Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’
Spring Training games may not count toward the standings, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t stories for reporters to cover. Many members of the media are at Spring Training for most, if not all, of camp. While it’s tough to be away from home for that long, there are also some benefits to covering Spring Training, compared to regular season action. To get more insight on the matter, I caught up with Stefan Stevenson last week in Surprise. He covers the Rangers for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Nathan: Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like as a writer to be out here for spring training?
Stefan: The first time I covered a Spring Training, it was in February of 2014. Jeff Wilson, the lead beat writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, had a serious back issue, and I had to cover for him. That first couple weeks, it’s intimidating because you don’t know – I was covering TCU at the time, so I wasn’t paying that much attention the Rangers. So you do have to do a crash course in who everybody is. I mean, the simplest little things—because you don’t know anything. So that was tough for a couple weeks. But quickly, you start getting engrossed and know everybody’s name. I’m not just talking about players, but personnel and staff. So once I got my bearings, I really started to enjoy it. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, going back to being a kid. So to actually be able to come out and cover a Spring Training was awesome. And even though it was intimidating, I loved it. And the next year, when I was on the beat, it was so much easier because I knew everybody and had already been on the beat for half of ’14 and loved it. Now, coming out here, I can’t wait to get out here. Not only the weather, the sun, but it’s almost a relaxing atmosphere. And even though you’re doing a job – and it can be stressful sometimes – just the whole ambiance of spring training and the players are relaxed, I love it. By the time March is winding down, everybody’s ready to get home, and I am too, but for that first month, first three or four weeks, it’s my favorite part of the job, actually.
N: What are some of the dos and don’ts on the media side that fans wouldn’t know?
S: Well, I knew this, but it is a big don’t. When you’re in the clubhouse and you’re waiting to talk to a player, when they first get to their locker, it’s always good to give them a chance to get settled instead of bum rushing them. Especially if they’re not dressed yet or if they have their street clothes on, you want to give them a chance …to put their uniform on or if they’re going to take a shower, get out of their uniform and into their clothes…The other don’t that I needed to be reminded of – I knew it – but you’ve got to know who’s pitching that day. Not as much in spring training, but in the regular season, if a pitcher’s throwing that night, a starter, you don’t talk to him.
N: What is different about covering spring training vs. the regular season?
S: The daily beat is about finding out the updates on injuries, any kind of change in the lineup or rotation, asking guys about what happened. Here’s one difference: in spring training, we get reaction and find out stuff that happened in a game or earlier that day. A lot of times during the regular season, with deadlines and time crunches, we have to follow up the next day on something that happened, like an injury or what happened with a pitcher in a certain inning the night before. There’s not a lot of time a lot of times during the regular season with the night games to get all that information. Sometimes, the player’s not available …or you just don’t have enough time and you’ve gotta wait until the next day. So that’s a difference.
N: So that’s just a product of the games being earlier out here?
S: Yeah, yeah. Basically. And the access is a little different. Like when a pitcher is done out here, like a starter, he’ll go four innings and then eventually – this is probably something fans probably don’t realize – in spring training, when a starting pitcher is done with his game and he leaves the field, he’ll go in and take a shower and the PR people for the Rangers will let us know, ‘hey, Colby Lewis is now available in the clubhouse.’ Before the game’s even over – the game’s still in the fifth inning – whoever wants to talk to Colby Lewis can go in there and get his reaction to how he pitched and have that done before the game’s even over. And same with position players. If a starter, like Shin Soo Choo, comes out in the fifth inning and he’s in there, we can talk to him and ask him about his first several at-bats, and get it over with, which is nice. Because… you just want to get quick hit notes and get people’s reaction.
N: So it’s a lot like when you come out to Frisco and cover a rehabber?
S: Yeah, exactly. When a major leaguer is in Frisco, they usually let us talk to them as soon as they’ve gotten situated in the clubhouse and have had a shower… deadlines don’t go away. And even though the internet’s out there and you can always post something, we’re a newspaper, so we’re trying to get it in the next day’s newspaper.
N: How about the schedule? Players and coaches talk about it. It’s a lot different out here. I know it’s tough for the media as well. You guys are used to coming in at two o’clock in the afternoon and suddenly, you’re here at 6 or 7 in the morning.
