Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’

Spring Training VII: Mariners Intrasquad & FanFest

Okay.  We’re two games into the regular season and I have finally reached our final Spring Training entry.  This is a split entry between a Mariners intrasquad game and the Mariners/Padres Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex.
 
Mariners Intrasquad Game
 
We went to Spring Training for the first week of full-squad work outs.  The first game against another team was the day we left.  But two days before we left, the Mariners played an intrasquad game.  I’d never been to a Major League intrasquad game.  It was pretty cool.  And the Mariners won!
 
The game was on the main Major League practice field (M1).  It was our first opportunity to see Mariners top prospect (and new 5th starter), Michael Pineda, in action.  Here he is pitching to Jack Wilson in the first inning:
1 - Pineda to Jack Wilson.JPGAnd here is Pineda pitching to the Mariners other top prospect, Dustin Ackley:
2 - Pineda to Ackley.JPGI didn’t take many pictures at the game because this is what it looked like from “the crowd” behind home plate:
3 - sparsley populated foul territory.JPGI really wanted to get a foul ball, even it is was with almost no competition at an intrasquad game on a practice field.  Tim clowned around in the grass while I played for foul balls:

4 - Tim clowning around in grass.JPGAnd he met a little friend (just to the left of Tim in the last picture) named Sean to play around with.  My dad and Sean’s dad, the guy with the blue shirt and glove right in the middle of the picture, were my main foul ball competition.  Both my dad and I only played for fouls until we got one, then we concentrated on watching the game.  As that last sentence implies, yep, we both got one.
 
Here is a diagram of our foul balls snags:
5 - Foul balls for everyone.jpgMy dad generally set up in the grass behind the 3B dugout — about 1/2 way back.  I set up on the walk way (where the long yellow arrow beings) for righties and I shifted behind home plates for righties.
 
My dad ended up getting a foul ball from Chone Figgins in the bottom of the first inning.  He had moved all the way back to the beginning of the short yellow arrow to chat with the “usher” who works by the entrance to the Mariners clubhouse building.  Figgins blooped a little looping foul right over me.  It was either mine or my dad’s for the snagging.  But I had to chase after it, while it was naturally traveling right to my dad.  He scooped it up while I was still about 20 feet behind the ball.
 
A couple innings later, I was on the walkway when Dustin Ackley (lefty) came to the plate.  When he popped a foul straight back, I figured there was no chance I would get it.  But for some reason, the 5-10 guys over in that direction stood motionless while I ran from the walkway all the way to the back corner (next to M7) and scooped up the foul ball.
 
Here is the Ackley foul ball:
6 - ST5 - Dustin Ackley (Intrasquad Foul Ball).JPGPineda was out of the game and I’m not sure who pitched it.  It’ll be cool to have this baseball in years to come when Ackley (hopefully) develops into a star player for the Mariners.
 
After getting that foul, I stopped playing for fouls and met up with the rest of my family at the 3B stands.  I ended up holding Kellan for the rest of the game, and when Mariners “bat boy” Jason Phillips saw us, he tossed a baseball over the fence to us.  That guy is great to us!
 
Thanks, Jason!
 
Kellan ended up falling asleep in my arms as I watched the rest of the game through the fence behind home plate.  Check out this view that you normally just don’t get of major leaguers in action:
7 - Watching Mariners like a high school game.JPGAs shown in that last picture, the Mariners had a two-man umpiring crew working the game.  I’m not sure who they were, but they seemed like regular MLB umps.  However, they could be the guys who work the various rookie/fall/etc. leagues that are played in Arizona throughout the year.  Anyway, despite the high school sized crowd, the umps made the game feel much more official.
 
About ten feet to my right as I watched the game behind home plate was a contingent of top Mariners brass — minority owner/majority owner rep Howard Lincoln, GM Jack Zduriencik, and an unidentified third guy.  After the game, Jack Z. took a minute to chat with me and pose for a picture with me and a folded-up, sleeping Kellan:

8 - Jack Z TJC and sleeping Kellan.JPG
Two guys got picked off second base during the intrasquad game, I told Jack Z. that my advice for the season was to work on not getting picked off 2B.  He shrugged in an “Oh, boy!” manner and said something like, “Oh, yeah, we’ll definitely be working on that.”
 
During the game, when Michael Saunders got picked off second (he just broke for third even before first movement), the third unidentified Mariners exec. busted out in laughter and exclaimed, “Ha!  Does he think he’s wearing an invisible suit!?  He think he’s wearing an invisible suit!”  It can’t be good to have the bosses mocking your boneheaded move like that!
 
A momemt after parting ways with Jack Z., Jack called back to us to introduce us to his wife, Debbie.  It was funny because she wasn’t standing there when I was chatting with Jack, and its not like Jack and I are hang out all the time, but for whatever reason he thought he should come back to introduce me to Debbie.
 
One last game note, although I didn’t get any pictures because I was playing for fouls, Ichiro lead off for Pineda’s team and was 2-2 on the day with two singles.
 
Mariners/Padres Fan Fest
 
On our last full day in Arizona, we attended Mariners/Padres Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex main stadium.  My folks, Tim and I headed over first and Colleen and Kellan joined us after Kellan’s morning nap.
 
