Saturday, March 17, 2007

Description of my Trip to Spring Training with my Dad and Granddad

Day 1 – Sunday March 4th

We flew out to Phoenix on an 11:30am flight. The flight was delayed for about an hour. We landed a little after 1:30pm. We went straight to Surprise Stadium for the Royals home game against the Rangers. We got there during the bottom of the 7th. It was 4-0 Rangers when we got there and they ended up winning 5-0.

After the game, I got autographs from Desi Relaford and Marlon Byrd, watched Thomas Diamond and Jose Vargas have a bullpen session, and then got autographs from Chris Stewart and Jose Vargas. During the bullpen session, Jose Vargas’ fastball was very fast.

We checked into the Hampton Inn and Suites in Surprise. It was a nice room with two beds and a sleeper sofa. It was a nice hotel overall – and I would recommend it. They have a free breakfast in the morning and cookies and sodas in the evening, plus free wireless access.

We tried to eat at Outback for dinner but it was too crowded, so we went to the Chili’s on Bell Road instead.

Day 2 – Monday March 5th

We went to the Rangers workouts on the backfields in the morning. The Rangers were in Tucson but a lot of the players stayed behind. When we got there, they were all doing warm-up exercises. I was wearing a Peter Warrick Bengals jersey and the players were all trying to figure out who it was. CJ Wilson and Michael Young asked me to tell them who it was. None of them had guessed right.

When they were moving from warm-ups to the hitting and pitching stations, I got autographs from Kenny Lofton and Sammy Sosa. I noticed during the week that Kenny was really nice until you asked him for an autograph. I was the only person he signed for that day. The hitters took batting practice and the pitchers took fielding practice. As workouts were breaking up, I got autographs from Bruce Chen, Jamey Wright, Mike Wood, Francisco Cruceta, Rick Bauer, Salomon Manriquez, and Taylor Teagarden. Salomon didn’t seem to like signing but everyone else was really nice about it. Taylor remembered us from the Newberg Bound Edition release party.

After workouts, we went to Maryvale Baseball Park to see a Brewers game. They were playing the White Sox and won 4-3. Mark Buerhle and Jeff Suppan started. During the game, Brewers GM (and former Rangers GM) Doug Melvin sat behind us and we got to talk to him for a while. He was very friendly and seemed to enjoy talking about baseball.

It was the worst of the Spring Training stadiums in Phoenix. It wasn’t clean and had nothing special – just a plain ballpark. It was the last Spring Training ballpark in the Phoenix area we hadn’t seen a game at.

We went to Outback for dinner. Scott Servais and some other Rangers people were eating dinner there too.

We watched Eragon in the hotel room after dinner. It was a good movie, but I expected more after the book was so good. Over the trip, I spent my spare time reading the sequel to Eragon, Eldest. It is also great.

Day 3 – Tuesday March 6th

We went to the Rangers workouts in the backfields in the morning. The gates for the workouts open at 10am. Shirley the Cookie Lady, her friend Dorothy and their husbands were there every morning. They were staying in Surprise for a month.

It is very easy to talk to players, because they go to different stations, where fans are allowed to be.

We saw Eric Gagne take a bullpen session. The pitchers were taking fielding practice again. We saw Evan Grant and talked to him for a while. We met Tim Cowlishaw. We also talked to Gregg Elkin and he let us go into the stadium an hour before the gates opened so that we could watch the star players take BP.

Before the game, I got autographs from Ramon Vazquez and Franklyn German. During the game, I talked to Jon Daniels. The Rangers lost 10-3. After the game, I got autographs from Willie Eyre and Matt Kata. Matt really doesn’t like to sign.

We ate at Red Robin, then went to a nighttime Padres game at Peoria Stadium. They beat the Diamondbacks 5-3. Chris Young and Brandon Webb started. Jerry Hairston sat two rows in front of us. We talked to him for a while when he was leaving and he was really friendly and happy to talk.

Day 4 – Wednesday March 7th

The Rangers had a B game at 10am on the backfields. The B games have very unofficial rules, and barely have any fans. One time Matt Connor just yelled out “1 more,” after the third out and Kevin Millwood got a fourth out. They don’t play all 9 innings.

During the game, we talked with Thad Levine, Keith Meister, Jon Daniels, Josh Lewin, some scouts, Randy Galloway and a Royals official named Dan Glass.

I got autographs from Scott Rice and Guillermo Quiroz. At that point, I had autographs from everyone on the Spring Training roster except for Victor Diaz. I mentioned this to Jerry Hairston and he said that he would tell Victor to look for me at the game.

I went to the Rangers game against the Diamondbacks. Before the game, I got Victor Diaz’s autograph. Jerry had probably told him to look for me. That completed my spring collection – I had autographs from all 57 players in major league camp. The Rangers won 9-8.

I went to the Suns game that night. The arena was better than the Mavs one, but wasn’t great. It had a good kids area. The game was really close, even though the Suns were playing the Bobcats. It went to overtime, but the Bobcats fell apart in it.

Day 5 – Thursday March 8th

We checked out of the hotel, and then went to the workouts on the backfields. When we got there, they had already split up for batting practice and pitchers’ fielding practice. I asked a lot of people my poll question (below). Otsuka talked to us a long time – he’s very friendly. Michael Young gave me a bat. I talked to Kevin Harmon too.

We drove to the A’s stadium for the Rangers/A’s game. The Rangers won 7-6. We left after the 7th inning to get to the airport and fly home on a 6:30pm flight.

I took a player poll during the week. The question was: Do you think the AL and NL should have the same DH system, and if so, which league should change? The following people responded:
- Kevin Millwood
- Jamey Wright
- Michael Young
- Kameron Loe
- Josh Rupe
- Jon Daniels
- Frank Catalanotto
- Brad Wilkerson
- Ramon Vazquez
- Bruce Chen
- Akinori Otsuka
- Brandon McCarthy
- Gerald Laird
- Mark Teixeira
- CJ Wilson
- Scott Feldman

Here are the results of the poll:
- The AL should lose the DH – 8 (50%)
- It should stay the same – 6 (37.5%)
- The NL should get the DH – 2 (12.5%)

I will also rate all the Pheonix Spring Training stadiums 1-10, 10 being the best.

1. Surprise Stadium (Rangers/Royals) - 10
2. Peoria Stadium (Mariners/Padres) - 9
3. Scottsdale Stadium (Giants) - 8
4. HoHoKam Park (Cubs) - 6
5. Pheonix Municipal Stadium (A’s) - 5
6. Tempe Diablo Stadium (Angels) -4
7. Maryvale Baseball Park (Brewers) - 3

Come back next week for an analysis of the AL East and NL West.


Lynn said...

I am glad you could have such a special Spring Break trip with your dad and grandad! Sounds like you had good food and good fun! The Rangers are lucky to have such a dedicated fan!

Ken Pittman said...

Spectacular blog, Grant. A couple thoughts/comments on this one:

1) It's amazing how much players' willingness to sign autographs has an impact on my opinion of them. Certain players just went up versus down in my book based on what you described of your interactions with them.

2) Great survey - I wonder if you broke up the results by pitchers, hitters, and other (Jon Daniels) if the pitchers leaned towards NO DH and the hitters leaned towards DH in both leagues. I noticed there were 10 pitchers and 8 NO DH votes - were all 8 pitchers?

grantlovesbaseball said...

Not all 8 were pitchers, but six of them were if I remember correctly. Your thoughts were correct. It's the same thing with me for if I like them or not. Down if they lie about signing, down if they’re rude and ignore me, unless they don't speak English. They go up if they remember they said they would, up if they're friendly, and almost always up if they sign.