Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Spring Training, Episode 1

Spring Training means different things to different people.  To me, a trip to Florida in late March when the weather is warm and Opening Day is juuussssst around the corner makes perfect sense.  Mornings spent soaking up the sights and sounds of baseball drills on the backfields of Roger Dean stadium are not too chilly.  Starters are going longer into games and the lineups are full of actual, live 2011 Cardinals!!  It’s as close to “real” season baseball as possible… while still in the cozy setting of the Cardinals Spring Training facility, surrounded by palm trees, sea breezes and sunshine.
Brief Recap:
Previous Spring Training trips (’09 and ’10) were hard on Hubby.
In 2009, new fan syndrome was in full effect.  I’d be up at the crack of dawn, not wanting to miss a single glimpse of a guy in a Cardinal uniform.  I was on Yadi Watch constantly. We hadn’t heard about the opportunity of watching morning practice drills.  I took a total of 178 photos (many of them were blurry because I was shaking from the excitement of it all.)  I noticed a guy named David Freese (#66) and took pictures of Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel.  We saw two games and fell in love with the Spring Training atmosphere.
In 2010, new fan syndrome was still rampant.  PLUS I was armed with useful information from a baseball fan’s best tool: twitter. For example, this time I knew about Roger Dean stadium’s back fields, morning workouts & autograph opportunities, and the existence of Pyros Grill.  I was on Matt Holliday watch.  I took over 700 photos (some were still blurry because Brendan Ryan was spinning too fast for my camera or because I was drooling -just a little- over David Freese.)  I took pictures with Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse.  We saw 4 games – 2 home and 2 away.  I toured a baseball museum (because Aaron Hooks offered me free tickets if I’d review it for Cards Diaspora… #win!)  Highlight?? David Freese signed my shirt!!!  I was addicted to Spring Training.  Baseball overdose at it’s most extreme.
(Hubby was more than relieved to finally get me out of Florida!)
So, on our third trip to Spring Training, this year we did something different. Maybe because I’ve matured in my fandom, maybe because Hubby medicated me…who knows?  But somehow we achieved a more well-rounded Florida vacation.  Don’t get me wrong.  It revolved around baseball!  But we did venture away from Roger Dean.  We enjoyed restaurants and sight-seeing that didn’t involve player-stalking. (Granted, I knew I had to behave myself if Hubby would ever agree to a Spring Training trip #4!)
Last week we even went to see some *gasp* non-Cardinals games.  In fact, while Hubby was meeting friends for a day of fishing (he saw dolphins!!), I ventured off all by myself to watch the Phillies play the Braves.  That experience was a perfect Spring Training warm-up.  I was a berm bum, taking in a game whose players/teams I was less familiar with.  Honestly, I bought that ticket hoping to see Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee pitch for the Phillies and fully expecting to be cheering on former Cardinal Joe Mather in a Braves uniform.  Alas, none of my hopefuls were in the game.  So, I spent a lot of time watching just baseball. I didn’t care who won or lost. And you know what?  I loved every second of it.  The view from the grass was different, enlightening – the game looks different and catches that seem so simple when watching from the infield are suddenly a heckuva lot more impressive when the fielder manages to intercept a rocket while chasing across the outfield grass.  It was baseball.  Good baseball. Man, you gotta love Spring Training!
ST Game 1
Yay!! – 78 degrees, light winds and sunshine.
- Ryan Madson, in all his Madson glory, LIVE!
- Beach party on the OF berm
Boo   – No Joe, Halladay or Lee, but I got over it. ;)
That same night we went to watch the Yankees take on the Astros at the Yankees Spring Training complex.  We were late to the game and the gate guardian wouldn’t let me bring in some of my camera gear. So we were even later after lugging it back to the parking lot again.  No Mariano Rivera appearance. (So far I was shooting 0-fer on my Spring Training hopefuls.)  However it was a night game and the stadium was full of New York fans.  Suffice it to say, that was a FAR different experience than Roger Dean Stadium full of Cardinal fans at 1:05pm games. ;)  Again, I savored every second.
ST Game 2
Yay!! –    Joba and Dave Robertson pitching relief.
- Jeter. Jeter. Jeter.
- Brett Wallace (former Redbird) playing 1st, but hitless
- Kettle corn for dinner!
- Chuckling about “Mr. Know-It-All” sitting behind us who was always handing out words of (incorrect) wisdom to his kids
Boo   –  Gate trolls and repeat trips to the parking lot.
With that, my Spring Training warm-up was complete and we had a 4-hour drive to Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) for Cardinals camp the next morning.  Needless to say… it was hard to fall asleep that night.
Next post:   my stories from Jupiter and my time at Cardinals’ Spring Training:  running into Chris Carpenter out of uniform, on the sidewalk by the stadium; the batting practice frivolity of Lance Berkman; autographs, meeting players, and my favorite Spring Training game moments.
Fitting it all in a blog before Opening Day (tomorrow) was poor planning… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Like I said, we all do Spring Training a little differently.  I spend a lot of time taking pictures instead of keeping a scorecard.  I love watching ballplayers sign autographs and how they interact with fans.  Spring Training provides a unique opportunity to live and breathe the beginnings of baseball season…. until the big show begins.
Happy Opening Day Eve!!  =)

One response to “Spring Training, Episode 1

  1. Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    >OK, Erika, you got my heart beating faster for baseball again.

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