When we entered the stadium, Tim was handed a little string backpack with baseball cards, a promotional baseball, and a sharpie from a local baseball card store.  The Padres were on the field.  Right off the bat, I split off from my folks and Tim so I could run over to the Mariners practice fields and see if the guys were practicing before Fan Fest.  They weren’t.  It was the first day of minor league camp and the only guys on the practice fields were minor leaguers.
 
So, I ran back to the main stadium.  I hung out in RF and scanned the stadium for Tim and my folks.  I could not see them anywhere.  While I looked, San Diego Padre Aaron Cunningham…
9 - aaron cunningham.JPG…tossed me a completely unsolicited baseball over the RF bullpen.
 
Thanks, Aaron!
 
Finally, I decided that they must be in the concourse behind the infield grandstand.  Once I headed over there, I found them fairly quickly.  They had been checking out all of the kids stuff set up in the concourse.
 
My mom took these cute pictures of Tim:
10 - funny poser tim.JPGI think they’re both hilarious.
 
They hadn’t played any of the games set up yet, so I got to watch Tim while he tested his skills at a weird batting contraption:
11 - hitting contraption and big baseball.JPGHe also tested his catching skills at a little pop fly station…
12 - catch and throw stations.JPG…and his pitching skills at a pitching station.
 
While Tim took some hacks at the batting tee station…
13 - getting in some tee work.JPG…I chatted briefly with a guy who I thought might be Jack Wilson’s dad (he had a “family pass” and his last name was Wilson), but it turned out he is Josh Wilsons dad.  The funny thing is that he REALLY looked a lot like Jack Wilson.
 
I had heard that the Mariners would be on the field around 11 a.m., and the time was fast approaching.  Colleen and Kellan had arrived by this time.  I grabbed Kellan and headed over to the 1B foul line where players enter the stadium from the clubhouse.  Last season, the “professional” autograph seekers boxed out all the kids during Fan Fest.  So this year, they had a rule that only kids and their adult companions could get into the first couple sections down the 1B line — the best autograph area once the players enter the stadium.
 
The rest of the family met up with us before too long (before the M’s arrived), and Colleen got this picture of Kellan waiting patiently for his Mariners to arrive:
14 - TnK waiting for mariners.JPGWhile we waited, my mom and Tim went over Tim’s kids passport — you got a stamp for each of the throwing, catching, hitting stations and could enter to win something if you did them all — and then my mom pointed out the best spot for Tim to get some autographs:
15 - Gma and Tim plan strategy.JPGAnd that’s just where we set up shop:
16 - Gpa and Tim set up.JPGSoon, our Mariners arrived:
17 - Mariners arrive.JPGAs previously featured in its own entry, the first Mariner we connected with at Fan Fest was Kellan’s first pitcher, Luke French.
 
Tim was all excited about his free promotional baseball.  He got it signed by a bunch of players.  Among them was Jamey Wright…
18 - chatty Jamey Wright.JPG…who literally took 1-2 minutes to chat with each kid as he signed autographs.  He was very cool.  Way to go, Jamie!
 
Tim got an autograph and some bunny ears from the one and only Mariners Moose:
19 - The Moose.JPGAfter all the Mariners had passed by, we got this shot of Tim and Kellan with thier West Coast grandparents:
19a - Grandfolks and Grandkids.JPGHere is a look at Tim’s autopgraph baseball (its too bad he didn’t use a ROMLB for these autographs!):
19b - Tims cheap autoball.JPGAs best as I can tell:
Top Left (top to bottom):  The Mariner Moose, Jamie Wright (#50), and Matt Tuiasosopo (#27).
Top Right (top to bottom):  Chone Figgins (#9), unsure, unsure.
Bottom Left (top to bottom):  unsure, David Aardsma (#53), unsure.
Bottom right (top to bottom):  Justin Smoak, Luke French (#25), Michael Pineda (#36).
 
Next, it was time for the Mariners to take some BP.  My goal for the day was simple:  Catch a homerun hit by Ichiro.
 
I failed.
 
Ichiro hit several homeruns to RF (where we were).  But all but one landed in the bullpen.  My dad should have caught the one that landed on the grass berm, but he was mugged by some out-of-control fan who made everyone miss the ball on the fly (my dad made no effort to dive on the pile for the baseball in the grass).
 
Although I have read that he doesn’t consider himself a particularly good golfer, one of Ichiro’s BP homeruns was a hole in one:
 
20 - Ichiro hole in one.JPGAs illustrated in the picture above, Ichiro’s homerun was coming right at me, but it fell short, hit the back wall of the bullpen (about 5-10 feet below me) and bounced directly into a box on the ground (I think it was the control box for the hose hanging on the fence).  Very impress, Ichi!
 
While Ichiro’s group was batting, Adam Moore was alone in RF shagging baseballs.  When he spotted me and Tim behind the bullpen, he hooked us up with this baseball (which I think, but am not 100% positive, was hit by Ichiro):
 
 
20a - ST8 - Adam Moore.JPGIn my quest to catch an Ichiro homerun ball, I didn’t come up entirely empty handed.  I did manage to make a clean “on the fly” catch of a Justin Smoak homerun along the RCF end of the bullpen:
21 - smoak HR.JPGAfter Ichiro finished hitting, I was certain that he would call it a day and head back to the Mariners clubhouse.  But, to my surprise, he grabbed his glove and headed out to RF.
 
