Spring Training Update Day 5: Hanging with Brian Cashman & Joe Maddon

Spring Training is under way. Since we’re not lucky enough to be down in the Florida sunshine, we still have 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 Brian Cashman being a nice guy, Joe Maddon and the pretty lady in blue, a Zobrist performance off the field, and more. Tune in all week as Franco reports on ST exploits, and be sure to follow him on twitter or Facebook.

What’s up DiHogger Nation? Day 5 went a little something like this- Woke up at a buddy’s place in Naples for the last time this trip. Special thanks to TMobs for giving me an option other than the back of my car. I drove north to Port Charlotte where tons of Yankee fans came to watch at the Rays’ home ballpark.

Overall Highlight of the day: Chatting with Rays’ coach Joe Maddon after the game and watching him work the small crowd that was left.

Runner Up Highlight: Randomly walked by Brian Cashman, realized it was him and went back for a picture. He was very friendly to me and I appreciated that. Not that I’m going to start rooting for the Yanks or anything crazy like that, I just appreciated him being cool with taking a pic with me.

Overall Low-light of the day: Losing in a best of 3 living room horse death match with Ben Zobrist at his house.

Rays vs Yankees 1:05pm
Tickets: Free thanks to Zoby. Sat in the 2nd section behind home plate a few rows away from the wives.

-It was a pitcher’s duel all day that went into extra innings and ended in a 1-1 tie. Is there anything worse for the coaches and guys in the dugout not playing than having a spring training game go into extras?

-Swisher was just a normal player to the fans today, unlike when they played in Clearwater (Phillies) last Sunday and all the girls were going crazy for him.

-A vendor selling bags of kettle corn had the best sales line of the day. He was walking around towards the end of the game and with only one bag left, he yelled, “SINGLE KETTLE CORN, LOOKING FOR A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP.”

-The crowds normally start to thin out after the main starters get taken out in the 5th inning or so. By the 9th there was hardly anyone left and by the 10th it was pretty much empty.

Joe Maddon and the Pretty Lady in Blue

I watched the end of the game in the first row about even with first base. The Rays were in the first base dugout and have to walk through a fence in right field to get to their clubhouse. Joe Maddon was one of the last guys to leave the dugout and while he was walking by a pretty lady in blue called out to him from a few seats away from me, “Hey Joe can I please have your autograph? Please Joe? It would make my day. Please?”

Right when Joe came over to give the lady an autograph, about 20 kids and fans rushed him to try to get there stuff signed also. He stopped to look up at everyone and said “Man. You guys tricked me. You lure me over with the pretty lady in blue and then all run down here and get me. I just came over to give her one autograph… man you guys are good! You totally tricked me.”

Joe stayed and signed autographs and chatted with the fans until everyone that wanted one was satisfied. I thought it was super cool of him to do that, especially after an extra inning game that took forever.

PS: I think I’m completely over the whole autograph thing. I’d much rather have a picture taken with someone than an autograph, unless I have some sweet picture for them to sign, which has never been the case. Anyways, I’m happy today that I left the ballpark with pictures of me with Cashman and Maddon instead of a signed ticket stub.


Julianna Zobrist Puts on a Show at the Local Coffee Shop

After the game I headed over to a local coffee shop to meet up with Zoby and his VERY talented wife. Julianna is a gifted musical artist and wanted to go to open mic night at the local coffee shop to practice some songs she’s been working on. The owner of the restaurant had told a bunch of people all week that she was coming in, so it was a pretty packed house and fun to watch her do her thing. I hadn’t seen her sing live before, but left impressed.

Midway through the show, Ben had gotten up from our couch to order some food, a lady leaned over to me and said, “Would it be ok if your buddy signed a few autographs for me?” Now this is a really interesting situation, that I haven’t been in before. I don’t want to sign him up for a major autograph session, but I also don’t want to be a jerk. Because of the atmosphere and the fact that Ben is a great dude, I said, “Ma’am, he would be happy to.”

When he got back from ordering, I said, “Hey dude, this lady behind us would really like an autograph.” He smiled and turned around to find the lady with a manila folder full of Zobrist pictures and asked if he would make out all the autographs personally to her 11 grandchildren. She had tricked me! You know what Zoby did? He signed all of them with a smile on his face and asked that lady a few questions about her grandkids. It wasn’t a big deal to him at all. One more reason why he’s a great dude… That and the fact that I’m writing this from his guest bedroom.



After the coffee shop, we went back to Zoby’s sweet house and found ourselves in a heated living room basketball shooting contest with some bogus, misshapen plastic bball on his two year old’s hoop. Long story short, I lost in a best of 3 series. But seriously, buy a round basketball for goodness sakes!

Just a fun over all day. It was cool running into Joe Maddon and Brian Cashman. I’m gonna be up early in the morning to go to an FCA meeting with Zoby and Dirk Hayhurst at a local high school. Really looking forward to that… Tomorrow, stay tuned for Yankees v Redsox. Could be crazy.


Extra Innings
This priceless exchange happened after Julianna’s mini concert at the coffee shop. Zoby and I are sitting on a couch in the back while Julianna was talking to some ladies about music in the front. An older gentleman walks up to Zoby on the way out:

Older dude: “So, when are you going to pitch again?”

Zoby: “Well sir, I haven’t pitched since high school so probably not for a while, but I should play in the field sometime this weekend.”

Older dude: “Do you play in the infield or the outfield?”

Zoby: “Both. I play all over.”

Older dude while patting Zoby on the back: “Hang in there son. They’ll find a position for you.”

I wanted to say- Sir, the Rays are guaranteeing him $18 mil over three years to NOT play just one position. Please don’t feel sorry for him!