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 two games in the same day, the mascot and the autograph, the forgettable day of Sam Buchman, Red Sox/Yankees, reggae at the ballpark, 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 DiamondHog Nation? Day 6 went a little something like this- Woke up at a Ben Zobrist’s place in Port Charlotte at 6am to go support Dirk Hayhurst who was speaking at a local high school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes gathering. After the meeting, I dropped Zoby off at the field and headed to Bradenton to see the Pirates v Phillies. Once that game wrapped up, I headed north to the grand finale in Tampa: Yankees v Red Sox.
Overall Highlight of the day: Watching a 5 year old kid walk up and get the Pirates mascot’s autograph. Full story below.
Runner Up Highlight: Listening to Yankees and Red Sox fans yap back and forth all night.
Overall Low-light of the day: Having a sharp ground ball bounce off my hand… The guy next to me definitely interfered with me, but I still have to make that play. I was so upset I had to get up and take a walk.
Pirates v Phillies 1:05pm
Tickets: $12 for a bleacher seat, but I sat 1st row even with the 1st base coach.
-I was so stoked that I got to see Blanton throw for the second time this week. That was a huge reason why I wanted to come down to spring training in the first place. It’s not like there are any other Phillies pitchers I’d rather watch. Are you picking up the sarcasm? One more, for good measure? It’s clear to see that the Phillies will go as far as Joe Blanton will take them this year.
-Howard went big fly.
-Phillies won, but it was just a practice game.
The 4 Year Old Who Wanted the Mascot’s Autograph
So I’m sitting in the aisle seat in the first row, about even with the first base coach. A four year old kid who is in the aisle seat to my left looks over and sees that the Pirates’ mascot has come down to the front row one aisle away. Before the dad could realize what was happening, the kid started walking down my row having about 15 people make room for him as he walked over to the mascot with a baseball and pen.
When the kid got to the Mascot he just reached his ball and pen as high as he could but the mascot didn’t see him until the people around him got his attention. The mascot looked down at the kid and made the money gesture as a joke, but one guy took him serious and pulled out a dollar bill and gave it to the mascot. Now keep in mind that the mascot is wearing huge parrot hands and I just can’t imagine him being able to write anything remotely legible on a baseball.
I was thoroughly impressed as the mascot proceeded to sign the kid’s ball, give him the dollar bill, a high five and sent him back down the aisle to his dad. It was funny seeing the guy’s face who gave the dollar to the mascot and then watched the 4 year old walk off with it. The dad didn’t see everything that happened, just the big smile on his son’s face as he walked back with an autographed ball and a dollar bill… Nice work kid.
Why Sam Buchman Will Never Make His Wife Wait Again
Who is Sam Buchman? I have no idea. All I know is that I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a ballpark where the entire crowd was laughing at the same thing at the same time… Until today. Until Sam Buchman’s wife taught him a lesson he won’t ever forget.
Now to the actual story. It was the middle of the 8th inning and the Pirates were getting ready to come up to bat. Right as the Phils’ catcher is throwing down to second, the PA announcer comes over the loud speaker to the entire stadium. Everyone assumes that he’s going to announce the Pirates prospect coming to the plate. Oh no.
PA Dude: “Sam Buchman, please meet your wife outside the stadium by the ticket booth right away.”
Entire Crowd: “Ohhhhhhhhh.” Laughter then ensues with numerous spontaneous jokes flying around. Nobody knew who Sam was, but they still took the liberty to yell out their input.
“Don’t go Sam! You’re already in deep %&$#!”
“Best of luck getting out of the dog house by the end of the weekend.”
“Oh, no she didn’t!! Who does that woman think she is?!?!”
“Enjoy your evening Sam.”
Even the Pirates first base coach got into it by turning to the fans in my section and saying, “Oh man. Sam Buchman is in deep trouble tonight. Ouch.”
Yankees v Red Sox 7:05pm
Tickets: Free because of Mr. Sutton. I sat in the second section down the right field line before I moved down behind the Yankees dugout for the last few innings.
-It was a packed house with plenty of, surprise, surprise, VERY opinionated fans… Many of whom had thick accents. I was very entertained.
-A-Rod and Sutton raked. Both went 2-3 with two ropes.
-There was a Mark Prior sighting in the 8th. He threw a scoreless inning and I saw him touch 90 on the gun once or twice. I still think he’ll start the year in AAA.
-The Red Sox brought all young guys on the trip to Tampa. The only notable stars were Buchholz (3 scoreless innings) and Varitek (0-3).
-Red Sox JV Team 5, Yankees Super Varsity Team 3
Silky Smooth Shortstop
There was one guy on the field that stood out to me more than anyone else today and that was Jose Iglesias. The kid was silky smooth with the glove, making a handful of tough plays look routine. He also turned in a spectacular web gem, diving up the middle, getting to his feet and throwing a perfect strike to nip the runner at first… AND he had two knocks on the day. He reminds me of a speedy version of Alex Cora.
Jose was also involved in the funny fan comment of the day goes to the moderately tipsy Yankees fan in the 7th inning.
Stadium PA announcer: “Now batting for the Red Sox, #78, the SS, Jose Iglesias.”
Yankee fan stands to his feet and yells/sings: “Hey 78! I can be your hero baby… I can kiss away your tears.” A combination of his singing and thick New York accent got him plenty of chuckles from the fans in his section.
I have seen four Red Sox v Yankee games in person and was curious what it would be like tonight. There were some die hard fans there, but the overall stadium atmosphere felt pretty light hearted… I’ve had an incredible week, but as they say, all good things must come to an end. Tomorrow will be my last game as the Blue Jays take on the Tigers. I’m pretty excited to see Drabek pitch for the Jays… It would be even more awesome though if Joe Blanton got traded to the Tigers tonight and pitched for them tomorrow.
In the 7th inning the Pirates brought in reliever Michael Dubee. This marked the first time in my life I have seen a pitcher warm up to chill reggae. He came out of the pen and warmed up to Bob Marley, “One Love.” I love reggae music but was really taken aback hearing it at a baseball game. I guess if anyone was ever going to do it, it’s fitting that guy would be named Dubee.