While I was still thinking Ichiro was going to pack up and leave, Tim, my mom and I relocated back to the 1B foul line in hopes of getting a picture with Ichiro on his way out of the stadium.  While we were hanging out over there, Brendan Ryan hit us two foul balls:
                    22 - ST10 - Brendan Ryan.JPG  
23 - ST11 - Brendan Ryan.JPG
 
The first Ryan foul bounced high off of the warning track over a teenaged kid (probably 13-14) and right to me and Tim.  The second Ryan foul ball rattled off of several fans gloves, including that same kid.  I felt bad for him and tried to give him the baseball.  But he declined, explaining that he has about 100 of his own already.
 
Eventually, someone hit a ball down the line and Ichiro looked right at me like he was going to throw it to me.  But Tim had wandered off about 15 feet and Ichiro didn’t seem him.  My mom and I could see the thought process go through Ichiro’s brain, “Oh, I thought that guy had a little boy.  Oh, well, I’ll toss it to that kid over there instead.”
 
My mom and I looked at Tim and in unison we both said, “Oh, Tim, Ichiro wanted to give you that baseball but he couldn’t find you!”  For the next ten minutes, Tim didn’t stray from us at all.  And when the next ball got hit right down the RF line, Ichiro ran over, scooped it up and tossed it right to us:
24 - baseball from Ichiro HOORAY.JPGOur first baseball ever from Ichiro.
 
THANKS, ICHIRO-SAN!
 
Ichiro is hands down Tim’s favorite player.  So its awesome to get a baseball from him.  Tim put his Ichiro baseball right next to his bed with an Ichiro baseball card in a display case next to it.
 
Here is  close up of our Ichiro baseball (below to left)…
                25 - ST12 - Ichiro.JPG    
26 - ST13 - Jack Wilson.JPG
 
…and our final baseball of the day from Jack Wilson (above to right).  The Wilson baseball was funny.  We were back in RF and everyone collectively decided it was time to head out to get some lunch.  As we were leaving the berm in RF, Jack was retrieving a baseball from the warning track just below the bullpen.  I called down, “Hit me over the shoulder, Jack!”  Jack looked up, hiked the ball to himself, rolled out of the pocket to the right, and threw a post pattern to me up on the berm.
 
Thanks, Jack!
 
Thirty seconds later, Jack threw a laser to my dad as he crossed the bridge over the players entrance to the field.  Thanks again, Jack! (on behalf of my dad).
 
Before leaving the stadium, Tim pitched and hit some baseballs at the last pitching and hitting stations.  On one of his final swings, Tim jacked the ball literally out of the Peoria Sports Complex (over that building behind the hitting station):
 
27 - Tim leaves the Complex.JPGThe Moose was watching Tim pitch at the pitching station and afterwards we got this cool picture of Tim and the Moose:
27a - Moose featuring Tim.JPGAfter lunch, we stopped back in at the stadium, but all of the Mariners were gone.  We got some pictures of the Dave Neihaus tribute sign (also a patch the Mariners are wearing this season, which is also featured in our blog banner up top this season):
28 - Mom and Dave MYOHMY.JPGFinally, on our way out to the parking lot, I took some pictures of the Peoria Sports Complex scoreboard…
 
And that was it.  The next morning, I drove by the complex and saw some Mariners milling around by the clubhouse building.  But there was no major league work out due to the first Spring Training game later that day.  Later that day, we caught out plane back to Pennsylvania.  It was a great time at Spring Training, and we left more excited than ever for the regular season to start about a month later.

Spring Training VI: Practice Pictures

After a brief detour through the Metrodome, its back to Spring Training.  We still have a few more reports to go from the desert.  This one has no real *story* per se, its just a bunch of pictures.  It does, however, have a theme:  practice.  We took a bunch of nice pictures of Mariners doing the hard work of preparing for the 2011 season and its time to share them.

Each morning, the entire Mariners major league camp would report to practice field M3 for a big stretching routine:

1 - pitcher stretching.JPGYou can always expect to see the guys playing a lot of catch at Spring Training:

2 - Ichiro throwing.JPGAbove, Ichiro is playing catch with…hmm…probably Milton Bradley on practice field M1.

The Mariners coaching staff hits hours of fungo to the Mariners infielders during Spring Training.  Here, Justin Smoak gloves a grounder on the first day of full team workouts on M2:

3 - Justin Smoak grounder.JPGJosh Wilson got into the action right next to Smoak:

4 - Josh Wilson grounder.JPGAcross the diamond, Chone Figgins — back at his native third base — got hand cuffed by this grounder, but made the play:

5 - Chone Figgins handcuffed by grounder.JPGBetween fields M1 and M2, there is a little half field (infield only).  Here, Dustin Ackley practices taking grounders at second base on the short field:

6 - Dustin Ackley grounder.JPGThe pitchers spend a lot of time re-learning how to field their position during Spring Training.  Here, big Michael Pineda practices his pick off move as a bunch of his colleagues watch:

7 - Pineda drills.JPGThis next picture is hilarious to me.  This was the first day of full squad workouts and the coach (cannot remember which one) said, “First grounder of the season!” and then hit this ball to King Felix Hernandez a/k/a Larry Bernandez:

8 - Felix first grounder of 2011.JPGThe look on Felix’s face is priceless.  FYI, despite his surprised look, he did catch the ball.

