A Not-So-Quick Recap (Part 2)

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, April 03, 2007 | 1 comments »

Sunday, March 25: We woke early again as we needed to drive north sixty-one miles to Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, the crown jewel of the Grapefruit League and home of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins. We saw the O’s tangle with the Cards. That place is awesome and the food is great. Try the brisket sandwich, you know I did. Our tickets were in the second section above first base, otherwise good seats but of course when the gates opened at 11:00 am we moved down along the third baseline to get close to the field. The dugouts at Roger Dean are set back a bit from the playing field and the first two rows actually look into the dugout the entire game. Cheryl and I took our position to gather more photos and autographs and we chatted up a woman sitting in the first seat next to the O’s dugout. We quickly found out that she owned spring training season tickets for the Cards and Marlins and that those were indeed her seats. We shared with her our trip to this point and showed off Cheryl’s photos. To our surprise, she asked us if we would like to have her seats! She had a pair of seats in the next section over in the first row as well and her friends weren’t going to make it that day, so she gave us the tickets for the seat she was sitting in and at game time she slid over to the next section. Has that ever happened to you at Camden Yards? I managed to get Sam Perlozzo to sign a ball and I gave it to the nice lady as a thank-you.

Cheryl was in heaven for the rest of the day, snaping candids of the players in the dugou
t and interacting with the players as they trotted on and off the field between innings. We made friends with our usher, Al. Al’s got the greatest job in the world: dugout usher at spring training. Cheryl was wearing her Corey Patterson t-shirt, and she got some love from him when he saw the shirt, and she even captured the game winning run (left), showing without a doubt that Terry Tiffee was indeed safe under the tag of catcher Gary Bennett.

Sunday we took 216 pictures, had four pictures and six baseballs signed.

Monday, March 26: This was scheduled to be our “off” day. We could have played golf, or went to the beach, or driven down to Key Largo; you know, actually enjoy Florida. We scrapped that idea and decided to drive 140 miles to Ft. Myers to see the O’s face the Minnesota Twins. To get to Ft. Myers, you have to cross “Alligator Alley”, Route 75 right through the Big Cypress Nature Preserve and Indian Reservation. Do you know why they call it “Alligator Alley?”
Cheryl took this as we were driving 80 miles an hour and praying for no flat tires.

When we checked out the starting line-ups upon reaching Bill Hammond Stadium, we were delighted find out Sir Sidney Ponson was starting for the Twins. Sid was one of our buddies at spring trainings past. He always had time for us and always gave us a wave and a smile when he couldn’t get over to sign. We are fully aware of his problems and the comments he made earlier this spring about Baltimore fans being “idiots”, but he was only referring to the idiots when he said that. We were a little bummed that since he was pitching we wouldn’t get a chance to talk to him, but we will always wish him well, and he pitched dretty darn well that day.

So did the O’s starter, Adam Loewen. I have to admit, I’m partial to Loewen, since he’s on my “keeper” fantasy team in the Chesapeake Bay League, an auction style rotisserie league I’ve been in since 1989. But man, he looked AWESOME. The first batter he faced was Luis Castillo, a very credible major league lead-off hitter. The first two pitches were hard fastballs, and Castillo was waaaay behind. The third pitch was a nasty curveball so devastating the folks in the grandstand let out an audible sigh when Castillo’s knees buckled and watched it drop in for strike three.
The Red Sox train in Ft. Myers too and we realized that they were playing up the road in Sarasota against the Reds. Figuring they needed a certain amount of time to get back from Sarasota we made our way over to City of Palms Park, took a lap around the complex and parked near the entrance of the player’s lot. We saw the players who drove themselves to the game come and go. We were lucky to see Diasuke Matsuzaka, who pitched that day, and shortstop Julio Lugo, neither of whom stopped for us and the three other people gathered at the gate. However, we were extremely fortunate to get the one Red Sox we wanted to stop…Jason Varitek. Cheryl had a great picture of Nick Markakis taking a swing from a game we attended last April and Varitek was the catcher in the photo. We got Markakis to sign the photo earlier in the trip, and when we saw Varitek, Cheryl scrambled to find it in her bag. She held the photo out as he was leaving the lot and he indeed did stop and sign it, along with a ball for each of us waiting. As they say in Boston, good times.

On Monday, we took 186 pictures, had one picture and six baseballs signed.

Tuesday, March 27: This was our single game at Ft. Lauderdale Stadium. Our day started with a 7:30 am wake-up call for a 1:05 pm baseball game. We showered, dressed, grabbed food on the way to the park, ate it in the car, and was in the stadium lot at 10:40 am in anticipation of the gates opening at 11:00 am. The fine ushers at the gate checked our bags, of which there were four. Cheryl had her camera bag, which holds three cameras, two digital and one film, and three lenses. She also carries a custom-made tote bag her mother made her, which holds all of her printed and ready-to-sign photos, plus picture sleeves for the signed ones, our two spring training guidebooks, sharpies and other pens, and other assorted necessities. I carry two bags for baseballs, one for unsigned balls and one to safeguard the signed balls. We took our usual spot down near the dugout and were able to get a few things signed, but the special part was Corey Patterson seeing Cheryl and coming over to her first to sign her picture. “I was the one at Jupiter wearing your t-shirt the other day,” she told him. “I know,” he said, “That’s why I came over here.” I don’t need to tell you how that made her day.

We left a bit early to get in good position at the player’s lot and we were the first ones there. As soon as the game finished we were quickly joined by about two dozen others, mostly parents with their children, but a couple of other adults and what appeared to be a couple of memorabilia dealers. Brian Roberts stopped on his way out and signed for everyone like he always does and no one even realized Kevin Millar was in the passenger seat except for us. Poor Kevin. Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora both stopped and signed as well. Leaving much later were Jon Knott and Mike Cervenak, both real good minor league players trying to make a name for themselves in spring training. We found out the reason they were leaving so late was that they had been reassigned to the minor league camp after the game. Being professionals, they were still nice enough to stop and sign for those of us that were left. Most had no idea who they were and all were completely unaware that they were just cut from the team. This is also what Spring Training is about, young men fighting for their job. We as fans must not forget about that when we are sticking a Sharpie in a guy’s face.

Tuesday we took 99 pictures, had ten pictures and four baseballs signed.

After all the players had cleared, we jumped back into the Chrysler 300 and headed for the airport. We’d been in Florida for six days and saw plenty of good things. We met a bunch of ball players, coaches, stadium workers and fellow fans. We took pictures, gathered autographs, collected other memorabilia and soaked in lots and lots of baseball. And as we boarded the plane, sunburned and exhausted, we both knew the memories of this trip will last a lifetime, or at least until Monday when Opening Day arrives.


  1. Shutterbug // April 15, 2007 at 3:19 PM  

    I love the photographs!