For most of the year, my husband and I pretty much hate living in Florida. This time of year is a massive exception. All the heat, humidity, traffic, tourists, terrible drivers are almost worth it when you live 30 minutes from Joker Marchant Stadium in late February. My new President’s Day tradition is using my day off from work to wander around the practice fields and try not to implode from the awesomeness of it all. My first visit to Tiger Town is when my excitement for the season truly kicks in to high gear. This year, my day off happened to coincide with the first official pitcher and catcher work-out, Justin Verlander’s birthday, and the arrival of Prince. I’m sure you can imagine the circus that ensued. Small-scale, mind you, but still insane compared to the day I visited last year.
I haven’t figured out a good way to organize to work this into a neat narrative, and frankly, I don’t have the patience. Instead, I’m going to use the best of my pictures, notes from my cell phone, and the random texts I sent to my poor, working husband to give you some highlights from the morning.
I’ve noticed that there are three groups of people who show up to watch the early workouts- snowbird/transplanted/vacationing fans who come to watch the players and see how they look (that’s me), local baseball fans who have some free time and want to see what’s up, and autograph hounds. The autograph hounds are always the first to arrive so they can get a prime spot. By the time I showed up at around 8:30am, this was the scene:
This was already more people than I saw last year and more kept coming. There was some muttering from later arrivals that they wish they’d gotten there earlier to get a good spot, that they had no idea it was going to be this crowded. I was wish I had left later or stopped to get breakfast and coffee since the rumor was that practice wasn’t starting until at least 9:30am. It wasn’t all bad, though. One of the things I love about Spring Training is talking to other fans, finding out where they’re from, why they’re there, throwing inside jokes back and forth, listening to rumors, etc.
Notice that Coke is the only one letting his uniform fly? Yep. Pretty much everyone walked through (to applause) and didn’t stop to sign. I think Porcello may have signed a few before moving on. Scherzer and a few stragglers came out a few minutes after. After another few minutes, the press started gathering and we knew that The Man was emerging.
Verlander actually signed for a good amount of time, which led to a woman loudly complaining about how this was all a big show because the cameras were running, since “last time” there were only four of them standing around and he didn’t bother. She made the same comment repeatedly while Justin signed, which got old, especially since I’ve seen him sign autographs multiple times and had just listened to a man tell a story about how he’d taken pictures with fans at a movie theater once when he was out on a rain-out day. Anyway. After he finished and started to jog off, a few of us yelled “happy birthday, Justin!”, which got him to turn and wave with a big smile. He was followed by the coaches and office staff…
…and, much to our amusement, Laird and Avila brought up the rear.
They were running and Laird was having issues with the bag on his shoulder (aw.), but they both looked happy and were chatting away. They stuck together pretty closely throughout the day and I’m hoping that they’re falling back into a nice routine together. Alex looked healthy and energetic, which was a huge relief after the end of last season.
After a seemingly endless meeting at the back of the field, everyone took a warm-up lap (running right by us in the process) with Justin, Benoit, and Coke leading the charge. Do they look excited? I think they look excited.
Next time: Pitching workouts, fielding drills, Papa Grande attempts to “hustle”, and Coke blames his error on the coach.