A Spring Training Update: Getting Snubbed by Ryno Sandberg

Spring Training is under way. Since we’re not lucky enough to be down in the Florida sunshine, we’ve still got a plan to have you covered. David Franco from Next Level Ballplayer is down in Florida for the week providing us with all the sights and sounds of spring baseball that we need. Yesterday’s adventure; was getting snubbed by Ryne Sandberg and hopping a fence to be part of the Twins/Red Sox nightcap. Tune in all week as Franco reports on ST exploits, and be sure to follow him on twitter or Facebook.

Franco’s Spring Training Update from FL: Day 1

Today’s adventures include seeing two games in the same day, getting big leagued by Ryne Sandberg, climbing fences to break into a sold out stadium and more.

What’s up Diamond Hoggers Nation. Franco here from Next Level Ballplayer, coming at you from sunny Florida. Over the next week I will be reporting for Diamond Hoggers on my baseball adventures as I bounce around the Grape Fruit League. Honored to be here. Onto day 1…

After an 11 hour drive to Florida on Saturday, I was more than ready to actually watch baseball on Sunday. The plan was to go see the Phillies v Yankees in Clearwater, but one game wasn’t enough so I drove about 3 hours after the Phils/Yanks game to watch the Twins/Red Sox in Fort Myers. The rest of the day’s activities went a little something like this:

Overall Highlight of the day– Just watching live baseball for the first time in what seems like forever.  85 degrees and sunny also helps after a cold winter up north.

Overall Lowlight of the day– Getting big leagued by Ryne Sandberg.

Phillies vs Yankees 1:05pm

Tickets: Scalped a $26 ticket for $20 and ended up in the 5th row up on the first base side where I could look in the Yankees dugout (A-Rod, Tex, Cano and Jeter were nowhere to be found.)

-I had about an 80% chance that I would see a Cy Young candidate throw for the Phillies… Instead I saw Joe Blanton throw a few innings.

-The place was packed with Phils fans outnumbering Yankee fans about 60/40.

-All female fans in attendance loved Swisher. He easily got the loudest cheers of the day when he came to the plate.

-Granderson hit an oppo-bomb that the wind blew out

-Lidge came in and promptly gave up a jack… All the Philly fans were like “Here we go again.”

-The Yankees won, but it’s just spring training so nobody cares

So I came down to FL to enjoy baseball and write for Diamond Hoggers, but I also want to get some more quality interviews with players for future Next Level Ballplayer articles. I have a few big league buddies who I’ll be visiting later in the week, but no contacts with the Phils or Yanks. No problem, I’ll just go where the guys are signing autographs and interview them while they’re signing little kid’s baseballs.

I pick a spot on the fence by the player’s parking lot cause a guy tells me Cliff Lee’s gonna come out this way… 15 minutes later, nobody has come by and some other lady says Lee already left. Ok, not as easy as I thought it’d be.

Then, as I was about to give up hope of any quality material, here comes one of the best 2nd basemen of alltime, Ryne Sandberg. I’m pumped to see Ryno.  He comes over and starts signing baseballs.

Franco-“Hey Ryne, What’s one piece of advice you’d give to the aspiring ballplayer out there?”

Ryno- Looks up at me and says, “No. I’m not gonna answer that.”

Then he signed autographs for 5 more minutes in silence. It was a bit awkward. I left feeling very unsatisfied… Check my watch, 5:30. I think I can make it to the Twins/Red Sox game by 7:30…

Twins vs Red Sox 7:05pm

I get to the stadium about 8pm and it’s sold out and there aren’t any scalpers around AND the ticket guy promises me there’s no way to get into the game.  He’s very unsympathetic that it’s my second spring training game that day and that I had been blown off by Ryno. I was getting into the game.

I walked all the way around the perimeter until I found a fence I could climb that put me near a practice field. Then I hoped the practice field fence and walked through the practice field dugout and came out almost in the Twins bullpen. I then walked up into the stands and enjoyed the rest of the game. Don’t try to keep me away from baseball!

Tickets: Free due to fence climbing. People left early so I sat 6 rows back of home plate for the final 5 innings.

-Youkilis still looks really funny taking cuts in the on deck circle.

-Nothing about the game really stood out, except it was fun to see my buddy Drew Sutton in a Red Sox jersey for the first time.

-The people in my row really violated the “only allowed to get up twice during a game” unwritten rule. I was on the aisle seat and I swear there were multiple people who got up and down 4 times in the last 5 innings… You know what though, I wasn’t mad. It’s spring training for fans to. I just hope they figure it out before the real season starts.

-My favorite fan of the nights was this 8 year old kid who spent 2 entire innings giving me the run down on EVERY single Red Sox big leaguer. Super impressive… He should definitely write the Red Sox review for Diamond Hoggers. I’ll see if I can run him down.


It was so good to be around baseball all day. If I could have gone to a third game tonight, I think I would have. Either way, I saw four solid teams who should make serious playoff pushes this year.  Tomorrow I’m headed to Port Charlotte to see the Rays take on the Pirates

Extra Innings

My texting convo with Drew Sutton tonight:

Franco: Yo, can we grab dinner Tues or Weds night?

Sutton: Yeah, I was told I’m going to be starting at first base Mon and Tues.

Franco: Here is your chance to make Boston forget about Gonzalez. It’s your job to lose.

Sutton: You shouldn’t smoke crack Franco.