If you’re a true baseball fan, then you get excited each winter when you hear the phrase ‘pitchers & catchers.’ It signifies the end of a long off season and the beginning of a new baseball season.
Today, pitchers and catchers from the Orioles, Twins, Athletics, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals and Giants reported to spring training. In addition to the pitchers and catchers, often times position players will show up as well to get some early work in and shake off the rust from the winter months.
I love Spring Training. I’ve gone to Florida for Spring Training for five years in a row, starting in 2007. The winters in Pennsylvania are often very gloomy, so heading down to Spring Training really brightens my mood. I’m not in Florida right now, but I did find some pictures to cheer you baseball fans up from the winter doldrums.
Baseball is back!
New Pirates first baseman Casey McGehee hasn’t played much first in his career, but is already practicing the position in Spring Training:
Pedro Alvarez has been a bust so far in his young major league career. He’s still young, and the third base job is his to lose. If he does lose it, McGehee will move to 3B. Here’s Pedro working on his fielding:
New Pirates pitcher Erik Bedard delivers a pitch while pitching coach Ray Searage does his best not to distract him by not saying anything:
Neil Walker does some soft tossing with Pedro Alvarez:
In the Phillies camp, Roy Halladay pulled into Spring Training in a car from about a hundred years ago:
And Jonathan Papelbon did some long tossing.
The Reds pitchers did some light stretching and for me, might just be the favorites to win the NL Central:
In Giants camp, jerseys for Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, and Matt Cain are ready to go for the first day of workouts:
And Matt Cain addressed the media:
The defending World Series champion St Louis Cardinals reported to camp and new manager Mike Matheny fielded a bevy of questions from the media:
While their pitchers worked out on a practice field:
And Yadier Molina showed up to camp with a brand new tattoo. I guess he’s not counting on winning the world series in 2012, because I don’t see place to fit ‘2012’ on that trophy anywhere.
The hapless Cubs were ready to go as Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum held a media session. The Cubs have so many problems with bad contracts. Will these guys be able to save this sinking ship?
And Bryan LaHair signed autographs for a young fan at Fitch Park:
The Oakland Athletics had some buzz in camp as news swirled that they may sign ex-slugger and major distraction Manny Ramirez. In the meantime, the jerseys were hung with care in the clubhouse:
And Tommy Milone warmed up on the A’s spring training field.
The Twins will try and rebound off of a horrific season in which they lost 99 games. Carl Pavano lounged in the clubhouse and explained exactly how they would turn things around:
And finally, the Orioles reported to their spring training home to try and figure out how to perform better this year than the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
Is anyone else excited for the 2012 season?
47 days until opening day, 14 days the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies), and 1 day left to win this Dustin Pedroia T-Shirt.
Our third day in Florida brought us to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota FL.
We got there a little before 10AM, which gave us over an hour to explore the exterior of the stadium and pick up our tickets at the will call window. The stadium had received a complete renovation over the offseason, and it showed. This was one of the nicest Spring Training stadiums I’ve visited.
She noticed baseballs in the bottom of the gate, along with ‘BB’ for baseball.
She also pointed out baseballs in the supports of the awning above home plate.
I pointed out to her that the gates looked the exact same as the ones in Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Here is a look through the gate at the inside of the stadium:
It looked really nice for a Spring Training stadium.
The landscaping and exterior work was great.
Check out the giant planters pots with palm trees. Nice touch.
We walked back to the area behind left field, where there was a gate area that allowed a view into the park.
Upon peeking in, this is what I saw:
Cages were up, and the Orioles were out warming up.
This was the area in front of the gate area.
I decided that there was a chance that a ball could hit the concrete and leave the stadium, so Amy and I spent the next 45 minutes standing in the parking lot beyond left field.
I was able to see ball after ball fly through the air, many of them hitting inside of the left field area just in front of the gate in front of me, but getting caught up on chairs, trees, railings, or whatever.
Eventually a ball cleared everything and landed inside of a gated area to the left of the left field pavilion. It settled right up against the fence so I went over and worked it around to the middle of the gate and pulled it through.
It was my first ball of the day.
We stood around for the next 45 minutes and waited.
Nothing else came out.
Eventually, it was time to go in, so I set up in the second row area.
It turned out to be a big mistake. The Orioles have lots of right handed power, and the first ground was pounding ball after ball over my head landing in this area:
Amy took lots of pictures of the Orioles’ batting practice:
A view from left field of the stadium:
Some of the Orioles players. Its a shame that some players still wear their pullovers during BP, making it tough to identify them.
Orioles batters kept ripping home runs,
but many of them were sailing into the area just out of reach to the left of the left field pavilion.
