Part I (3/7 – 3/12)
I guess I should have blogged about this sooner because I have already forgotten many of the interesting minor details. I went down to the Mariners Spring Training in the Phoenix area. The M’s play in Peoria, AZ which is one of the many suburbs of Phoenix. Personally I think they have the best facilities of any of the teams in the Cactus League (they do share the facilities with the San Diego Padres) and maybe the best park, although I have not been to the Cubs park in Mesa since it has been remodeled. I got to stay with friends in Scottsdale which is almost a 40 minute drive to Peoria but it is totally worth it because stay with the people I sit next two in the regular season is too fun. Also when I went to get my rental car they talked me into upgrading to a convertible. Attached is a picture of me in the car. While I am only 5-10 the car did feel a bit small. Looking directly forward in the seat my eyes seem to hit the top of the windshield although it does extend up above the top of my head.
Baseball-wise it was an interesting week. Brett Boone was absence from most of the games. He had been having back spasms. The first day he did play you could see him leaning over in pain as he took his equipment bag away after he was done playing for the day. I guess I should say that if you have never been to Spring Training it is a bit different from a normal game. The starters in the game will only play through about two or maybe three at bats and then they make way for a minor leaguer. That minor leaguer might replace them on base if they get on or will just show up in the field at the bottom/top of the inning. If you try to keep score it is kind of a nightmare because half the players you see are not even in the program. Starting pitchers will only go for about three innings and then you see relievers and closers pitch. You might see two closers in two innings and then a long reliever. Order does not seem to matter. Once a player is done for the day they mostly just pick up their equipment bag and leave the stadium. There is no sticking around to support the team. They might stick around to get a little running in. It is a bit strange to see players running back and forth along the wall in the warning track while the game is going on. I swore one day that I player running on the track told the center fielder how much room they had before they would hit the wall as they went to make a catch. Many days there are split squad games so you do not see the full complement of players. Richie Sexson, the M’s new first baseman did not impress me at all at the plate. While he had hit a homerun in a charity game before the Spring Training games began he was 0-18 or so before he got his first hit on my last day I was in town. He also made two errors in a game against KC in KC’s park in Surprise. Beltre the new third baseman looked great. He really impressed me. I saw the next up and coming pitcher, Flex Hernadez, pitch in a game and my first impression is that the kid is big. He reminded me a bit of a skinner CC Sabathea and he sure throws hard. All and all I saw the M’s play KC, Texas, Oakland, and the Cubs.
I also had a chance to go to a charity event for the Moyer Foundation at Rawhide. I went to this event last year and I found it a place to get to meet many of the players, mostly pitchers, outside of ballpark. They say that Spring Training is a great place to get autographs but an event like this is where they really are accessible. The event is fun and raises a lot of money for their charity. It is nice to see the players with their wives and kids. You get this other perspective on who they are.
Part II (3/31 – 4/2)
This year was kind of a double-wammy for Spring Training. The M’s played their last two games of Spring Training in Las Vega$ against the Chicago Cubs. Friday night my buddy Greg and I headed over to Cashman Field which is a mile away from the Fremont Experience in downtown Vegas. Cashman Field is the home of the 51’s which is the AAA farm club for the Los Angles Dodgers. The park is fairly big in since but has narrow concourses and some of the worst site lines that I have been to in a baseball park. They also have no control of the crowd. Normally in many parks people are not allowed to at least go down aisles while play is going on but in this case people could just come and go as they pleased which made it hard to watch the game. The M’s did something strange in the Friday game and left their starters in for the full nine innings while the Cubs made the normal Spring Training substitutions. In the end the M’s won in the 10th inning after leaving the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth including Ichiro at bat with the bases loaded and no outs! Another thing that sucks about Cashman Field is that there are no cabs coming to the game afterward. I talked to people that waited two hours for a cab and that is after even calling. We ended up walking back to the Fremont Experience to catch one. For Saturday we rented a car which cost the same as the round-trip of the cabs. Saturday was a day game so we got a little sun and while the M’s had the lead going into the bottom of the ninth a AAA pitcher game up two homeruns and the M’s lost. I should make a comment about the fans. The Cubs travel many fans. In Phoenix if you are going to a game against the Cubs you really should try and buy those tickets first because those games are going to have the highest number people in attendance. This was also true on Vegas. On Friday night it seem like about 85% Cubs fans, 10% M’s fans, and 5% 51’s fans/season ticket holders that got tickets to the game. On Saturday it seem more like 75% Cubs, 22% M’s and 3% 51’s.