Cook & Son Hall of Famer Jason Phillips was working the fungo a bunch the week we were in Peoria.  Here is an action fungo shot of Jason on M4:

9 - Jason Phillips fungo.JPGErik Bedard has been a pleasant surprise this Spring.  He is flat out pitching like a stud and finally looking like he might live up to the original hype.  Here he is getting in his work in the mega-bullpen between M3 and M4:

10 - Erik Bedard bullpen.JPGThree or four mounds over from Bedard, King Felix was strutting his Cy Young-stuff:

11 - Felix Hernandez bullpen.JPGIn a little strip of random grass between M2 and M7 (the half field), Ichiro, Dustin Ackley and a couple other guys played a little pepper:

12 - Ichiro and Ackley pepper.JPGSomeone peppered a hot one Ichiro’s way and Ichi had to make an acrobatic catch at close range:

13 - catching pepper.JPGWhat makes this next picture cool was unintentional and hard to decipher.  However, if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see that I captured two balls in the air — Figgy gunned a ball to Justin Smoak that appears in the upper lefthand corner of the photo and Brendan Ryan his underhanding a second baseball to 2B:

14 - smoak and two balls in air.JPGAs I said, lots of pitcher fielding practice.  Here, Jason Vargas, Luke French and Brandon League handle hot shots back up the box:

15 - vargas french league.JPGAnd here is another hilarious picture of King Felix fielding his position — he did not catch this one:

16 - Larry Bernandez.JPGBut Ichiro caught this one (during outfielder practice on M5):

17 - Ichiro catch.JPGYou can get so close to your favorite players during Spring Training that its almost ridiculous.  Here, Tim played in the warning track dirt just behind Ichiro waiting his turn at the plate:

18 - Ichiro stretch pre-batting.JPGOne day, the guys all came out to practice and the outfielders reported to M6.  Ichiro was all set to play catch with Milton Bradley when he realized he’d forgot his glove in the clubhouse.  Ichiro’s interpreter, Anthony Suzuki, bolted off to the clubhouse and came cruising back with Ichiro’s glove:

19 - Anthony Suzuki glove retriever.JPGMichael Saunders tracks this ball in the birght Arizona sun during outfielders practice on M6:

20 - Saunders ranging.JPGMore pitcher fielding practice — Erik Bedard doesn’t show the best form while snaring this grounder from the short stop position:

21 - Bedard grounders by short.JPGOne last group of photos, all of Ichiro.  I took the picture of Ichiro in the top left (below)…

22 - Ichiro up close.JPG

…Tim took the other three from close range.

So there you go, a look behind the scenes at Spring Training practice.   For my money, practice is where the fun is at Spring Training.

Spring Training V: Family Photos

In the fifth installment of our series of Spring Training updates, we’ve assembled our favorite family photos from Spring Training.  These are photos taken while the Mariners were practicing, but they focus on one or more members of our family (mostly Tim) and show a different perspective on the Spring Training experience.

Here is one of our first pictures from Spring Training 2011:

 

1 - welcome to Mariners Spring Training.JPGI asked Tim to point at the sign and his expression is priceless.  I think this face means, “Hurry up, I want to run in there and see the Mariners!”

By the way, here is a closer look at the map of the Peoria Sports Complex:

1a - practice fields map.jpgIn the picture of Tim pointing at the sign, he is standing at the “M” (inside a diamond) just below and to the left of practice field M3.  If you follow the walkway from that “M” straight up the map, you will reach a circle with a blue box inside it (between M3, M6 and M2).  That circle/blue box is a concession stand and restrooms.  The lines running left and right from the concession stand/restrooms are cement walkways that run down the middle of large strips of grass.  The grass and walkways run all the way from a fence that connects M1 and M7 (right around the infield dirt of both fields) to another fence that connects M3 and M4 (also right around the infield dirt of both fields).  All of that grass area is open to the public during Mariners workouts.

Pretty much the first thing we’d do each day (assuming the Mariners weren’t out on the fields already) was head to the grass between the player parking lot at M2.

The grass areas are perfect for playing catch with you father or your son (or both).  As everyone else waited down by the player entrance, this is where we set up for some catch:
2 - catch on grass.JPGFYI, that building down there on the left is the indoor batting cages.

Tim has got a lot better at catching and throwing over the last 6 months.  His catching improved dramatically when we got him a smaller glove that he can actually close!  Here, he fields a grounder:

3 - grounders.JPGIn this picture, my mom captured both of us right as Tim catches the ball:

4 - father-son Spring Training catch.JPGI can’t believe how big this guy is now-a-days:.

5 - Tim ready to catch.JPGHe looks like a real ballplayer, eh?

