where to start?? First, I would like to apologize to my loyal readers. Since this past wednesday was my 23rd birthday and my parents flew out to visit me, I haven’t felt the urge to sit down and blog about the past few days. I had a terrific time with the rents this week and they brought me some good luck as well! my first game that they saw me play in out here I went 4-4 with a bomb! Homers dare few and far between for me so I was excited that both my mom and pops were there to see me hit it.
Hello blog readers! I would like to give a shout out to all of you reading up on my experience out here in Arizona. The past few days here have been awesome. The temperature has been in the high 70s and perfect for fall baseball. The last two days the Phoenix Desert Dogs have taken on the Peoria Javelinas, once at home and once on the road. Yesterday we fell to those guys, but we avenged them at their place today. I played right field yesterday and left field today. I am starting to get in baseball shape again after not playing for roughly a month and a half. What I mean by that is I am not waking up and feeling like my body has been punched by Kimbo Slice! I can also report that I know the names of everyone on my team now so its no longer “nice swing big guy” or “way to throw it buddy.”
Lets see, today I was restful! I woke up around 11:30 and didn’t really move from the couch until my roommate Erik Cordier and I decided to walk to the bike shop down the street. We asked the lady about possibly renting a bike but it would cost more money to rent than it would be to buy one. I now have a sweet white cruiser bike! We can return it and get half the money that we payed for it back so it seems like a good investment. We took a long and enjoyable trip around ASU’s campus and through other parts of Tempe! I must admit I was like a kid in a candy shop riding on my new bike. Cordier kept turning around and laughing at me because I had such a big smile on my face. I am pumped about my new mode of transportation.
After a few straight night games in which we got to play in beautiful Arizona evening weather(minus last nights dust storm), it was time to wake up early again and hit the road for 12:35 game in Surprise, Arizona. This facility has been the nicest place, in my opinion we have played at. The visitor locker room was nice, clean, and spacious which is always nice. The stadium is shared between the Kansas City Royals, and the Texas Rangers. I’m not really sure how it works come spring training time but as far as the Arizona Fall League goes it works well because the Surprise Rafters team is made up of the Royals, Cardinals, Brewers, Rangers and the Tigers.
OK, so yesterday was our first game, and a home game at that. Our opponent was the Mesa Solar Sox comprised of the Mets, Cubs, Angels, Pirates and Phillies. Since we are required to take infield so many times per week, the first half of the day was no different than the previous few, stretch throw, infield, then batting practice. The hitting groups were as follows: first 5 batters of the lineup in the first group, batters 5-9 plus one, then the guys who were selected to be designated high five givers during the game were in group three. I was a high five giver/ first base coach in our home opener. When it comes to first base coaching, there are guidelines to follow. Normally there are about 4-5 people who aren’t in the game that can be selected as a first base coach. First when you get a runner on base, you casually walk over and give them either a high five, butt slap, or close fisted pound followed by the standard “atta’ boy”, or “nice piece of hitting”, or “good eye champ.” Then you take their batting gloves and fold them nicely together so that you don’t lose them. And if they are wearing protective armor, you can A: wear it, or 2: toss it over to the dugout(if the dugout is on the first base side, which it is when we are home). Next, you pay attention to the third base coach and make sure the baserunner gets the sign if any. Lastly, you rifle through the huge sum of seeds that you stuffed in your mouth before walking out to the coaches box. Or if you prefer bubble gum, you try to blow massive bubbles while assuming the first base coaches power position(wide stance hands on your knees), making sure to keep your eyes on the pitcher. When the team scores a run while you are out there, you have just bought yourself another inning. Yesterday Curry from the Florida Marlins brought us Desert Dogs the luck, I think he was responsible for all of our teams runs just by coaching first base. I ran out there twice but didn’t even get a runner on base. Not my best showing, but its early and I am confident I will improve. Mattingly gave me a hard time as I was putting a helmet back in the rack saying “I thought you were better than that as a first base coach, you couldn’t even get a runner on??” I wore it. We lost our first game, but we got 30 something to go…
I believe I speak for everyone when I say that we are growing tired of practice. Today was slightly different than the previous few practice days. I took it upon myself to track a few pitchers’ bullpens today, just to try to get used to seeing live pitching, seeing how I haven’t seen any in over a month! As for the team meeting, Donnie Baseball went over a few house keeping details in preparation for tomorrows first game! Again, a very short speech from our manager.