The Orioles are stacked with right handed power this year, such as Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, Derrek Lee, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold.
I got to see about the last 25 minutes of Orioles batting practice. I was sure that I’d be able to snag a few baseballs during the Pirates batting practice, but for whatever reason, the Pirates weren’t even at the ballpark yet.
There was no trace of them anywhere.
The groundscrew came out and took the screens and cage away, ending batting practice.
I had only snagged one ball at Ed Smith stadium, and it was before the gates even opened. It was a shame, because the left field area could’ve been pretty good for ballhawking. Check it out:
Anyway, here’s the concession stand behind left field:
At that point, I decided to take a brief video to show you all that area:
Here it is:.
Amy and I got our picture taken behind home plate before heading to the inner concourse and out of the sun.
Before heading out though, we took a panorama of the field:
Under the bleachers, there was a welcome sign near the Home Plate area:
Orioles Team Store:
A giant tree:
At this point, we decided to leave the game. We didn’t feel like waiting around for an hour and a half for the game to start. So, we left.
To this point in the trip, I had snagged five balls over three days. Last year, I snagged 32 balls in three days. This trip became about much more than ballhawking. Ballhawking had taken a back seat to Amy and I enjoying our time together in Florida and squeezing the most out of every minute we had.
We decided to head back to Fort DeSoto beach, where we had spent a good chunk of time on Friday. On the way back though, we stopped at Pirate City in Bradenton.
The Pirates were wrapping things up on a practice field when we drove by, presumably before busing the short distance to Sarasota.
Here’s a shot of the living quarters at Pirate City that Amy snapped:
We parked here,
and walked the very short distance to the entrance to the Pirate City practice Fields.
here’s the entrance way. Notice the baseballs on the tops of the posts. Unfortunately, they aren’t major league baseballs. They are generic.
Upon walking in, I was looking at the practice fields and the players off in the distance that had just finished their workout, when Amy noticed something.
Three baseballs just out of arms reach all in one area.
Well, it was glove trick time.
After untangling the string, I tossed it over the fence and knocked one of the balls closer so that I could reach right under the fence and grab it.
The second ball took a little more effort, but I was able to get that one too.
The third and farthest ball took awhile. There was a slight slope or indentation where it had settled, so it took probably fifteen or so attempts before getting it close enough to reach under and grab.
After snagging those three balls, we started looking around the practice grounds.
There were probably like six or so practice fields, with no action on any of them.
We looked around anyhow.
Eventually, we came to a roped off portion beyond the practice field fence. See the sign on the ground on the right hand side of the picture?
It said this:
It must’ve been posted on the rope at some point. But since it wasn’t, we kept right on going and were now on a golf course.
See the ball in the photo below? Well there was also a couple in those bushes, and one in that open shed area.
Here’s a couple more:
We eventually came to a maintenance area, that we didn’t go into, although there were probably more ‘Easter Eggs’ back there. Eventually, a man on a golf cart told us we couldn’t be back there and told us to leave. We did. But not before finding 8 balls back there.
That made it a double digit day!
After the twenty minutes or so that we spent at Pirate City, we went back to the beach. It was crowded, but we found some secluded spots to relax.
The spot was only reachable by crossing some rough terrain. The only visitors we had to worry about were birds.
We then moved back to the regular beach area.
And laid out for awhile, then went into the water, since it was much warmer today.
It had been an amazing, relaxing trip. We had kept busy every minute of the trip, which had really tired me out.
Unfortunately, our time in Florida had come to an end, as it was time for us to head back to Tampa International Airport, back to Pittsburgh and the cold. I’d like to thank Amy for such a great time in Florida and keeping me happy though out the trip. Ballhawking really took a back seat to her on this trip, but that’s not because of her. It was all me, wanting to leave the games to go other places. Will my diminished ballhawking drive continue into the regular season? Who knows. Do I have any goals for the regular season yet? Nope. Will I attend more games in 2011. Probably not. Will I improve upon my 544 ball season from last year? I’d say the chances are slim. Amy will be with me in two weeks as I open the season on the road. Keep an eye out for that.
For the fifth year in a row, I decided to make the trek to Spring Training in Florida. However, this year, I would travel with my girlfriend Amy instead of my dad, who is recovering from surgery.
There was some early airport drama, where we arrived at the security checkpoint 12 minutes prior to the boarding of our plane due to flooding of rivers in Pittsburgh which led to the closing of 376 west, the highway that leads us to the airport. However, Amy did some smooth talking to a TSA agent and got us moved to the front of a lengthy security line, and we arrived at our gate just as the plane began boarding.
