite a few players, notably Huston Street, Todd Helton, Matt Cain, Hank Blalock, Paul Konerko, and Milton Bradley (yes, it’s true).

We fled the event when we became upstaged by the *real* donors (who were bound to figure out we didn’t quite belong at a video game challenge/fashion show in our A’s jerseys), and had dinner at a restaurant called Blue Wasabi. Interestingly enough, their gimmick was, in fact, dark blue wasabi. I’ve now seen it all.

Some game notes:

  • Dana Eveland is a lot smaller than I thought he’d be on the mound. He’s politely known as the ‘big’ pitcher, but quite honestly, I didn’t see it. However, he pitched like I never expected, and I would label him as the spring surprise, for sure.
  • And speaking of people looking smaller in person, Dan Johnson looked like he lost considerable weight over the off-season. He was much, much smaller than I remember. Apparently, he will also only sign autographs for children who know his first and last name. ‘Dan’ was ignored several times, but ‘Dan Johnson’ was rewarded. And during the game? DJ looked better at the plate than I can ever remember.
  • Just so you don’t question my eyesight, I will say that Jack Cust looked every pound of his spring weigh-in.
  • For that matter, Prince Fielder is absolutely larger than life in person. He is an amazing player to watch, even as an opponent.
  • It never stops being scary; seeing someone hit in the head. Cust went down like a rock, and I think my heart stopped beating for a several moments.
  • Brad Ziegler has a great delivery. I miss the submariners, and I really, genuinely hope he gets his big-league shot with the A’s.
  • Dan Meyer, on the other hand, basically couldn’t look worse. He was lit up in the only outing I saw, and it wasn’t an accident; he is an opposing batter’s dream batting-practice pitcher. I gather he hasn’t been much better in his other spring outings, and you have to start to wonder about his future.
  • The Southwest Airline peanut toss on the dugouts during the third inning is MUCH more difficult than it looks.
  • I realize that I hold my breath every single time James Richard Harden takes the mound. I refused to get sucked into the ‘Look at me, I’m Pitching!’ sensationalism, but it’s very hard. I treat him as a baseball mirage, and I’m not quite sure what it will take for me to feel any differently.
  • Rob Bowen has some pop, to say the least.
  • Whiner or not; small sample size or not, Todd Linden hit the crap out of the ball every game I saw him in.
  • The Giants are as bad as they say. Really.
  • Large tidal waves of children running for autographs on the bleachers are dangerous.
  • It is fun (and a little bittersweet!) when a fellow ANer sneaks into the broadcast booth and has Robert Buan say hi to you over the radio the day after you go back to work after a wonderful weekend away.

Any stories other fellow Spring Training attendees would like to share? And just putting the feelers out there (no plans as of yet), does anyone have an interest in an AN weekend trip to Spring Training next year?