S: Man, I’m the poster child for that not being a good thing, because I’m a night owl. I don’t go to bed typically til two o’clock in the morning. And out here, the clubhouse a bunch of times has been open at 7:00 am or 7:15 am for 45 minutes…I, thankfully, have a condo two minutes from the complex here which makes it a lot easier…But still, getting up at 6:00 am – even as a little kid, I never got up early. I always slept in…I like the regular season schedule. Although, I’ll say this. Having your nights free, having more of like a 9-5 type job – even though it’s more like 7-5 out here – is nice, but it still makes for long days.
N: What’s the earliest you’ve gone to bed out here?
S: Man, I’ve been in bed like at 8 o’clock with my iPad, watching Netflix and falling asleep by 8:30. That is ideal, man. If I could do that, that’d be awesome. The only time I would do that at home is if I was sick. I’ll fall asleep sometimes on the couch, but get in bed that early? No way.
N: What’s one or two of the biggest storylines you’re following as spring training wraps up?
S: The fifth starter position is still totally up in the air. I’m leaning towards AJ Griffin winning it, but he’s still coming off Tommy John [surgery], and is still a question mark. I mean, Jeremy Guthrie I know was a favorite of some, but he did not do well in his last outing. Personally, from the get-go, I thought Chi Chi Gonzalez had the upper hand, but he’s kind of been up and down. Same with Nick Martinez. I mean, it’s still wide open. That, and then the utility infielder/outfielder. There’s guys with different attributes that have had awesome camps. I think Ryan Rua is a lock for the roster. I think Pedro Ciriaco, he’s had an awesome camp. But those two guys have had the best camps of anybody. And then you’ve got guys like Justin Ruggiano, who’s got a proven track record. Drew Stubbs, who’s an awesome defensive player. Hanser Alberto is an A-plus fielder who can play anywhere in the infield and he’s been doing it this spring at third, short, second, first. There’s some tough decisions to be made, and I know that’s how Jeff Bannister would prefer it. But I really don’t know. There’s like three of four positions on the bench, the fourth outfielder, that it could go either way.
N: What are you most looking forward to about getting back home?
S: Sleeping in my own bed, seeing my two cats, my wife, obviously. And just getting back to my nighttime routine. Fans probably don’t know, but the beat writers typically get to the ballpark in Arlington around 2:30/3:00 every day for a 7:00 game. That’s when our day starts. It’s 2:30 til basically 11:30/midnight, and that’s more of my style… It’s fun when the games start counting, too. When everything’s more serious and there’s something specific to write about that means something, because a lot of what we’re doing out here is conjecture and projections and predictions so that’s cool when it all means something.
N: Thank you, sir.
S: No problem.
Baseball term of the day: gateway – Syn. of first base. It is so called because first base is the threshold to the other bases and the opportunity of scoring.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
We spoke with Guilder Rodriguez about transitioning from player to coach. We will have more on RidersTV soon; here is a teaser of our interview with him from our Spring Training Travels Series. All installments from the series can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, and our mid-trip update.
Although his time in the Major Leagues was short-lived, Guilder Rodriguez is one of the most well-known RoughRiders in team history. The middle infielder is the all-time leader in Riders in games played, hits, and stolen bases.
Coming soon to #RidersTV is an exclusive interview with Guilder about Spring Training as a coach and his upcoming role as a coach in the Dominican Summer League.
Here is a preview:
Baseball term of the day: zob – a weak person; a fool.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the sixth day of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In this installment, Steve Goldberg tells the story of a RoughRiders fan who has traveled with the Rangers to Spring Training for the past 27 years. All installments can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.
Nathan, Ryan, and I have spent the majority of our week here at Spring Training out on the back fields in Surprise, covering former RoughRiders and other players that will soon be a part of the team.
When you watch a game on the back fields, it is an entirely different experience than taking in the action at the main stadium. There are small crowds of about 50 people made up of mostly players, coaches, a few writers, and a handful of Minor League baseball fans.
I was watching the Rangers squad play the Royals the other day and encountered a fan sitting next to me who was a Northwest Arkansas Naturals season ticket holder since their inaugural Texas League season in 2008. Every time a former Natural stepped up to bat, she screamed their name and said, “Come on! Hit a home run! It’s your turn now!”
