Spring Training Update: Hanging in the Rays Locker Room

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. Today’s adventures include, sitting with the player’s wives, getting a foul ball, hanging out in the Rays locker room, a quick chat with Longo and his mullet, and more. 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 2

What’s up Diamond Hogger Nation? Franco here, from NextLevelBallplayer.com, ready to break down day 2-
Woke up at a buddy’s place in Naples. I had talked to the Ray’s Ben Zobrist the day before and he said he’d leave me a ticket at will call. After a solid drive that put me over 1,000 miles on this road trip so far, I pulled into the Port Charlotte Sports Park.

Overall Highlight of the day: Hanging out in the Rays locker room for over an hour with guys like Longoria, Upton, Jeff Niemann, Matt Joyce, Dirk Hayhurst and Zobrist.

Runner Up Highlight: Parking my ’98 Honda Passport in the Rays’ players parking lot next to multiple $100k cars.

Overall Lowlight of the day: Finding out that Zobrist likes pickle flavored sunflower seeds… I used to think he was cool.

Rays vs Pirates 1:05pm
Tickets: Free thanks to Mr. Zobrist
– I was so busy marveling at Manny’s dreads that it took me a little while to realize that I was sitting with all of the player’s wives.
-Manny looked great going 2-2 AND playing the outfield.
-Damon got his first base knock of the spring
-Pirates won but who cares

Hanging with the Wives
The Foul Ball
So I’m chatting with three of the player’s wives and having a good time watching the game when a foul ball gets hit towards us. (I am going to keep the wives’ identities private cause I don’t want to be “that guy” that wrote about them by name without them knowing. Just know that you’d recognize their husbands if I told you.) Anyways, wife #1 and #2 lean to get out of the way and wife #3 sees the ball but doesn’t move. #3 has the ball land a foot next to her, bounce off of her back (she was fine) and land about 2 feet from her.

Now the dilemma: I’m one row in front of her and 4 seats over with nobody between me and the ball that has come to rest kinda by her foot. I really want the ball, but I also wanna play it cool… The lady in the row over started to take a few steps towards it and instincts kicked in. As I was about to reach for it wife #3 picks up the ball. Awkward. I go to sit back down and she then proceeds to give me the ball as if I’m a little kid. Had to swallow my pride a bit on this one, but next time I play catch with a buddy, we’re using a big league pearl.

Dip can do what?!?!
This second story from the wives section blew my mind. There were a few bees flying near us that prompted this story.

Wife #1: “One time I was hanging out with a group of friends and I got stung by a bee. It hurt like crazy, but right away a guy took his dip out of his mouth and put it on the bee sting. It worked great and I was back to normal in no time.”
Franco: “Wow. This guy sounds like he’d be the one to suggest peeing on a mosquito bite.”
Wife #2: “GROSS! If any guy tried to but his nasty dip on me, I’d give him a swift karate chop to the neck.”

Moral of the story fellas- If you have a hammer in and your girl gets stung by a bee, make sure you know where she stands on having dip placed on her body (personally my wife would be in the karate chop group)… But if you are only concerned about results, evidently dip works wonders on bee stings.

In the 6th inning or so, just as the convo with the wives turned to Oprah and pedicures, I got the greatest text ever:
“Meet me outside the stadium by the batting cages.” Zoby saves the day.

Inside the Rays Locker Room
I had no idea Zoby was going to take me into the locker room. He had lined up a few unofficial interviews for me and there I was, just shooting the breeze with the Rays in their locker room.
Right when I walked in, Upton and Longoria were there joking around. They over heard Zoby saying to me that he had stayed up until 11:30 the night before.
Longoria: “Oh dang Ben. You stayed up until 11:30?!?! That is so crazy! You need to calm down. I’m afraid you’re going off the deep end.” Maybe you had to be there, but it was funny.

Other locker room happenings
-Matt Joyce was really cool. We talked for a solid 20 minutes and I will be rooting for him this season.
-Talked with Longo briefly, but was able to ask him a few questions, including the toughest pitcher he’s faced (Saving this for a later post).
-Having Dirk Hayhurst give me a copy of his book, The Bullpen Gospels. I had played against Dirk in college and he came over and we talked for a good half hour. He is an absolute character!
-On the way out of the complex (I was by myself) I walked by Joe Madden and told him to have a good night and he told me the same. I’m pretty sure he thought I was a minor league guy who’s name he couldn’t remember.

What a great day. After the locker room I went and grabbed some food with Zoby and then headed back to his house to chill with his wifey and 2 year old boy for the rest of the night. It was good catching up with him and relaxing… Tomorrow I’m headed to Fort Myers to check out the Twins and Red Sox round 2.

Extra Innings
Zobrist still had to shower, so I went and got my car and told him I’d come back and pick him up. I drove into the players parking lot by making a friend with the security guy and then parked my ’98 Honda passport. A few minutes later I realized that I had parked next to Tim Beckham, the Rays 2008 #1 overall pick. His Land Rover car doors opened up towards the sky when he got in… Mine just opened normal.