Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Roger Dean Stadium

Spring Training, Episode 2

Daniel Descalso!!
With only hours left until Opening Day at Busch Stadium and a full season of Cardinals baseball ahead of us, here’s the final part of my Spring Training report with highlights of my time in Jupiter watching our boys.
Some tidbits of Spring Training Magic.  Enjoy!
Luck of the Late Arrivals
Kyle McClellan
After driving the 4 hours from Tampa, we arrived at Roger Dean Stadium less than 2 hours before game time on Friday.  We hit the team store briefly, then headed to the backfields as the small crowds were dispersing.  Figuring we’d missed the fun, we weren’t expecting much.  But we caught some pitchers taking batting practice, having fun competing for total distance, etc.  Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan were taking turns in the cage and after they were finished, all three signed autographs for the fans that were still hanging around.
In camp for approximately 30 minutes and getting autographs from three starting pitchers?  Why yes, I do believe in fairy tales!  😉
Pujols Smacks TWO!!
Albert Pujols is ……. Well, he’s Albert Pujols.  What more can you say?  The Spring Training crowd that Saturday went wild when Albert led off the 4th inning with a solo blast to left center field.  Next inning, Pujols decided to do it again, with another homerun.  We felt honored to be watching.  Nothing magic about this one…. Just Pure Pujols. 😉
Morning Frivolities on the Back Fields
On Sunday morning, Lance Berkman was good-naturedly terrorizing Skip Schumaker in the batting cages.  Yadi, Ryan Theriot, Skip and Berkman were taking turns in the cage.  The sun was hot and the crowd was sparse when Berkman decided to have some fun.  He started smacking the cage with his bat when pitches came in to Schumaker.  This progressed to full-fledge cage rattling to distract him.  Pretty soon Yadi and Theriot were joining in and all four were laughing.  It was one of those behind-the-scenes moments that makes me smile.  Nice to see Cardinal clubhouse chemistry alive and well.  😉
“Look!  It’s Carp!!”
That’s what I said to Hubby on Sunday, pointing up the sidewalk.  He mumbles something like “How can you see with that guy in the way?”
Turns out that guy was Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ Ace and starting pitcher for Opening Day.  He was heading out for a run in shorts and a t-shirt.  Nobody else was around. It was eerie and exciting all at the same time.  Carp wasn’t stopping to chat though, and I didn’t bother him to ask for an autograph.  Memories of the Carp temper and flashbacks to the icy glares he shot Brendan Ryan that time last season kept me from invading his personal space.  I did grab my camera though.  Carp in shorts??  I had an obligation to document that leg art.  😉
Blessed Are the Happy Autograph Givers
In my opinion, the best part of Spring Training is the accessibility to the players.  (For autographs as well as great photo opportunities) The environment is welcoming and the smaller venue affords a better chance to interact with these players we watch from a distance during the regular baseball season.  I adore observing Cardinals interacting with fans, especially with kids.  Some of the guys are admittedly better about it than others,  but those brief moments when a favorite ballplayer stops to take a picture or sign an autograph often will be more poignant memories for fans than the action on the field that day.
Skip Schumaker making kids happy
We certainly didn’t camp out for hours or pester players for autographs.  Several players voluntarily made themselves available to sign for fans after practice and before or after games. I know some players are jaded by the fact that autographs may end up on Ebay instead of as treasured spring training mementos.  However the players who take the time and spread some joy with a pen on a baseball make long-lasting, positive impressions on fans.  Those moments are priceless, no matter how old you are.
Well, those are a few of my highlights from Spring Training.  Game One of the 2011 Cardinals season is tomorrow!!!  We here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries look forward to sharing the season with you all!
GO CARDS!!