The second day we were here, Ryan and I had just finished talking to Ryan Strausborger when two RoughRiders fans approached us. They introduced themselves and recounted their memories of Strausborger playing at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
Sheree Bernstein and her mother Edie are loyal Riders fans and Rangers fans. Sheree, a founder of the Riders Booster Club, has followed the Rangers to Spring Training for the past 27 years and can frequently be seen on the back fields in Surprise watching the Minor League games.
Sheree and her mother Edie have countless Spring Training stories about their experiences with former RoughRiders and Rangers over the years. They are season ticket holders at Dr Pepper Ballpark. As much as they love attending RoughRiders home games, they also enjoy the feeling of watching past, present, and future Riders play on practice fields in front of very small crowds.
After meeting Sheree and Edie, I asked if they would share their Spring Training story with our readers here on the blog. They agreed. The following words are Sheree’s.
I would consider us “baseball lifers”. We might not have played or started life as fans. But somewhere along the way, the game and interest in those that play it, run it, and also love it grabbed a hold. We don’t foresee a time it’s not a big part of our lives.
It all began for me when I became an ‘Astros Buddy’ in the mid ‘70s. Going to Astros games in Houston was a way for me to spend quality time with my dad. My love for baseball evolved over time. Mom and I both have spent time as baseball employees. I was an usher, and Mom was a hostess at Dr Pepper Ballpark’s JCPenney Club.
Spring Training has been a big part of our baseball lives for the last 27 years. We started back at the Rangers’ camp in Port Charlotte, Fla., and continued on to the current complex in Surprise. We love the climate, the scenery, the people, and the immersion of baseball for a couple weeks each year.
Mom likes to remember seeing Elvis Andrus when he was young and shy. She has enjoyed seeing him grow into a team leader. Not to mention, he is also an All-Star caliber player.
We love Spring Training so much because it is an opportunity to meet up with friends and get to see the big league team come together up close. We also reacquaint with former players who have already come through Frisco and those that may soon be arriving. We love the relaxed atmosphere and the chance to see the players develop, grow, and mature from one year to the next.
As you can see, Sheree’s passion for baseball is evident. The small handful of fans like Sheree and Edie who attend the Minor League games feel like they are a part of the action on the opposite side of the chain-link fence.
The back fields provide a much more intimate Spring Training setting than the main Surprise Stadium. The “baseball lifers” like Sheree, Edie, and that Northwest Arkansas Naturals fan know that even though the players on the field may not be superstars yet, their opportunity is just a few steps away.
And that, to me, is the most beautiful thing about baseball.
Baseball term of the day: foozler – a lucky base hit
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the fifth day of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In this installment, we check in with some former RoughRiders who were invited to major league camp as non-roster invitees. All installments can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.
If you’ve been to a Spring Training game, you know the drill. The major leaguers play for the first five or six innings, before you find you find yourself asking “who?” every time an unfamiliar name is introduced as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement. These mystery players are often the non-roster invitees.
Non-roster invitees are players with minor-league contracts (i.e. not on the 40-man roster), but are participating on the major league side of camp instead of the minor league side. Often, they are younger players working their way to their first full-time MLB roster spot, while veteran big leaguers are occasionally brought in, too (a la Jeremy Guthrie this year). This spring, the Rangers had 18 non-roster invitees, including a handful of former RoughRiders. While many of the non-roster invitees won’t make the big league roster right away, the opportunity to train alongside some of the game’s best players provides a valuable experience.
“I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself,” said 2014-15 RoughRiders infielder Drew Robinson. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, absorb anything I can from these guys.
And that absorption of knowledge from established veterans can be just as important as refining on-field skills.
“Seeing how they go about their business day to day, I mean, it’s huge because it’s something you have to be able to learn how to do,” said 2015 RoughRiders outfielder Ryan Cordell. “At this point in my career, learning how to become better off the field, how to prepare myself when I come to the field, that’s the biggest part.
Though they’re not a regular face in the Rangers clubhouse during the summer, they’ve been welcomed in as part of the family.
“It’s a good vibe around here,” said 2013 RoughRiders catcher/first baseman Brett Nicholas. “They treat us like we’re part of the team. I’ve enjoyed talking to some of the veteran guys who have been around for a while and just them giving their two cents on what it’s like to play at this level.”