So today I woke up, and left for the field around 9am. Got some breakfast and and threw on my big league uni. Another very short pre practice meeting from our skipper and then we all headed out to the back field. Our defensive fundamental was first and third plays for the pitchers and infielders. Us Outfield guys were the base runners yet again. Then the pitchers and infielders worked on their pick plays just to get used to each other. standard preseason type stuff.
Today started with us waking up around 6:45-7. Since I stay in the living room of our apartment, I didn’t have to set an alarm. I just let my roommates wake me as they came out of their respective rooms. We tried to get the van from the Best Western(where we are still checked in), to swing by the new apartment and grab us up. We weren’t sure if the van was coming so we hailed a taxi to get us to the yard. That was a first for me, pulling upto the field in a cab. I enjoy getting to the field early just to relax and in this case get breakfast. If you were wondering I had an everything bagel with cream cheese, a bowl of honey nut cheerios and some scrambled eggs which were prepared by our clubbie! After breakfast I got changed into my awesome big league uniform and sat around and shot the breeze with some of my new teammates- I still don’t know many of the names of them.
Today was exciting to say the least. I slept terrifically simply because I had been awake 3 hours more than I thought due to being on the west coast. I was in mid conversation with my hotel roommate Kyle Cofield when I fell asleep unannounced at around 10 pm west coast time. I woke up around 6 am. I woke up, showered and ate a good breakfast consisting of a bowl of frosted flakes, brown sugar and maple oatmeal, banana and a small cup of quasi-decent coffee.
The Braves invitees all took an early Best Western van to the field at 7am. We were the first to get to the field and it took some time to find our way into the field and find the clubhouse. After a nice walk around the perimeter of Phoenix Municipal Stadium we weaseled our way into the clubhouse, with a little help from the guy who was trimming the shrubbery. Once we found our way in we walked into the extremely large clubhouse with about 2/3rds of lockers being unoccupied. I found my locker and immediately checked out the gear we had been supplied- 4 pair of big league pants (two gray and two white). We also got a spring training blue top, home white and away gray jersey top. While digging into our lockers, none other than ex Yankee great and childhood idol Don Mattingly walked into the clubhouse and introduced himself to us! Being a fan of the Yankees growing up it was an understatement to say I was happy to meet a man of his stature. We exchanged pleasantries and I tried to act as professional as possible considering I haven’t met a person I grew up watching and idolizing in my youth like Donnie Baseball.
We had a team meeting at 9am where we went over team rules and all that jazz. Also Don sort of set the guidelines for how he wants us to play. Just how I imagined, he wants us to have fun and joke around (because that’s how baseball should be played), but when it’s game time we are expected to get after it and play hard!
Well I didn’t get much sleep last night due to the excitement of me flying across the country for the first time! Fortunately for me, my mother whipped up a nice big breakfast to kickstart my day of travel. The stellar breakfast consisted of a 4 egg omelet, bacon (turkey for some reason, but oh well), rye toast, and a glass of hot tea.
After saying goodbye to the parents, I hopped in my older brother’s truck and he dropped me off at the RDU Airport around 6:45. This is where he mentioned to me that he is fighting off the urge to hop in one of my bags instead of heading the rest of his way to work. I love being so close to the airport and especially being close to RDU (that’s Raleigh/Durham to those of you who aren’t familiar with NC). I would venture to say it’s one of the easiest airports to get in and out of in the land.
The first part of my trip was a 3 hour flight to Las Vegas, Nevada – another place i had never been to. Due to the minimal amount of sleep the night prior, I took advantage of some shut eye on the first plane. However I did wake up to us flying over the grand canyon so that was pretty sweet. I snapped a few very amateur photos with my phone as we flew over.
The second flight was incredibly short and I could barely even read the USA Today article about Derek Jeter’s future with the Yankees and how he had a down year by his statistical standards. I still think he’s the man…
We touched down right on schedule and it was only a 10 minute wait to grab my bags. All bags accounted for! I then headed outside and grabbed a shuttle to the hotel. Met a nice older woman who was visiting Phoenix for a frisbee convention. Apparently there are six frisbee activities that people come here for this convention. I told her I enjoyed playing frisbee golf, or Frolf, and she got a good little chuckle. I told her what I was here for and both her and the driver rattled off about 20 questions or so in which i gave them my best answer… I am not really sure, or yes I am pretty excited!