We arrived in Tampa at 10:30 and awaited our first spring training game the next day.
We arrived at McKechnie Field bright and early at 9AM and took the obligatory picture in front of the stadium:
And in front of a Spring Training sign posted there:
After taking several more photos, we walked around to the back of McKechnie Field, where I would do my ballhawking for the day.
We actually got there too early, as the cage wasn’t even up yet,
and the players were just starting to stretch
and have a meeting in the outfield.
Batting practice wouldn’t even get started until about an hour later around 10AM, as the players would do some baserunning drills and infield work first.
That left us ample time to explore the area behind the outfield wall. There were a few changes from last year in the area behind the fence.
First, there were a bunch of picnic tables installed, which would lead to crazy bounces and limited range if a ball hit in that area.
Second, the garage where two mechanics used to work on cars had apparently been bought out by the Boys and Girls Club, as evidenced by the logo on the side of the building. This would lead to decreased competition, as the mechanics would typically try and compete for baseballs and subsequently sell them for $3 each at their garage.
Finally, an orange fence was installed to protect bus windows from being shattered by baseballs, and a basketball hoop had been erected in the area.
We made our way behind the old garage,
and over to the area behind the batter’s eye in center field.
All the while, I was keeping an eye out for easter eggs, but there were none.
In the area behind the wall in right center field, there is a small practice field.
After a while, Pirates pitchers came out to do some PFP, Pitcher’s Fielding Practice. Working with pitching coach Ray Searage, the pitchers first worked on taking grounders and making a throw to second base.
Then, they fielded bunts and threw the balls to third base.
Finally, the pitchers took line drive comebackers. The players appeared to be having fun, but none as much as Searage who was extremely cheery and enthusiastic.&nbs
This was my view from the security fence. I didn’t bother any of the players by calling out to them or getting their attention, I just stood and watched.
My girlfriend took a video, about halfway through or so, Evan Meek recognizes me and waves to me. You’ll also see Joel Hanrahan say hello to me. Both of the pitchers were very kind to me at batting practice and have had conversations with me on several occasions.
Check it out in Amy’s video:
There still wasn’t much going on, so I took a video of the area behind McKechnie Field.
Check it out:
Batting practice wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes or so, and the waiting took forever. There was a lot of standing around.
Followed by some pacing.
It allowed Amy to take some random photos, such as this one of a squirrel:
Or this one of an inch worm.
When batting practice finally got underway, it was more of the same. Standing around.
At McKechnie Field, you can’t see the ball until its about to leave the field. I absolutely hate it. It’s very tedious. Imagine doing that for two hours. I was kind of frustrated with the whole process, but I had my girl there to keep me calm.
There were only two competitors there with me. A man in a Barry Bonds shirt,
and his friend.
The two worked as a team. Later, they would be seen selling the balls on the street as we exited the stadium.
They stayed close to the secondary fence and had that whole area covered thanks to a 20 foot long ball retrieving device:
Since they played up, I waited back for any balls that would clear both fences. Unfortunately, there was NO wind at all today, so most fly balls died in left field before even reaching the fence.
I did get my first ball of the day near the end of the Pirates’ batting practice. Amy spotted it first and shouted “Erik! Erik! Erik!” and pointed towards the building. A ball had landed on the roof.
It rolled off the roof and I raced over to scoop it up before ballhawk #2 could get there.
Their session was ama
zingly disappointing. Since the Phillies had a split squad today, they brought all of their scrubs, and very few home runs were hit.
To pass the time, the guy in the Barry Bonds shirt offered to play catch with me.
Near the end of the Phillies’ BP, a batter crushed a home run that bounced on the pavement and into the cypress tree moss above. I crouched down and used my glove to snag it on the bounce.
Moments later, presumably the same batter struck again and ripped a home run that landed in the same place as ball #1, on the roof. I raced over and grabbed ball #3.
That would be all that I would get today. Three balls. I had fun with Amy, but I really disliked ballhawking in this venue. Not being able to see anything takes away a lot of the fun and skill needed. Despite having tickets to tomorrow’s Red Sox / Pirates game, I vowed not to return to McKechnie to ballhawk again.
Some pictures from the game:
The field from our seats, in Sec 8, Row 1.
Ahead of us was Pirates president Frank Coonelly who looked visibly agitated at the amount of runs given up, as well as four misplayed balls by outfielders during the first three innings.
I really like Ross Ohlendorf, but he didn’t have his best stuff today, and four missed catch-able balls by outfielders didn’t help his cause. Keep your head up Ross. That’s what Spring Training is for.