Monday, the Rangers sent nine players down to minor league camp – including Robinson, Cordell and Lewis Brinson. Though they won’t be in Arlington for opening day, they’re another step closer to becoming full-time major leaguers, whether later this season or later on down the road. And perhaps next year, they’ll crack the 40-man roster and can serve as gracious hosts to the newest wave of non-roster invitees.
Baseball term of the day: add a foot – To gain physical maturity and thus increase the velocity of one’s fastball
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
The RoughRiders Media Relations Department is at Spring Training in and around Surprise, Arizona. Here is a video update of the trip so far. All installments in the Spring Training Travels series can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.
This marks the fourth day, third full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In our fourth installment, Steve Goldberg recaps the Rangers’ weekend trip to San Antonio and the adjustment to getting back in a rhythm at camp. All installments can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.
With two full days of Spring Training under our belt, we move on to our third day here at the Rangers’ training complex. When we arrived in Surprise on Saturday, a group of players were noticeably missing. They were playing two games against the Kansas City Royals in San Antonio.
It was a very enjoyable weekend for the group who made the 850-mile trek back to Texas. The Rangers won both games against the Royals, scored a total of 20 runs, and played in front of 27,536 fans on Friday and 33,592 on Saturday. This was indeed a major change of pace from playing in smaller Cactus League ballparks.
The team experienced many thrills over the weekend, highlighted by former RoughRider Lewis Brinson’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Friday’s 7-5 victory.
Hanser Alberto, another former Rider, enjoyed the change of pace going from Surprise to San Antonio for the weekend. Alberto was a perfect 2-for-2 in the first game Friday.
“The San Antonio weekend was great,” Alberto said. “It’s a good city and it was great to be around the guys. We had a lot of fun there and played very well.”
Alberto and the squad who made the trip to San Antonio were back at the Rangers’ training complex Sunday. They had a quick turnaround, with a 1:05 p.m. big league game against the Angels looming. Despite the major contrast between playing at the Alamodome and Surprise Stadium, the team had a smooth transition back to the everyday routine of camp.
“It’s the same game, nothing new,” Alberto said. “You see the ball and hit the ball. You make the routine plays and play your hardest. We came back here and are continuing to work hard. We want to keep showing everyone that we’re ready.”
For Alberto, his first taste of Major League action last year has impacted his mindset at this year’s Spring Training. He continues to receive valuable advice from the experienced players in the clubhouse that have helped him with adjust to playing in the big leagues.
“I have learned a lot from the veteran guys,” Alberto said. “It’s been a great experience. Now I have a better idea how to work and concentrate. The results are going to be different every day, but now I feel comfortable at every point in the game. I am more ready than ever.”
There are many other former Riders in a similar position. Chi Chi Gonzalez, Keone Kela, and Ryan Strausborger all made their Major League debuts with the Rangers last season and bring that experience with them to this year’s Spring Training.
As mentioned in our Day 2 post, this is my first time at Spring Training. One of the most noticeable and pleasantly surprising things has been observing the interaction between Major League veterans and the up-and-coming prospects throughout all levels of the organization.
Everyone here is striving to improve and advance to the highest level of the sport. The veterans have a visible presence at the camp giving their tips and offering advice to the younger players, who are learning as much as possible in their quest for success.
Baseball term of the day: freight delivery – slow pitching
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the third day, second full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In our third installment, Nathan Barnett sits down with Tepid Participation, @TepidP on Twitter, to talk who he is looking for on the back fields, why he comes out to Spring Training, and the Choctaw Lazy River. This interview took place on Saturday, March 19. All installments can be found here, including Day 1 and Day 2.
Nathan: Welcome out to Surprize, Arizona and today we are joined by TepidP of Lone Star Ball. If you’re a fan of the Rangers minor leagues, you know who he is. Michael: first, thanks for joining us
TepidP: No problem.
N: Like us, you’re here on the first day of your Spring Training Trip. How long will you be out here this year?
T: I’ll be out here about five days this year (Editor’s note: same as us! Not planned)
N: Is this an every year trip for you?
T: Every year, man. It’s a blast.
N: I know you have fun out here, but what specifically brings you out here?