Sometimes Tim’s throws are perfect.  Other times, he throws like Rick Ankiel at the end of his pitching career.  Thus, I have to be ready for anything when he uncorks a hard throw:

6 - wild fastballs.JPGAs the Mariners head out to on in from M3-M6 before or after a work out, its an ideal time to get up and close for your favorite players.  Here, my mom got some shots of Mariners walking by and giving Tim “five” as they headed out to M3:

fiving players.jpgThe ideal place for fans to take some BP of their own at Mariners Spring Training is down the LF line of practice field M6, using the bullpen fence as a backstop:

7 - batting practice by M6.JPGThat is sort of a hard picture to understand.  Tim has already hit the ball and it is heading toward the SS side of second base.

M6 seems to get the least action…or at least the fewest spectators…so its a nice place to hit without having to worry about other fans getting in the way.

Here are two great pictures Colleen took of Kellan watching Tim pitch to my mom as I play the field:

7a - batting practice by M6.jpgKellan missed the first day of Spring Training workouts because the rain was threatening, the wind was gusting, and he was tired.  So he made his debut at Spring Training the next day, and this was his first picture “watching” the M’s prepare for the 2011 season:

8 - kellans first spring training picture.JPGThat’s pitcher fielding practice on M4, by the way.

There are a bunch of bushes and small trees between M4 and M5.  Here, Tim climbs in a tree (with M4 behind him):

8a - tree climbing.JPGColleen snapped a great shot of Kellan and me watching batting practice on M1:

9 - kellan watches with dad.JPGWIth seven practice fields and 60+ players running around from field-to-field plus getting to play catch and hit with your family members, there is a lot going on at Spring Training.  Tim couldn’t stay put in one place for too long.  He had to go, go, go:

10 - places to go.JPGMy mom got these funny shots of Tim and my dad monkeying around on the bleachers while watching fielding practice on M2:

11 - windy wrestling with grandpa.JPGHere is another funny shot of Tim pointing…this time at Ichiro (his arm is extended directly behind him so you can’t see it at all, but he is, indeed, pointing at Ichiro):

12 - theres ichiro.JPGHere’s another shot of Kellan and his Grandma — this time in the grass between M3 and M6:


DSC09401.JPGOne day, Tim took some BP between M4 and M5.  In this picture, Colleen catches Tim swinging through a pitch:

14 - swing and a whiff spring training style.JPGThe walkway from the parking lot to the practice fields (running behind the CF-to-RF wall of M3) is all rocks, gravel and plants.  Tim loved playing in the rocks and gravel:

15 - rocks and miguel olivo.JPGIn the picture above to the right, Miguel Olivo is trying to shake Tim’s hand, but Tim has a handful of rocks.   Instead of shaking Miguel’s hand, Tim opened his palm and showed Olivo the rocks he had collected beyond the M3 RF wall.

One day, Colleen fed Kellan a bottle while sitting on a little stone wall that circles the concession stand.  Tim took a break from his own BP and ran over to his mommy and spelled his name in the gravel:

16 - tim cook in dessert gravel.JPGHere is a nice picture Colleen snapped of Kellan and his grandma sitting in the bleachers at M6:

17 - grandma and kellan at spring training.JPGOn the day we got the Milton Bradley bat and Luke French autograph, Colleen snapped this shot of my mom with the boys:

18 - grandma and the boys.JPGThat day, Tim snapped a ton of pictures as we cylced through M3, M4, M5 and M6.  Here is a picture that one of us snapped of Tim snapping a picture of Luke French:

19 - number of christmas.JPGThe picture above to the right is the actual picture of Luke French that Tim is taking in the picture above to the left.  I thought that this was funny because right before taking this picture, Tim said to me, “Look, daddy, its the number of Christmas!”

Tim did most of the batting when we took BP beside M6.  But my mom and I took a few hacks too.  Here is a hilarious picture of Tim throwing at his grandma:

20 - back off my plate grandma.JPGShortly after the last picture, a bunch of Mariners outfielders started warming up down the M6 LF line just on the other side of the fence from out little BP site.  We took a break from BP to watch the guys play catch.  When Greg Halman caught the last ball thrown by his partner, I called out, “Hey, Greg!”  He turned around and I pointed down to Tim.  About 5-10 seconds later, I took this picture of Tim:

21 - thanks greg halman ST.JPGThanks, Greg!

While Tim was pitching to my mom, I took a long range photo across the grassy area of Colleen and Kellan watching some pitchers warm up:

22 - mommy and kellan watch ST.JPGA little bit later, I took one of my favorite photos of Spring Training:

23 - colleen kellan tim chillin on the grass at spring training.JPGAn 8″ x10″ of this photo now hangs in my office at work.

One last fun family photo for this entry:

24 - Tim and Kellan on Mariners ball.JPGTim loves trying to push these big baseballs — click here for proof.  As for Kellan, he might have had a little help (hidden mostly behind the baseball) sitting up on top of that big baseball for this picture.

As I think these pictures show, the lazy days hanging around the Mariners Spring Training workouts at Spring Training are great.

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…

20 - Kellan's first MLB pitch.JPG…of Luke French delivering the first pitch of Kellan’s MLB life to Rajai Davis.  It was a strike.

Last season, Tim and I tracked down his “first batter,” Frank Catalanotto, and got him to sign Tim’s “first pitch” picture:

6 - first pitch with catalanotto.jpgWe’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…

1 - luke french warm ups.JPG…but Kellan was at my parents’ place napping so we didn’t try to meet up with French that day.

