Sunday, February 28, 2016

Musings From My First Day at Dodgertown

In the trenches with the Dodgers.
Dream come true.
My head is still spinning from my first day visiting the Dodgers' spring training complex at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, 
Arizona--definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. I am told the access the Dodgers give their fans at spring training is, bar none, the closest and most personal of any of the 10 teams that work out in Arizona. Most times, just a chain link fence or waist-high barricade came between myself and the players. The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting, allowing fans to feel the game in a way that just isn't possible during the stressful season. Watching the time-worn drills under the hot desert sun and hearing the players humorously rib one another, reminds everyone there, players and fans alike, that baseball is indeed a game. Read on for your first look at the 2016 Dodgers spring training.

Japanese fans giving Kenta Maeda
a hero's welcome.
Penny for your thoughts,
Kenta Maeda Fever: The newly signed Japanese league star pitcher is by far the biggest draw at camp, especially with the Japanese press and fan tour groups. Full-on rock-star screams accompany his every move. He somehow escaped the throngs and sat quietly in a dugout at one point this morning; I managed to catch him taking a breather from it all.

Is Dre here to stay?
Dre-Watch: Everybody's favorite trade target each spring, outfielder Andre Ethier, is still in camp. Trade talks seem to have quieted for now, as the Dodgers still have until April 21 to deal him before his 10/5 rights kick in (10 years of service time in the league, 5 with the same team, a player can refuse any trade). The team will most likely wait to see if Carl Crawford can make it through camp without pulling a hammy or straining his back (is this possible?). Same thing with Yasiel Puig, whose own hamstring pulls last season were almost legendary. Ethier is so solid, but he's also about to turn 34. We'll keep on Dre-Watch.

BP under the Arizona sun.
Overheard At The Batting Cage: I watched a handful of infielders take batting practice, and third baseman Justin Turner was keeping things light. "Come on, [second baseman Howie] Kendrick, I know that one won't get [catcher A.J.] Ellis from first to third!"

Cody Bellinger turning
heads and making believers.
Future Dodger Star In Camp: Non-roster invitee first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger was hitting the snot out of the ball during batting practice. One solid line-drive after another. He easily had the best hacks of the group he was hitting with, including stalwart vets, Turner, Kendrick, Chase Utley, and A.J. Ellis, as well as young standouts Corey Seager and Enrique Hernandez. The cool thing was hearing all the vets ooohing and aaahing after each stinger that came off of his bat. Nice confidence builder for the 20-year-old, to be sure. Who knows, he might get a September call-up this year.

Grandal signing
autographs after practice.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal: looked good in the batting cage and behind the plate. His form on the field and chipper nature with fans suggests his off-season shoulder surgery was successful.

Still and always will be Tommy.
Tommy Lasorda, still full of piss 'n' vinegar: Dressed in full uniform with a dollop of zinc oxide on his nose, Tommy was behind the wheel of his own golf cart, closely watching and commenting on batting practice. Then he signed autograph after autograph. How old is this guy?

I'll be out there again tomorrow, soaking up the Arizona sun and watching the boys in blue.

1 comment:

  1. Your dream come true!! Sounds like a great day. Keep posting.