February 26, 2010

Postcard from Tempe

This never gets old. No matter how many times you come out to spring training, every trip is fun and exciting. You never know what kinds of stories you’re going to take away with you and the anticipation of seeing the team after a long winter is huge.

You know how people frequently say they love the smell of freshly cut grass when they walk into a stadium? You hear it so much it almost becomes a cliché. Well, it’s true, that smell greets you like an old friend. When the players were done with their workouts, the grass was cut and that sweet aroma filled the stadium.

Every spring is kind of like a mini family reunion. The players probably don’t see it that way, but we fans sure do. We arrived late in the morning today and didn’t get to see all the guys, but it was good to see Robb Quinlan, Joe Saunders, Brian Fuentes, Brandon Wood, Jered Weaver, Maicer Izturis; newcomers Hideki Matsui and Brian Stokes among others.

So what stood out in my mind today? I learned a little bit about Terry Evans’ E Fellowship blog. It was something he started with some teammates from his days in the St. Louis Cardinals system. It’s one of the ways they stay connected.

Cheryl welcomed Hideki Matsui to the team and told him that we really need him for the World Series. That got Matsui to look up and smile. I don’t know how much English Matsui speaks, but he definitely knows “world series.”

The stories about the Japanese media following him every where are true. When he came out of the clubhouse to sign autographs, they were on him like… well, like white on rice. Here is a guy who’s every move is photographed and recorded and he seems to handle it all with great calm and amazing grace.

I thought Johnny Damon was a rock star (at least in his own mind), but Matsui appears to be is baseball’s version of the Beatles in Japan.

One of our favorites (we have so many) to see every spring is Brandon Wood. We kind of feel like we’ve watched him grow up. He’s been in the system so long that some of early pictures we have of him look like he walked straight out high school… which he basically did.

Cheryl and I both told him, “This is your year.” Cheryl went on to say that we’ve been waiting for this (his shot) for a long time and that her husband (me) shouts out “Free Brandon Wood” every year. Wood smiled and told Cheryl “I like that.”

It was also great to see Jered Weaver who has to be one of the most fan friendly players in all of baseball. He’s always cordial and accommodating. He chuckled when I had him sign a picture from his recent outing at the Dirt Bags intra squad game.

We also arrived just in time to see Joe Saunders walking back to the clubhouse after his work out. It looked like he had quite a work out. He gave us a quick hello, asked us how long we’d be in town and then said he’d see us tomorrow.

Saunders doesn’t know it yet, but we have a surprise to deliver to him tomorrow. We put together a photo album and CD from his opening day start last year. We did something similar for him when he made his major league debut.

Speaking of pitchers who made their debut, we also have an album and CD ready to give Sean O’Sullivan. Hopefully, we’ll see him tomorrow as well.

I tried to do a few impromptu interviews with my Flip video and it looks like I need to practice on that. I did get Brian Stokes and Howie Kendrick to tell me who their favorite teams and players were growing up.

Yes, True Grich asks the tough, hard hitting questions. You might say this is the blog that asks the questions the media types avoid.

What can I say? I’m always going to be a fan first.

I also tried to get Reggie Willits and Mike Napoli on video as well, but I messed that up some how. I guess it’s spring training for some fans too. Give me an “E-10” on those two plays today.

I did learn that Napoli’s favorite team was the Florida Marlins, but his favorite player was Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry wore #44 when he was with the Dodgers. I wonder if that’s why Napoli wears the same number. Perhaps I’ll have to ask him that tomorrow.

I have to tell you that when I hear someone’s favorite team is the Marlins, it reminds me how young some of these guys are. I mean the Marlins haven’t been in baseball all that long (formed in 1993); so it’s not the team I would expect to hear an adult say is their favorite. I must be getting old.

Please check out the videos below to learn about Kendrick’s and Stokes’ favorites.

One of the best parts of spring training is meeting other fans. Today Cheryl and I met a nice couple from Salt Lake City (Kirk and Lorri) who are Angel fans that follow the Salt Lake City Bees. They were making their first ever trip to spring training and their smiles said it all. They were loving every moment; getting autographs, having their picture taken with players and simply soaking it all in. They’ll be back.

It’s great being here again. It’s the eighth year in a row that Cheryl and I have come together. My spring training experience goes back to the days when the Angels played in Palm Springs, but it’s bigger and better than it ever was back then.

This is a great place to create memories. The smallest things making lasting impressions. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Two Questions for Brian Stokes:

I have to tell you, I had to chuckle when Stokes told me who his favorite team was growing up. If only he knew....

Two Questions for Howie Kendrick:

BallHype: hype it up!

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