T: Just looking at the new kids mostly. It’s one of those opportunities–you see all of these kids who get drafted in June–this is one of my opportunities to see a lot of those kids. A lot of Dillon Tate, Mike Matuella–even if they are not pitching, like in Mike’s case. You still get your first set of looks at some of the new guys and then see some of the progress that some of the guys may have made away from Frisco.
N: So, first thing you did, you got off the plane and came straight here. Who was the first guy you were looking for, the first person you wanted to see out here?
T: After you guys!?! I would have to say it was G-Rod (Guilder Rodriguez). I love seeing Guilder, and I am so happy for him to make that transition into the second part of his baseball career, which may or may not end up being even more fruitful than the first part of his career. He’s going to start coaching; I had the chance to catch up with him the first few minutes that I was here, and he’s really excited about the opportunity. I am happy for him. He had an amazing career, and all RoughRiders fans will remember him, and he’s a legend.
N: Now we have to give you some credit here. As many who knew G-Rod as a player, you knew he would be a coach six or so years ago.
T: Everyone did! He’s always been a coach. You know, he was a coach who every once in a while would fill in at shortstop. He’s done that for the last, I don’t know, half-decade of his career, and even he’s known that. It’s nice that he finally made the transition, and he just told me “no more pressure. No more pressure of going 0-for-4.” I just laughed at him. He’s really excited about the opportunity, so I am happy for him.
N: First games are about to start today. Who are you excited to watch today specifically?
T: Well today we are going to get to peek at the starters. Actually, a couple of guys probably bound for Frisco. We’ve got Jose Leclerc on one field, and we have Connor Sadzeck on the other. Those guys will probably go a couple of innings, and obviously those are guys who can dial it up, but also need to work on refining their command, and refining their mechanics, and perfecting their delivery, and they will have a chance to do that today. Hopefully, we will see them for a little while in Frisco.
— RoughRiders Media (@FriscoRRMedia) March 19, 2016
N: Okay, I am going to put you on the spot: if you had to guess the starting nine position players in Frisco for Opening Day, who would you guess they will be.
T: Oh geez, that really is on the spot. I would say: “Condor” Guzman (Ronald Guzman) over at first. Isiah Kiner-Falefa at second. I’m going to say Luis Marte at short. Third base…uh…I’m not really sure honestly. Then I think Royce Bolinger will be in the outifeld, probably Preston Beck in right, and I’d probably go with Chris Garia (Christopher Garia) in center?
— Frisco RoughRiders (@RidersBaseball) March 19, 2016
N: And the designated hitter on Opening Day?
N: We will see what we can do! You tweeted last week about Matt Bush, who is a new guy with the organization who has, let’s called it a “checkered past.” You heard he was throwing upper 90s, with a good hard slider. How excited are you to delve into his story?
T: It’s fascinating, you know. It’s never not going to be fascinating to have a guy who was literally in prison the last three years who has been given an great opportunity by the Rangers. We will have to see if he can take full advantage of it. The skills seem to be there, so it will be up to him.
N: Now let’s talk a little off the field stuff. You are a guy who covers baseball but you’re also into the business of baseball. What was your first reaction when you heard about the Choctaw Lazy River going into Dr Pepper Ballpark this summer?
T: (laughs) My first reaction was “cannonballllll.” I think it’s great. I think its a great opportunity for you guys to get more people out to the park for some great family fun. It’s not a big surprise that at the minor league level, you are marketing the experience even more so than the players. This is another opportunity to put another thing in front of people that will be a draw and get people to be excited about coming out to the park. I think it’s absolutely the coolest thing going.
N: Now you are usually working when you are out at at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Do you have plans to bring the family out and enjoy the lazy river as a fan?
T: I am just going to do a cannonball in my clothes. I am just going to run out there on the first day and put my notepad to the side and just do a cannonball, and we will inaugurate it like that.
N: Well, we will warn the ushers about that. Last thing, what story lines are you watching coming out of spring.
T: Obviously Triple-A should be amazing. With all of the guys that have come through Frisco the last year or so, Triple-A should be great. You’re going to have Jurickson Profar, and probably Joey Gallo, and Nomar Mazara, and Lewis Brinson, if he’s not down with us in Frisco. You’re going to have an amazing opportunity there to watch some really great potential future superstars. Then down at the A-ball level, you have guys in the next wave coming along. Guys like Dillon Tate, guys like Luis Ortiz. Eventually later this summer you will see Mike Matuella and guys like Eric Jenkins and Josh Morgan, kind of the next generation of guys who will become household names and future Rangers.