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):

2 - french in megabullpen.JPGI feel bad for this, but French made a hilarious face as he delivered this pitch:

3 - award winning pitching funny face.JPGA 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…

4 - french behind hand shakers.JPG…and he was preparing to warm up with his fellow pitchers just like every other day:

5 - french ready to play catch.JPGBy the way, Colleen took the last two pictures, and the next one.  She found Luke getting his work in on one of the fields instead of in the bullpen:

6 - french getting work in.JPGAs Tim and I shifted around from field-to-field, I let Tim take control of my camera.  He took a ton of interesting pictures, including the next two pictures.

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:

7 - french on bucket.JPGRight after (or maybe just before) taking this picture, Tim yelled, “Hey, look, its the number of Christmas!”  That gave me a chuckle.

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:

8 - french outta here.JPGA few seconds after Tim took that picture, I watched as French started walking behind home plate and around to the first base side.  I looked at my mom…

9 - oh no kellan is sleeping.JPG…who was holding a sound asleep Kellan, and said, “Where’s French going?  Is he going in?”

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:

9b - there goes french.jpgI 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:

10 - first pitcher autograph.JPGHe was quite literally speechless.

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:

11 - french and company arrive at fan fest.JPGHe’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:
12 - Kellan and Luke.JPGHe 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:

13 - french and cook.JPGMission Accomplished!

Thanks, Luke!  And best of luck in 2011!

Mariners Spring Training Video Update

We’re here in Peoria, AZ for Mariners Spring Training.  We’ll see no games while here.  Just practice.  Frankly, I think that practice is the best part of Spring Training.  We’ve had many memorable encounters and have tons of great pictures to share.  But I haven’t had time to put an entry together yet.  So I figured we’d share a couple videos from Spring Training before putting together a write up.

The first day of spring training was extremely windy with periodic spurts of rain. After the Mariners stretched on one field, the different position groups split off onto separate fields. This video shows the outfielders running over to the Mariners main practice field, and features Ichiro giving me a funny little look as he passes by me and Tim:

Many of the chain link fences on the Mariners Spring Training complex are wrapped in dark green fabric meant to cut down wind on the field. Its my least favorite part of the M’s Spring Training complex. Interestingly, the Padres complex (just on the other side of the Mariners and Padres shared stadium) doesn’t have any of these annoying wind barriers on the fences. In this video, Felix Hernandez is seen pitching in a jumbo-bullpen through a little flap in the wind barrier:

In this video, a group of Mariners pitchers are going through pitcher fielding practice (PFP) on one of the Mariners practice fields. At this point, the pitchers were fielding ground balls and then throwing to third base. You’ll notice that the few fans watching the Marines practice are almost completely silent. That’s the standard at Mariners Spring Training. Well, Tim isn’t the standard fan. He’s loud. After this video, Felix fielded a ball and threw to third base. Tim let out a loud, “Good job, Felix,” prompting Felix to spin, lung toward Tim and give him a double arm point and a loud “THANK YOU!!!” This prompted Nate Robertson (following Felix) to ask, “What about me?” Tim was silent, so I responded in a somewhat sarcastic tone, “Good job, Nate.” All of this drew a chuckle from the players and normally silent fans.

In the final video in this entry, Ichiro is shown taking BP on one of the Mariners practice fields. Pretty much every swing shown here resulted in a nice line drive into shallow right field:

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Hot Dog Model

I received a funny email today.  The author was Sara, from ScoreboardGourmet.com.  I’d never heard about website before.  It is a site that is dedicated to discussing the food served a sports stadiums.  An interesting idea.

Sara was writing to ask permission to use one of my photos in one of her entries.  I agreed.  And just like that (as my father-in-law put it), I became a hot dog model.  Here I am, modeling the “Ruthian” at the Peoria Sports Complex, spring home of the Seattle Mariners:

hot dog model.jpgAnd here is the link to the full entry.  If you’re in Peoria, be sure not to miss the Ruthian.

Warming Up For 2008

My parents are two of the luckiest people around.  During the regular season, they live at my boyhood home about 15 miles from Safeco Field.  During Spring Training, they live at their winter home about 3 miles from the Mariners spring training home — the Peoria Sports Complex.

Before the 2008 season began, Colleen, Tim and I headed to Peoria to meet up with my folks and my Mariners for some Spring Training.

Courtesy of Google Maps, here is an aerial view of the Peoria Sports Complex:

1 - peoria sports complex aerial view.jpgAt the top center is the stadium where the Mariners and Padres play their home spring training games.  The Mariners spring training fields are below to the left.  The two fields to the far left are the Mariners Single-A training fields.  The next two fields to the right are the Mariners Double-A and Triple-A fields.  Next, is the Mariners secondary Major League field.  Above that field is the Mariners administrative building and parking lot.  Next to the administrative building to the right is the Mariners primary Major League field.  Below the primary field, is a partial field where they do infield drills.

Then on the right side, the Padres have a mirror image of the Mariners training fields.

Spring training is incredibly cool and relaxing.  One thing I love is all of the open grass between the training fields.  It is a perfect set up that allowed us to watch the Mariners run drills and take BP while my dad and I played a lot of catch:

2 - playing catch by main field.jpgThose pictures are all taken in the grass between the Mariners Major League fields and the administrative building, which also has a big bullpen set up and indoor batting cages lining the big open grass area.  In fact, you can see the bullpens behind my dad and Tim in the top two of the last four-picture set.