Pedro Alvarez has put on some weight and his range looks very limited, but I only saw two balls hit to him that he didn’t get to, so I’ll have to see a larger sample size to say for certain if he’ll be a liablilty at third.
Lyle Overbay, the Pirates new first baseman. Hopefully he brings a line of .275-20-85 this year at least. We’ll see.
The Phillies didn’t bring many of their regulars, but at least Ryan Howard was there.
Ryan Howard at bat:
Pedro Alvarez digs in. I’m hoping for 35 home runs from Pedro this year, but I fear it may come with a .240 average and lots of strike outs. He’s still young though.
Neil Walker, the Pirates’ second baseman at the plate:
And finally a panorama of McKechnie Field from our seats:
We left after a few inning
s to go enjoy ourselves in Florida.
We headed to the beach.
There weren’t too many people there.
We went for a long walk. And found lots of sea shells.
We eventually came to parts of the beach where there weren’t any people around. So we went exploring.
The second best highlight of going back there was finding a Sting Ray skeleton. Check it out:
We found it here:
Valentine’s Day brought the first workout for many Major League Baseball Teams. The Pirates first workout was today in Pirate City.
The Pirates have made some changes from their 2010 105-loss team. Gone are manager John Russell and under performers Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, Lastings Milledge, and Delwyn Young. In are new faces such as Kevin Correia, Matt Diaz, Scott Olsen, Joe Beimel, and Lyle Overbay.
One interesting thing that the Pirates are featuring this year are the Spring Training Jerseys, which will also be used during batting practice.
Pedro Ciriaco gets ready to take some cuts:
Ryan Doumit runs through some catching drills:
Unfortunately, I didn’t take these pictures, they were posted by Pirates Tribune Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel.
I will be headed down to spring training in early March though – so keep an eye out for that!
In the meantime, on Sunday Feb 13th, when the Pirates were checking in at Pirate City, we were taking advantage of the 45 degree temperatures, exploring a trail along the Monongahela River.
What began as dinner by the river, ended in a hunt for a beaver dam, as we encountered at least 40 trees that beavers had chopped down and dragged away.
A look at a tree that was just too much for a beaver to take down.
We spent about an hour on this little ‘adventure,’ but failed to find any dams, despite looking all along the river.
The next day, while the Pirates were working out in Florida, I was enjoying Valentine’s Day.
I decorated a table and served breakfast:
Went to work, came home, and went on a dinner and dancing cruise on the Gateway Clipper.
A view of downtown from the Gateway Clipper as we approached from the Allegheny:
Passing PNC Park:
I also took a video of us passing PNC Park.
It was like 25 degrees with 30 mph wind, so I was quite frozen after taking that video – you’re welcome.
I’m looking forward to the 2011 season so I have some more baseball related stuff to report on.
It’s a custom made baseball case in the shape of home plate that displays 30 baseballs. Each shelf has tiny divots for the balls to be placed in.
Today was day 2 of the Spring Training trip and my dad and I were back at Osceola County Stadium to see the Astros and Yankees.
It was the only ball I would get for about the first half hour or so. When the Astros second string started hitting at the practice field directly adjacent to Osceola County Stadium, I was ready.
Rodriguez would go on to knock in a run with a base hit here. I captured it all on video:
Spring Training Statistics:
Game: 8 balls
Trip: 22 balls
Spring Training Career: 30 balls in 5 games
I attended my first Spring Training game of the year today with my dad. We traveled from Orlando to nearby Kissimmee FL to see the Blue Jays take on the Houston Astros. Of course, we arrived early.
Although Osceola County Stadium has no access points to get behind the outfield wall, it doesn’t matter because the Astros take their BP on the adjacent practice fields. One is easily able to walk behind any of those practice field fences and await balls to sail out.
Check out the aerial view of the complex:
When we arrived, two fields were being used by minor leaguers, and the Astros were using two fields. They were just running and stretching, so there was some time to hunt for Easter Eggs. After not too long, I found one. It had sailed over the centerfield batters eye on the ‘9 oclock field’ (if you look at the 4 practice fields as 12, 3, 6, 9 oclock in the photo above). It likely had landed on the road, bounced, and settled in the grass. It had likely been there a day or two as it was a bit damp.
My dad and I headed to our last Spring Training game on this short trip: Reds vs Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton FL.
We got to the field around 10:20 AM and the Pirates were already half way through their round of batting practice. Luckily, we were once again able to access the spot behind the left field fence. I was told by a guy on Saturday that during the week the area behind the fence was off limits. He was wrong.
Total Balls: 9
Games Attended: 3
Total Career Spring Training Balls: 9
Note: I do not count these balls in my totals. They will be tracked in a separate category and I will not count them in my career ball totals.