N: Well thanks for your time! Enjoy your time out here on the back fields!
Baseball term of the day: bite – the sharp downward break, late or fast, of a curveball or slider.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the second day, first full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. All installments can be found here, including Day 1.
We made it to Arizona! Each of us comes to Surprise with slightly different levels of Spring Training experience. Nathan is the most experienced of the three of us, already having been five times previously. For Steve, this is his first ever visit to Spring Training (and we hope it’s not his last).
I’m somewhere in the middle. This week marks my fourth visit to Arizona for Spring Training. But those first three visits were spent exclusively in the major league parks, casually taking in America’s pastime under the sun. Don’t get me wrong; each of those visits was quite enjoyable. However, this year, I’m exploring the minor league side of the complex too, and it’s taking my Spring Training experience to the next level.
On the back fields, you get a little bit of everything. Whether it’s Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre sharing a morning laugh in major league camp, all the minor league pitchers gathering for some morning insight and advice, or just the constant crack of the bat coming from some of the organization’s up-and-comers in one of the various batting practice setups, there’s an interminable feel of baseball in the warm, Arizona air.
After taking in the morning workouts, we stayed in Surprise for the afternoon to take in some of the minor league games against Kansas City. It’s a much different feel than a major league game out here. Not only are the crowds significantly smaller, but they’re mainly composed of other players, coaches and scouts in the organization, as opposed to fans. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to watch a hitter battle through a long at-bat or a pitcher find a way out of trouble. After all, baseball is baseball is baseball, whether it’s played in Surprise Stadium or on Field 6 of the complex.
One of the big takeaways from my first day on the back fields was the intrigue of seeing the Rangers organization together as one, with seven practice fields separated by just a few hundred yards. In one moment, you may be looking at the current major leaguers, while the next moment may lead you to the rising stars that will don a minor league uniform this summer in Frisco or elsewhere in the farm system. And sometimes, the major and minor league worlds collide, in the case of non-roster invitees. I’ll have more on them later in the week here on the blog.
Until then, I’m looking forward to spending more time on the back fields. If you’re like me and have only ever seen Spring Training from the major league parks, I’d recommend venturing around the complex a bit more next time you come to really soak up what Spring Training is all about.
The fun is only beginning here in Surprise. Steve will have another update for you tomorrow.
Baseball term of the day: Agate – The baseball. The term may have derived from “marble,” another name for the ball. Agates and aggies were popular forms of marbles.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the first day of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. All installments can be found here.
The offseason is a blur. It feels like just a few weeks ago that I had the amazing honor of calling a Carolina League Championship with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and now, here I am, four months into a job of my dreams, getting ready to head back to Spring Training.
It’s easy to get romantic about Spring Training–so I am going to indulge myself. The high skies, the dry mountain air, the popping of mitts, the cracking of bats, the buzzing of the diehard fans, and the crackling of cleats on the concrete walkways all coalesce to make for baseball heaven. Fans have the opportunity to experience the ballpark aromas, the pace of a baseball game, and the sounds of the public address announcer bouncing around the ballpark well before the season truly begins in April. It’s like getting a sneak peek of a blockbuster movie: it’s totally legal–you’re even invited. Yet it feels like somehow, despite being a John Smith or a Jane Doe, that you get to pull the curtain back in a way that can make you feel like you have special insider access.
With-a-doubt, this was and still is true for me (now, I am just fortunate enough to have a little more access). Even before I ever went, Spring Training was stuff of legends. My baseball-loving grandfather got in the habit of taking grandchildren out to Rangers Spring Training (then in Port Charlotte), and I looked forward to the chance for years. My older cousins came back with stories of meeting our heroes, of watching them up close, and of spending time in a baseball lover’s Mecca.
Then, grandpa got older, didn’t feel up for making the trip, and my excursion to the Sunshine State never happened.
Ten years later, I made it (this time to Arizona), and it was magical. A buddy of mine and I drove from LA to Goodyear to watch the Rangers and Padres…and drove back all in the same day. That’s how badly we wanted to go. That day, Josh Hamilton hit his first Rangers homer, a grand slam in a Rangers blowout.
