2014 MLB SPRING TRAINING WEEK 1
February means spring is just around the corner and the start of American's National Pastime is about to be in full swing. Player report to Florida and Arizona in the chase of the childhood dream of becoming World Champions. Fans flock to stadiums for pictures and autographs of their favorite players and the anticipation of their team's run to the World Series. The sight of hundreds of brand new baseballs fill the ball buckets as coaches pull them out to be use for the first time. As the ball hits the bat the 2014 baseball season has official started.
The first team I visited to kick off the 2014 spring training was no other than the local home team Arizona D-Backs. They, along with the Dodgers are starting spring training early because of their season opener in Sydney, Australia. First thing I noticed was all the security around the fields and gates. There had to be about 20 security guards and this practice was just for pitchers and catchers. What will it look like next week when all players report? I remember the Red Sox spring training last year and they only had one at the gate to check bags and that was it. The practice was less than one hour because this day is also the D-Backs FanFest held at Chase Field. Most of the players went straight to the clubhouse after practice and said they would sign autographs after they came out, but security was kicking everyone out shortly after they entered the clubhouse. I was only luck enough to get two autographs this day, 8x10 photo of Alan Trammell and 2014 Topps card Miguel Montero. One person had a book page full of Miguel Montero cards, but he only signed one and went to the next fan. These are the first two and hopefully many more autographs to come this spring.
Two and counting
I arrived shortly after 9:00 am when the gates open. 968 fans lined the roped off area along the path to the practice fields as coaches like Davey Lopes signed autographs and Don Mattingly welcomed fans and even shook my hand as he passed by. Mattingly said, he would sign autographs after practice. I walked around to the back towards the practice fields and saw the pitchers warming up and then splitting into groups to do their drills. The group with a big crowd following their rotation was Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Brian Wilson and a reliever I did not recognize. I walked around looking and taking pictures of some key pitchers. I started back to the clubhouse and there must have been a thousand fan waiting to get autographs. I was stuck on the inside of the roped area and with the crowds of fan most players took a short cut across another practice field and entered the back to the clubhouse. The mad dash started and the fan on the inside roped area could not cross the rope to get to the other side. Lesson learned for the next time. Brian Wilson and Zack Greinke just walked past everyone and straight into the clubhouse. Clayton Kershaw signed for a while, until people started to pushing, then he went inside. Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire signed, but again I could not cross the roped off area. I did walk away with one autograph. I was next to a group of Koreans and Hyun-Jin Ryu came right to them and I was able to get his autograph on a 2014 Topps card. Now, that I know who signs and where they enter the clubhouse I will be ready the next time. Also, today was Sunday the next time I go will be on a weekday and most of the fans will be at work or school ... keeping my fingers crossed.
Most of the 968 Autograph hunters
I asked the gate security and she told me that today's' official fan count was 209. A more autograph friendly count than yesterday. I was so close so many times today with player like Kershaw, Mattingly, McGwire, Lopes. Then came Chris Perez, a real good nice guy. There was no big crowd for him, but he signed everything for everyone. I got a total of 5 cards signed. (1) 2009 Topps, (1) 2011 Topps and (3) 2014 Topps. Yasiel Puig was there too. As he walked back to the clubhouse the dash was on and almost all of 209 fans ran to him. From a distance I saw that he signed for one young lady and three kids. Brian Wilson just walked past everyone for the second day in a row. I guess he dose not sign. As long as I get at least one autograph a day I'll be happy.
My hometown and favorite team Cleveland Indians started their spring training today when pitchers & catchers reported to camp. Position player report at the end of the week and first full workout next week. Out of all the teams in Arizona, I think I'm most prepared for autographs are the Indians with over 200 baseball cards (LOTS of doubles) of current and alumni players to get autographed. I guess only time will tell how prepared I really am.
I arrived at 9:00am when the gates open, to my surprise I was the first and only person watching practice. There was only one security and I have to say that the Indians have the less fan friendly complex I have ever seen. Fans can walk in, but only up to field one. The rest of the complex is gated off and no one allowed to pass without a press pass. As the players came out I only saw Masterson and Tomlin, everyone else I did not know. A pretty weak practice for the first day. Most of the players were still going through their physical and check-up before getting cleared to practice. After, I got back home I searched the Tribe website, and first workout for pitchers & catchers are Thursday. Masterson was talking to a person frield so I gave him his privacy, then he went to the clubhouse before I could get his autograph. I still have all spring... I hope. All-in-all only 8 fan showed up and I was talking to a few of them who said they will be back all spring to watch practices, Good news, I've started my Indians network of photographers and autographs. Bad news, I did not get any autographs. Better luck tomorrow!
I'm still on the hunt for those Dodgers autographs, so I made the short drive to Camelback. I arrived shortly after 10:00am and fond my spot where Kershaw has gone the last two practices. Today, he went another way and I was out of luck again. However, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt walk by and I got him on a 8x10 photo. After Kershaw entered the clubhouse, I made my way there as that is where Don Mattingly entered the clubhouse. Again, he changed it up and went the other way. My luck did change. today's fan count was 138 and most of them have left, I walk back to the main gate for one last check of players hanging around. There he was Don Mattingly was signing for every fan. There was a line with about 30 people and he was signing only one item. Some guys tried to get back in line, but Mattingly remembered them and said only one. I walked up, got my autograph and thanked him for taking the time to sign for me.
I think tomorrow is full team workout and players like Puig, Kemp, Gonzales and Ramirez signed for a few fans then left. But, players like Uribe, Gordon and Figgins signed everything for everyone. I was upset as I had only pitchers and coaches items for autographs.
Today, will be my last MLB spring training this week, as I will be heading north to Tuscon to watch Kent State open the season at Arizona for a three game series.
I arrived around 9:30am and saw players already warming up. The pitchers was doing drills on the minor league fields. Lot of position players were in camp and took infield and batting practice on field 1. Close to all the 20 or so fans who came out to watch. Two of those people were from my RV Resort Mike and Waynetta, who are from North Ohio and there for autographs and balls. Waynetta did the autographs and Mike stood behind left field wall chasing home run balls as they flew over the fence. After practice was over, I stood next to Waynetta and when players came out I called one player and she called another. Soon other autograph hunters came close to us. Still no where as bad as the autograph hunters at Dodgers practice. With a small number of people, the players signed for everyone.
I was impressed with Jason Kipnis, a left handed batter who took all his batting practice pitches to left except for his last one when he would pull the ball the right. To go along with his base-running and fielding, that is why I think he is the best all around player the Indians have.
This was my best day in getting autographs. I was able to get a total of 9 cards. 2009 Topps Asdrubal Cabrera, 2012 Topps Gold Futures Lonnie Chisenhall, 2012 Topps Gold Futures Jason Kipnis, 2014 Topps Jason Kipnis, (4) 2013 Bowman Prospects Danny Salazar and 2014 Topps Mike Aviles. To add the icing on the cake, when Mike came back he had over 20 balls and gave me five of them. Four are MLB baseballs and one is MiLB baseball.
(L) Asdrubal Cabrera (C) Francisco Lindor (R) Cabrera's Son
Ryan Raburn's bat and gloves
Week 1 Total