Before I begin, I must sincerely thank Mrs Cora for not only agreeing to come out here, but also driving half the distance from Los Angeles. Imagine this conversation - "Hey honey, I've got some days off of work and would like to spend some relaxing time in the sun. How about watching baseball players practice for 4 hours then watching a game for another 3? In addition, mamma Cora is coming along too!" She agreed and before she could change her mind, I booked the hotel and got the tickets. I'll post some pictures as soon as I get them off my camera, but want to write down my first impressions on my first spring training visit.
We arrived at the Camelback complex at 9 am when gates opened. There were already a ton of people there. I spoke with one of the security guards, and apparently ever since Sandy Koufax showed up, it has been a madhouse. Regardless, the weather was perfect and everyone was nice. There were all kinds of fans, from the hardcore memorabilia collectors with their binders of pictures and cards all indexed, to the long term fans proudly wearing their well worn Dodger gear, to newbies like me wide eyed with wonderment and excitement. The grass was perfectly manicured and the gravel neatly compartmented within the concrete edges. We milled around for about an hour, when at 10 am, the players started strolling along the path kindly saying "Good Morning" and some giving high fives to the crowd. They ran to their stations and started their stretching and drills at the various fields.
They seem to group off and either goto batting practice, pitching drills, fielding drills, and running drills. Throughout this whole time, the crowd can sit and dissect the players, the coaches, and even each other. Every half hour, there is an air horn and the players switch stations, running through the throng of fans to the next station.
We had a little time to walk over to the White Sox side which was almost devoid of fans. Nothing like the Dodger side. So, if you are a White Sox fan, looking to get up close to the Sox, come on down to Camelback. I don't know many of the Sox players, but some of them were signing autographs for fans before practice started. Plus their fields aren't as blocked off as the Dodger fields are. We then wondered the gift store and the grounds before returning to the Dodger side.
Practice ended at 12 noon and with a game at 1 pm, most of the players ran into the clubhouse. Some stayed and kindly signed autographs. My observations on some of the players are:
1. Adrian Gonzalez trimmed down.
2. Harang is huge.
3. Puig is solid.
4. Matt Wallach is really nice. A little kid got an autograph from him on a ball, Wallach dropped the ball, then proceeded to dust it off before giving it back.
5. Tony Gwynn Jr is really nice as well, signing a lot of autographs.
6. Ryu looks slow coming off the mound during the cover first base drill. HOWEVER, was really cool in that he got a handful of bubble gum from the dugout and proceeded to pass them through the fence to ecstatic little kids. The international language of candy.
As for the game, wow, did we look bad. You know your offense is, well, offensive, when Uribe is smashing the ball. The good parts? They honored Leary, Cey, Yeager, Mota, Fernando, and Koufax before the game. Hanley had a nice defensive grab ranging to his left. Andre had that nice triple (almost stand up) off a left hander. Puig playing the game like it is his last - rounding second and third EXTREMELY WIDE, a la a young Matt Kemp, and having to scramble back to the bag. I actually thought the sound of the ball hitting the catcher's mitt sounded great from Kershaw and Fife. The bad parts? Well everything else. Lots of donuts on that board.
I met some great fans around the complex including one with a great story that I will share as soon as I can get my pictures off my camera. I also apologize for the misspelling, grammar, and formatting mistakes as I'm trying to post this on my iPad. In the meantime, its time to get to bed as I want to get out there again tomorrow for another spring training game. Go Blue!