Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Spring Training Voyage Finale

If you missed any of the previous installments of my Spring Training Voyage, scroll down through March's blog posts or click here for Part One, Part Two and Part Three. And now, the exciting conclusion to Murderous Pirates of the Raging Seas!, wait, this is not my dialogue to a 90's movie adapted for viewing on TNT.

March 19
Detroit Tigers at Philadelphia Phillies
Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida

The Phillies’ Florida home was the best stadium of the bunch we saw this trip. It was smaller than the Yankees’ park but had a much more fun and entertaining vibe than the backyard that the Blue Jays played in. Fans circled the field entirely, as there was standing room and picnic blanket seating all around the outfield. The concourse was also charming, giving a pristine backdrop to home plate.

But once the game started, the ambiance and locale was surreptitiously overshadowed by one man: Tigers’ new third baseman Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera last played third base in the Majors a number of years and a few dozen pounds ago. He will most assuredly be one of the poorer fielding men at the hot corner all year long. This game would serve as the foreshadowing scene in books or movies where a future guilty criminal is seen displaying some sort of evil smirk. March 19 was Miggy’s evil smirk.

He started off at bat however. In the top of the first, Cabrera drew a walk (classic) and had a delayed steal of second base. Describing it as a delayed steal is in no way a crack at Miguel’s lack of foot speed, but rather the description of the play which worked so well because of Miguel’s lack of foot speed. He would finish the game 0-0 with a walk, steal and run scored because in the bottom of the first, he took a wicked hop to the eye, shattering his sunglasses and his face and ending his afternoon early.

I wanted to be upset about this because I felt bad for the man and hoped he would be okay. I actually ended up being upset for much more selfish reasons. If he was seriously injured, it would be a huge problem for my fantasy team of which he is the batting anchor (…I know). And even more pressing, he was the main attraction of the game I was currently attending with players like Prince Fielder already getting the day off. Cabrera being forced to leave early was a real downer on the game. Thus, we were forced to find other players and other storylines to follow.

Interestingly enough, around the next inning or so, two gentlemen came up to my dad and me holding a pair of duplicate tickets as the ones we held. It turned out one of us had been hustled. Whoever sold the tickets online had sold one set as paper receipts and resold the same seats using the actual stub tickets. I am actually surprised this does not happen more often. For whatever it is worth and fortunately for us, my dad and my tickets were the “authentic” set and the other men had the phonies. In a normal game it is possible they would have been forced to leave and have had to scrap with the seller to get their money back. In a Spring Training game, they were allowed to stay but ended up having to jump around seats five or six times as different guests kept arriving late and holding the rights to the seats they were trying to use. It put a little scare in me for buying tickets online in the future; that’s for sure.

As far as the game went, on the field, the Phillies took home the victory with a four run fifth inning. We witnessed a check swing double, two Hooters waitresses as ball girls, and dueling hat tricks by Tigers outfielders. Austin Jackson, DHing this game, finished 0-4 with three strikeouts, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored: the epitome of Austin Jackson. Meanwhile, teammate Clete Thomas one-upped him, going 0-4 with four k’s: the infamous golden sombrero. I also liked what I saw from Brennan Boesch, both in his parent’s complete disregard for the English language and for his fantasy baseball sleeper potential.

It would be our last Spring Training game of this year’s four game, three city tour and Bright House Field was certainly a pleasant host. And yes, I did buy a Philly cheese steak.


The Tampa Bay, Dunedin, Clearwater triumvirate is a great location for any Spring Training trip. We were able to see a handful of different teams without having to travel very far at all between stadiums.

John Mayberry Junior is a monster of a man.

You know how some players have easy gas, where they have such a fluid arm motion, it seems like they are barely throwing yet the radar gun says 96? Octavio Dotel has very hard gas…

The Tampa aquarium is a lot of fun even if you pass on the dolphin excursion.

The games don’t matter in the least outside of players getting in shape and trying to make a roster yet fans seem to not realize this. This is especially true of Phillies fans.

I cannot wait for the regular season to get in full swing (pardon the pun) and to attend a couple games that count in the standings, although it is sad knowing I cannot get seats as good as the ones obtained for Spring Training baseball. It is a special event who's vibe and closeness cannot be duplicated once the corporate structure of big business sports takes over come Opening Day.

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