Spring Training, Episode 1

Spring Training means different things to different people.  To me, a trip to Florida in late March when the weather is warm and Opening Day is juuussssst around the corner makes perfect sense.  Mornings spent soaking up the sights and sounds of baseball drills on the backfields of Roger Dean stadium are not too chilly.  Starters are going longer into games and the lineups are full of actual, live 2011 Cardinals!!  It’s as close to “real” season baseball as possible… while still in the cozy setting of the Cardinals Spring Training facility, surrounded by palm trees, sea breezes and sunshine.
Brief Recap:
Previous Spring Training trips (’09 and ’10) were hard on Hubby.
In 2009, new fan syndrome was in full effect.  I’d be up at the crack of dawn, not wanting to miss a single glimpse of a guy in a Cardinal uniform.  I was on Yadi Watch constantly. We hadn’t heard about the opportunity of watching morning practice drills.  I took a total of 178 photos (many of them were blurry because I was shaking from the excitement of it all.)  I noticed a guy named David Freese (#66) and took pictures of Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel.  We saw two games and fell in love with the Spring Training atmosphere.
In 2010, new fan syndrome was still rampant.  PLUS I was armed with useful information from a baseball fan’s best tool: twitter. For example, this time I knew about Roger Dean stadium’s back fields, morning workouts & autograph opportunities, and the existence of Pyros Grill.  I was on Matt Holliday watch.  I took over 700 photos (some were still blurry because Brendan Ryan was spinning too fast for my camera or because I was drooling -just a little- over David Freese.)  I took pictures with Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse.  We saw 4 games – 2 home and 2 away.  I toured a baseball museum (because Aaron Hooks offered me free tickets if I’d review it for Cards Diaspora… #win!)  Highlight?? David Freese signed my shirt!!!  I was addicted to Spring Training.  Baseball overdose at it’s most extreme.
(Hubby was more than relieved to finally get me out of Florida!)
So, on our third trip to Spring Training, this year we did something different. Maybe because I’ve matured in my fandom, maybe because Hubby medicated me…who knows?  But somehow we achieved a more well-rounded Florida vacation.  Don’t get me wrong.  It revolved around baseball!  But we did venture away from Roger Dean.  We enjoyed restaurants and sight-seeing that didn’t involve player-stalking. (Granted, I knew I had to behave myself if Hubby would ever agree to a Spring Training trip #4!)
Last week we even went to see some *gasp* non-Cardinals games.  In fact, while Hubby was meeting friends for a day of fishing (he saw dolphins!!), I ventured off all by myself to watch the Phillies play the Braves.  That experience was a perfect Spring Training warm-up.  I was a berm bum, taking in a game whose players/teams I was less familiar with.  Honestly, I bought that ticket hoping to see Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee pitch for the Phillies and fully expecting to be cheering on former Cardinal Joe Mather in a Braves uniform.  Alas, none of my hopefuls were in the game.  So, I spent a lot of time watching just baseball. I didn’t care who won or lost. And you know what?  I loved every second of it.  The view from the grass was different, enlightening – the game looks different and catches that seem so simple when watching from the infield are suddenly a heckuva lot more impressive when the fielder manages to intercept a rocket while chasing across the outfield grass.  It was baseball.  Good baseball. Man, you gotta love Spring Training!
ST Game 1
Yay!! – 78 degrees, light winds and sunshine.
Ryan Madson, in all his Madson glory, LIVE!
Beach party on the OF berm
Boo   – No Joe, Halladay or Lee, but I got over it. 😉
That same night we went to watch the Yankees take on the Astros at the Yankees Spring Training complex.  We were late to the game and the gate guardian wouldn’t let me bring in some of my camera gear. So we were even later after lugging it back to the parking lot again.  No Mariano Rivera appearance. (So far I was shooting 0-fer on my Spring Training hopefuls.)  However it was a night game and the stadium was full of New York fans.  Suffice it to say, that was a FAR different experience than Roger Dean Stadium full of Cardinal fans at 1:05pm games. 😉  Again, I savored every second.
ST Game 2
Yay!! –    Joba and Dave Robertson pitching relief.
Jeter. Jeter. Jeter.
Brett Wallace (former Redbird) playing 1st, but hitless
Kettle corn for dinner!
Chuckling about “Mr. Know-It-All” sitting behind us who was always handing out words of (incorrect) wisdom to his kids
Boo   –  Gate trolls and repeat trips to the parking lot.
With that, my Spring Training warm-up was complete and we had a 4-hour drive to Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) for Cardinals camp the next morning.  Needless to say… it was hard to fall asleep that night.
Next post:   my stories from Jupiter and my time at Cardinals’ Spring Training:  running into Chris Carpenter out of uniform, on the sidewalk by the stadium; the batting practice frivolity of Lance Berkman; autographs, meeting players, and my favorite Spring Training game moments.
Fitting it all in a blog before Opening Day (tomorrow) was poor planning… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Like I said, we all do Spring Training a little differently.  I spend a lot of time taking pictures instead of keeping a scorecard.  I love watching ballplayers sign autographs and how they interact with fans.  Spring Training provides a unique opportunity to live and breathe the beginnings of baseball season…. until the big show begins.
Happy Opening Day Eve!!  =)
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