Spring Training III: Luke French
Last October 1st, we took Kellan to his first game. The Mariners took on the Athletics and I snapped this photo…
Last season, Tim and I tracked down his “first batter,” Frank Catalanotto, and got him to sign Tim’s “first pitch” picture:
We’ve still never tracked down Tim’s first pitcher, the recently retired Gil Meche. But I was hoping that we would be able to get both Luke French and Rajai Davis to sign Kellan’s first pitch picture during Spring Training. Unfortunately, Davis was traded to Toronto and is in Florida for Spring Training.
Therefore, our number one goal for Spring Training was to get an autograph from and photo with Luke French.
We kept an eye on Luke from the first day of our Spring Training trip…
Still, we kept an eye on Kellan’s first pitcher that day as he threw a session in the Mariners huge bullpen (its about 10 pitchers mounds wide):
A couple days later (the same day Milton Bradley gave Kellan his bat), we were still looking to connect with French. In fact, tracking down and getting a picture/autograph with French was the sole goal of the day before we planned on leaving the Peoria Sports Complex early to go on a tour of Chase Field.
As the Mariners made their way out of the clubhouse, they were all business. I didn’t see French as he made his way out to the practice fields. But it didn’t matter because all of the players were telling fans they couldn’t sign autographs until after practice.
Once we headed out of the field, Luke was there…
As I mentioned in the Milton Bradley entry, my mom, Colleen and Kellan hung out watching live BP on the main field during most of this practice session. After getting in his work, French grabbed a bucket and sat down (about 25 feet in front of my mom, Colleen and Kellan) to watch live BP on the M3 practice field:
After a while, French hopped up from his perch and milled around a little bit behind home plate. As Tim snapped this picture, Luke was exuding a strong “I’m about the leave” vibe:
There was no time to wait for her thoughts, I grabbed Kellan’s picture (which I had in a protective portfolio folder) and scurried around home plate and toward the other end of the complex.
This aerial photo shows my path in yellow and French’s path in red:
I was trailing behind French and he must have heard footsteps because he turned around and stopped in his tracks and waited for me to catch up. I asked Luke if he could sign something for me, and he said “no problem.”
I felt a little weird with the portfolio in hand because Spring Training is chalk full of sports memorabilia dealers who carry big notebooks full of baseball cards and glossy photos and collect autographs to take back to their shops to sell. I showed Luke the picture and explained that it was the first pitch of my son’s first game. And I flipped through the portfolio to show him that it was empty except for this picture — i.e., I was not just a random dealer looking to make a buck. It seemed like he appreciated that.
Luke happily signed the picture for me. I thanked him profusely and explained that I was sad that Kellan was asleep in the bleachers because I had wanted to get his picture with Luke. I told him we would try to catch up with him again by the end of the week. He said okay and we parted ways.
I ran back over to M3 and “showed” Kellan his newly improved “first pitch” picture:
By the end of the week, we’d still never run into French again. It was Saturday, and the Mariners/Padres fan fest was our last opportunity to track down French during Spring Training.
Fan Fest, which will get its own entry soon enough, featured a bunch of games for kids in the concourses of the Peoria Sports Complex main stadium and a work out by both teams on the field. The Padres went first.
Around 11:00 a.m., we knew the Mariners would show up soon so my mom, dad, Colleen, Tim, Kellan and I gathered together down the 1B line in hopes of getting a picture with Ichiro (a still as of yet unfulfilled goal) as he entered the stadium through the players entrance in the rightfield corner.
Eventually, the Mariners arrived en mass. While I didn’t see Ichiro anywhere (at least at first), I saw Luke French front and center:
He’s the player closest to the camera with his glove on his left hip in that last picture. The guys were down the line about 20 feet from the end of the seats in foul territory. Several of the Mariners ventured on the field to chat with some of the Padres.
None of the fans around us made any attempt to chat with or lure any of the Mariners over toward the stands. I thought, “what the heck,” and I called out, “Hey, Luke!” I figured that with a crowd of his teammates all around, French would probably appreciate it if someone singled him out. He did.
He turned and looked at me like, “Huh, what’s up?” I gave him a big “hey, come over here” wave. Three seconds later, Kellan’s first pitcher was standing next to us along the foul line.
I asked if he’d pose for a picture with my son and, when he said yes, I handed Kellan over to him. I explained that we’d met earlier in the week and he’d delivered the first pitch of Kellan’s MLB career. Luke remembered our first encounter and he was happy to meet Kellan and pose for pictures:
He must have thought the paparazzi were descending on him because my mom and Colleen both pulled out their cameras and we attacked the photo opportunity from three angles:
Thanks, Luke! And best of luck in 2011!