In the first day or two of our trip, we just watched the Mariners training.  Here is Ichiro watching Raul Ibanez taking BP on the main field:

3 - ichiro watches ibanez.jpgEvery time we went to training, we’d walk away with a new baseball or two…

4 - got some baseballs.jpg…with all of the fields around the public area, it is not unusual for random foul balls to be hit into the public area from all directions.  You have to stay alert.

On our first day there, we ran into Mariners catching prospect Adam Moore who was working out one-on-one with a coach on the secondary Major League field…

5 - Adam Moore.jpg…after he finished up, we got his autograph on one of the baseballs Tim had collected earlier in the day and got Tim’s first picture with a professional ballplayer.  Finally, at the end of 2009, Moore made the Mariners major league roster.  Hopefully we will see a lot of him in 2010.

I really enjoyed watching the Minor Leaguers…

6 - watching some training.jpg…they were always doing drills, taking BP, or playing games.

Ah, remember how I mentioned it is relaxing at Spring Training…

 

7 - now this is living.jpg…this is an ideal way to spend a morning, relaxing with your family and playing catch with your dad while watching the Mariners prepare for the regular season.

Yep, and then we got more baseballs…

minibat regularball.jpg…and Tim got Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist to sign that little bat.

Spring Training is also good for normal bats too…

grandpas bat.jpg

…that’s a bat that my dad got from a Mariners minor leaguer.  No cracks or anything.  Just a nice fully-intact bat.  Tim and I got two bats from minor leaguers as well, both with small cracks.

Here’s another cool part of Spring Training…

8 - little tim little mariners.jpg…Mariners are always walking by 5 feet away from you.

While my dad and I would play catch, Tim would run around with his grandma…

9 - piggy backing.jpg…or would get a lot of piggy back rides.

Soon, it was time for some games, so we would head to the main stadium in the afternoons:

10 - 3 Cook Boys.jpgAll around the outside of the stadium, there were a bunch of big concrete baseballs…

11 - pushing the ball.jpg…that Tim would try to push around, unsuccessfully.

Here is a view of the main stadium:

12 - Peoria Sports Complex.jpgI’m not going to do game reports here.  Just a few highlights.

Here is a view of where we sat at most of the games:

13 - major league players minor league seats.jpg…a great view.

When we arrived at Spring Training, they’d already played a bunch of games.  And Ichiro was batting .000 (zero hits so far).  He was something like 0-20.

His luck would change as soon as we arrived.  Actually, he didn’t play in our first game.  But in his very first at-bat that Tim and I saw him have in the spring, he got his first hit of the spring…

14 - ichiro turns it on.jpg…and he got at least 1 hit in all three games we saw him play during the spring.  Specifically, he went 1-4, 2-4 with a homerun, and 1-4.

During one of the games, I took “The Ruthian” challenge:

15 - The Ruthian.jpgAnd I demolished it.

On this trip, I also was able to achieve a life long dream…

16 - the dream achieved.jpg…my first ever Mariners game (or any professional baseball game) on my birthday.  I always wished growing up that I could have rounded up a bunch of my friends and gone to a Mariners game on my birthday.  But its hard to do when you weren’t born during the baseball season.  So this was a real special treat for me.  And, as a special gift, Ichiro and Adrian Beltre both hit a homerun for me, and the Mariners got me the win.

For our final spring training game, we sat on the outfield berm…

17 - A Day On The Berm.jpg…Colleen, Tim and I all came down with a cold.  So this was an odd game sitting out there.

But we still managed to get a picture that I absolutely love:

18 - No Standing.jpgSo, Tim’s first spring training was a smashing success.  We came home with 12 baseballs, 2 bats, a couple autographs, a winning Mariners record of 2-1-1, and a lot of great memories.

BUT WAIT…our pre-season baseball wasn’t finished yet.

Several of my colleagues are big Phillies fans and share the “weekend” ticket package…or maybe its just the “Sunday” ticket package.  Whatever.  The Phillies had two more pre-season games after breaking camp in Florida.  They call it the “On Deck” series.  And one of my colleagues gave us their tickets because no one in the group was going to use them.

So, a day or two before opening day, Tim and I headed down to Philadelphia for a freezing cold game against the Blue Jays.

This was our view from our seats in Section 130:

1 - on deck view.jpgAs I said, IT WAS FREEZING!!!  So, we got hot dogs to warm us up:

2 - hotdog time.jpgAnd we were excited to see our favorite Phil, Jamie Moyer, toeing the rubber:

3 - on deck moyer.jpgAfter having such a laid back time at Spring Training, Tim re-acclimated to his Northeastern roots and jumped all over the umpire…

4 - you bum ump.jpg…”Come on you stinking bum, you need glasses or something!?”

Okay, he wasn’t really saying that.  But I LOVE that picture.  Hilarious.

It was so cold that we gave up our excellent seats and headed over to the sunny seats in the leftfield porch:

5 - LF porch.jpgStill, it was so cold that the unthinkable happened, by about the fourth inning Tim suggested that we should go home!

