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Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 SPRING TRAINING IN ARIZONA

2017 SPRING TRAINING IN ARIZONA

My annual pilgrimage to Spring Training puts me in Arizona for the third time in five years of full time RVing. For the next 57 days I will be in baseball heaven attending practices throughout Arizona and 32 games at Goodyear Ball Park home to the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians.

The defending Nippon Champions Nippon Ham-Fighters have arrived in Arizona for the first half of their spring training. 
The Fighters are calling Peoria home for the next two weeks where they were invited to use the practice fields for the San Diego Padres. The Superstar that most non Japanese fans know is Shohei Otani. Otani is a throw back to Babe Ruth. He can throw his fastball in the 100's and on non pitching days he is the teams DH. In just his fourth season he has a 39-13 record with 595 strikeouts, as the DH he has 40 Home Runs and batted .275. However, the 2016 season was his breakout season where he had a 1.86 ERA with 22 HR and batted .322.  In the 2016 Nippon All Star HR Derby he was allowed to participate and won the crown.

If you never seen a Japanese practice its a must. They practice at full game speed like a well oiled machine. Like their US counter parts who practice 2 hours the max, the Japanese team have 3 hours of infield, then take a break for lunch before they come back out for 3 hours of batting practice. To top it off they return to the players complex to lift weights before crossing the street to the teams hotel at the end of the day. As you could image US and Japanese fans lined the parking lot to try and get Otani autograph as he left. He is the only player that had a security escort. However, he is not the only good player on the team and it was easy picking to get the other players that most American fans don't know.   
 Shohei Otani
Edwin Escobar
 Chris Martin
 Takashi Saito
 Masato Yoshii
 Hichori Morimoto
 Hirotoshi Takanashi
 Brandon Laird

Just as the Fighters left Arizona, it was the report date for most of the MLB pitchers and catchers. I rolled right into Major League spring training and did not skip a beat. There are a several former Kent State players in AZ and I attend a few of their teams practices. My favorite player Travis Shaw was traded from the Red Sox to the Brewers and it was much more laid back at Maryvale then JetBlue South. Taylor Williams a pitcher also plays for the Brewers and Eric Lauer 2016 1st round pick of the Padres. It was the first time I have met Taylor Williams, but for Shaw and Lauer I was surprised that they remembered me. I have met Shaw at least once ever year but one since he was drafted in 2011 and Lauer remembered me for two years ago from a Cape Cod League.
Travis Shaw
 Taylor Williams
Eric Lauer 
                                               2015                                                    2017


Speaking of Kent State, Arizona alumni were out in full force on the first game of the year. I have meet at least 10 former or current Kent State at practices or games. WE ARE, KENT STATE!

Goodyear Ball Park once again gave out one free ticket to every game for active or retired military. I returned the favor by volunteering a few games and on 18 Mar I was awarded the Volunteer of the  Game.


I can not sit here and talk about the the next 57 days in detail or this blog would be a hundred pages long. However, the rest of the spring I spent most of the time in Goodyear to see my favorite team the defending American League Champions Cleveland Indians. 

My daily routine looked like this; I would be at practice by 9:30am, then walk across the street to see the game at 1:05pm (either the Indians or Reds). Finally, I would get home around 5:00pm just to do it all over again the next day. Towards the middle of spring training the minor league players arrived and I started to attend their practices and games too.  I was a little more prepared this spring then in the pass, but still not at the level I would like. I had about 90% of the major league spring training roster baseball cards to get signed, The only down side was the pitchers and catchers were hard to get as their practice area is closed off to fans. I did manage to get a few as they took the long the way back to the players complex or as they were coming off the back field from their run or simulated game with the minor league clubs. For the minor league side; I know a lot of the players when I see their face, but there is not a lot of baseball cards for them and hard to find at the local card shops who don't sell common or minor league cards.
 
                                  Yan Gomes                                Rick Manning
                 
                   Ryan Braun                                                      Eric Davis
        Tyler Naquin                                    Bradley Zimmer

        Francisco Lindor
                                                                 Edwin Encarnacion        


                                                                       Carlos Santana
Trevor Bauer    
Travis Fryman
Mike Clevinger

I'm my biggest critic and would rate this spring as B+.  I need to work on getting pitcher and catchers autographs more. Even though I'm a Tribe fan for life, I still love baseball and need to work on other teams as well. My ball count was pretty good, and I was able to get a few broken bats. This is what my 2017 Spring Training Haul looks like.


#####Autos 186, Balls 50 (19 gave a-way), Bats 4, SGA 4 Bobblehead.#####






 WHAT'S NEXT?
Our first boondocking at Snow Bird Mesa.

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