I was hooked. I made it out to Spring Training each out of the next two years while in college.
Then I started working in baseball. Schedules made things tough, but I did make it back my first year in Myrtle Beach back in 2014. Lo and behold, one of the Rangers broadcasters was sick, and I was asked to fill in on the radio side with Matt Hicks. Cue terror and utmost excitement.
The point is not to show off that I had the chance to call a big league Spring Training game (don’t worry I did plenty of that back then). The point, rather, is that Spring Training is Magic Kingdom for me: The Most Magical Place on Earth.
The point, is that today it begins. In a week there will be tons of great stories to tell, and we cannot wait to tell them to you. Over the next six days we will be posting here on the Riders Insider Blog and on Riders social media channels, including our BRAND NEW, “Riders Media” twitter account, which will be more focused on providing in-depth content on Riders players, statistics, and insights from me, Steve Goldberg, and Ryan Rouillard on a daily basis.
So, until tomorrow…when we will be out in baseball’s favorite desert…so long!
Baseball term of the day: bleeder – a batted ball that, as the result of an erratic roll, pop, bad bounce, or overall slowness, becomes a base hit.
(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)
Following a long 2014 season and an off-season light on major roster developments, spring training is well underway for the Rangers out in Surprise, Arizona. And, despite camp starting under the dark cloud of serious injuries (see Darvish, Yu and Profar, Jurickson) for the second straight year, the promise of a new season and better results on the horizon are enough to encourage any baseball fan back here in the Metroplex. The big league club has already played nearly two handfuls of Cactus League games and, as expected, Texas has used a plentiful number of players in those contests, including several players we can expect to see in Frisco this season.
It’s never wise to put too much stock into spring training numbers, because it’s difficult to decipher between what’s reality and versus a desert mirage. That said it’s hard not to get excited over things like Rougned Odor’s torrid start (6 for 13 with two doubles) and good early reports on Elvis Andrus. Knowing that spring results should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, let’s take a look at what some like 2015 RoughRiders have done while moonlighting in big league games through March 10. (The minor league games for the players in camp will begin on March 16, and that is when we’ll begin to get a better idea of the roster makeup for each affiliate).
The Rangers’ 2014 Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year will look to take another big step toward the big leagues and may not be a long term resident in Frisco this season (assuming he starts there). Gallo, a non-roster invitee to spring training, has played in five of Texas’ eight games and is 3 for 10 with two walks, two strikeouts and a homer on March 8 against Cubs roster hopeful Eric Jokisch.
Gallo’s fellow “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” (the collective nickname given to teen wonders – Gallo, Alfaro, Mazara, Williams, Guzman and Brinson – that populated the 2013 Hickory Crawdads) has gotten into seven games, going 2 for 9 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. Look for Alfaro to get the lion’s share of the time behind the plate for Frisco this season.
The 21-year-old from Galveston has played in one spring training game, going 1 for 2. Williams did not have the smoothest entry into Double-A last season (.226/.250/.290), but he showed flashes of his powerful hit tool and figures to be one of the more scrutinized prospects on the RoughRiders this season.
Alberto could be ticketed for a level higher in the farm system at the start of the season based on position need and there is no doubt he has an advanced defensive tool. The Dominican, who was added to the Rangers’ 40-man roster in the off-season, won the Minor League Gold Glove Award for 2014. In six spring games with the big club, he is 4 for 12 with a double and a steal.
The Nebraska native could be in line to begin 2015 in Frisco despite being named a Texas League Postseason All-Star last year. He has swung the bat well in limited spring action, going 2 for 3 over two games.
Some of the big names (Jake Thompson, Andrew Faulkner) that figure to come to Frisco haven’t yet pitched in any big league games this spring, but several other hurlers have. Prospective Riders that have pitched scoreless baseball to date include Cody Kendall, Jose Leclerc and Kohsuke Tomita. Chad Bell, a Rider in 2012, may be with Frisco to begin 2015 as he continues his journey back from Tommy John surgery. He has allowed one run (on a solo homer) in his lone inning of action while Jesus Pirela (one run, 1.1 innings), Josh McElwee (two runs, 0.2 innings) and Efrain Nieves (two runs, 0.2 innings) have also been touched for runs.