I was fine leaving early.  So we made a deal that we’d leave after spending one inning behind the Phils dugout watching Moyer up close.  We made our way over there in time to see Pat Burrell step to the plate…

6 - behind 1B line.jpg…of course, as he seemingly always does when Tim is in the house, Burrell hit a bomb…

7 - pat burrell.jpg…although not on this pitch.

We got a great close-up view of Moyer on the mound:

8 - moyer.jpgThen some nice fan took a picture of me, Tim and my vacation-hold-over-beard…

9 - freezing guys.jpg…which I am told made me look about 50 years older than I actually am.  Oh, well.

And with that, we called it a day, and a pre-season, and we went home and waited for our favorite holiday, Mariners opening day.

The Tale Of The Prodigal Glove

In middle school and high school, I played first base and left field.  When I was stationed at first, I used a Rawlings RFM14 (Wally Joyner signature model).  I Iiked it.  It was a good glove.  In fact, it helped me set a school record for consecutive put outs without an error in 8th grade at old College Place Middle School.

Here, in the only known picture of me during one of my high school baseball games…

EW on field.jpg…you can see me wearing my trusty RFM14 while watching my buddy, Jason, warm up.

harold.jpgBack in 1991, I went to Spring Training.  For the final spring training game of the year, the Mariners let me be their bat boy for the day — a Mariners win over the Cubs behind the pitching of Randy Johnson and hitting of Ken Griffey, Jr.  That day, the much-loved Harold Reynolds actually used my RFM14 to warm up before the game.  So, it was definitely a good glove with a rich history.

Then came 1994 and my playing days were finished.  But for some of my lucky friends, there was more organized baseball to be played.  A contingent of my best friends went on to play at junior colleges and a couple four-year universities.  One of those guys was my good friend since Sherwood Elementary School, Brian “The Amazing Speed” O’Neal.  “The Amazing Speed” was a joke nickname in 5th grade.  Later on, one of the guys would bestow upon Brian the nickname “Butch,” and for me it has stuck.

Anyway, Butch went on to play college ball in Oregon.  He was a pitcher, and later a first basemen.  With my playing days behind me, it made sense for me to loan my trusty RFM14 to Butch.  And so, I did.

Fast forward 15 years to Monday, December 7, 2009.  Butch and I have exchange thed occassional email and we spoke briefly on the phone once this past season.  But for the most part, we’ve been out of contact for probably 12-13 years.  But on Monday my wife called me at work to inform me, “You received a package in the mail today…from Brian O’Neal!”

Alarms instantly went off in my head.  “Oh, my god,” I thought, “ITS MY GLOVE!”

Although I have never made any effort to retreive my glove or ever really been concerned about getting it back, I’ve never forgot about that glove.  It has crossed my mind from time-to-time as the years have passed.

Could this really be the day?  I didn’t know why else Butch would be sending me a package.

Colleen asked if she could open the package.

“No way,” I responded!  “How big is it?”

“Like a package from Amazon.com,” she replies.

“Hmm…” Now, I’m not so sure.

On the drive home after work, I continue thinking.  Brian and I made a bunch of home “movies” — most notably, “The Hound Of The Edmondsville” — when we were…hmm…sophomores, I’d guess.  Maybe this Amazon.com sized box was a VHS copy of the “‘Brian & Todd: Come Jam With Us” video we shot at the little kid hoops at Sherwood? That seemed more the size of an Amazon.com box.

Finally, I walk into the house and see the box. “Hey, that seems glove sized,” I though. I shook the  box like it was a birthday or Christmas gift.  “Hmmm…that doesn’t seem very glove’ish. And it does sort of have a video cassette’ish sound to it.”

Colleen walked in and I declared to her that “I have two ideas of what this is…otherwise, I have no clue.”

THE MOMENT OF TRUTH:

1 - welcome home.jpg“YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

And, Butch included a note:

2 - note from butch.jpgThat’s just too funny…and thoughtful.  I’m sure he figured I had given up on any thought of ever seeing the glove again.  So it was very cool of him to take the time (and postage) to send it across the country to me.

Anyway, I was pretty excited to see my old friend again.  I did some inspecting and found that the years hadn’t been kind…so, after typing out a quick “thank you” email to Butch, Tim and I headed to “The Baseball Store,” our local Rawlings outlet.  I decided the glove could use some new laces, and I figured that it would be fun to do them in dark green, which is the primary color of our high school baseball team.

Here are some photos from the last twenty four hours.

3 - look inside.jpgAs you can see in the upper left, the sewn connection at the top of the webbing tore off.  Hopefully Butch didn’t take a hard liner to the eye due to that.  I had to fix that and, as you can see at the bottom right, it now looks much better.

Here are some comparison shots of the back of the glove…

4 - back fingers.jpg…and the back of the webbing:

5 - outer webbing.jpg.

Although Brian’s “fix” was creative, I think mine will hold up a little bit better.

Finally, you can see that my old friend was a little tired and flat from his 15 year journey…

6 - flat not flat.jpg…but it was nothing a new set of lacing couldn’t fix.  Now, he’s standing at attention…just waiting to dig a low throw out of the dirt.

Its good to have my old friend home again.

7 - Thanks Butch.jpg

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