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My Spring Training Trip

Eric Thames taking an A.J. Burnett pitch for the team.
Eric Thames taking an A.J. Burnett pitch for the team.

Flew back home yesterday (and boy are my arms tired). Yesterday was a very long day, 6:00 AM first flight meant being up before 4:00. There were a few moments there when I figured I wasn't getting on that flight too.  The didn't assign me a seat, telling me to talk to the people at the gate to get a seat assignment. Get there and course, they have over sold the flight. 'Would you take a $200 travel voucher?' No, I have a connecting flight. Ok, we'll call you up when we have your seat. They start boarding, and haven't given me a seat. 'We want to see who doesn't board before assigning your seat.' Thanks. So, everyone is boarded, and I don't have a seat. The 'flight closed' sign goes up and I don't have a seat. Finally they give me a seat, but course, the over head bins are full and I have to store my bad with my laptop under the seat in front of me. As the seats are too close together for comfort at the best of times, so it wasn't great. Thankfully it was short, just to Houston for the flight to Calgary. 

The trip was great. Lots of baseball. Lots of sun. A tip, always buy the strongest sunscreen you can get. Had a '30' for the first game and got burnt. After that, got the type of sunscreen that when you squeeze the bottle a sweater comes out. 

If you are ever in Dunedin, there is a bar a couple of blocks north of the stadium that had the best peel and eat shrimp that I'd ever had. Jolli Mons Grill. 

It was fun watching the games, parks are smaller, so you are closer to the players. Smaller is a relative thing, of course, there were over 10,000 people at the Phillies park in Clearwater and I didn't catch the attendance numbers at 'George Stenbrenner Stadium' but there must have been over 10,000 people there too. When you add in a Kenny Chesney concert across the street at the Buccaneers stadium, right across the street, just after, traffic in the area was nuts. 

Someone asked, a few days back, if I was given media access. I did get limited access to batting practice one day but when I asked for the same the next day, the answer was no. I was able to talk to Alex Anthopoulos for a few minutes. He asked 'have you tried to set something up with our PR department?' I said 'yes'. He said 'and they just blew you off, right?'.

The nice part is the ones that I have talked to have been very friendly. I saw Pat Hentgen, when he was running off to get to the bus to take him to the Phillies park,  and introduced myself. He said he didn't have time to talk but then still stayed for a few minutes, saying he liked the site. He said, when we talked, he had no inkling that the Jays were going to offer a job, then a couple of weeks later Alex called him. We talked about the '93 World Series and a couple of things before he had to run off. He said we could have a longer talk the next day, but I didn't get the media pass again. 

Anyway, the baseball itself was great fun. Watched 5 games. There is a tendency to think that, even thought you understand small samples sizes, what you see is more important than it really is. But some quick feelings:

  • The coaches all seem to get along great. John Farrell would sit and talk to different ones each inning. They all seemed to have fun together. 
  • David Cooper hit two home runs in the games I watched. He really looked comfortable at the plate and did a good job at first base. I know it was only a very few at bats, but he did look like a major leaguer. He is batting .364 this spring. Maybe this is the year he puts it all together. 
  • Edwin Encarnacion also hit a couple of home runs in the games I saw and hit a couple right to the wall. He's dropped some weight and looks to be in great shape. I saw him play first and he looked pretty comfortable there. He also played third in one of the games and made good plays on the two balls hit his way. It was nice to see that he has his timing down at the plate and is slowly bringing his average up.
  • Adam Lind seemed to get a hit every at bat that I saw. He had some doubles and a home run. He looked comfortable at first, and made a nice catch on a popup in shallow right. I'm sure he'll won't be a finished product when the season starts and that he'll be a better first baseman by the end of the season. 
  • Small ball: I think I'll likely write a long post on this but we tried at least one hit and run in every game I saw. Not all of them were successful but most of them were. There were a couple of times that signs were missed. I don't think I saw a hit and run in either of the last two seasons and listening to things Brian Butterfield has said, I think I'm right in saying that we didn't use the hit and run at all. Now, as a strategy, I'm not all that sold on the hit and run (and yeah I know some folks prefer the 'run and hit', I think the difference is semantics). Unless you have the right person at the plate, I don't think it is a good move. But as a fan, it is great fun to watch. Anyway, if the last few days are any indication, we'll get seeing a lot of hit and runs.
  • Mike McCoy put down a successful squeeze bunt two games in a row. Once he beat out the play at first and the other time it was very close. I've always liked the squeeze bunt. As long as the bunter gets the ball down it is almost impossible to defend, so if you have a runner on third and only need one run, it isn't a bad move. 
  • I was less thrilled when the Jays bunted in the first inning of the game against AJ Burnett. Corey Patterson singled, moved up to second on a wild pitch. Then John McDonald (batting second, please Farrell, don't do this during the regular season) tried to bunt him to third. I hate the bunt in the first inning and hate it even more with a runner on second and no outs. Add in that AJ already was looking like he wasn't going to have a great game and that Mac had 3 hits (2 doubles) in the game the day before and I really hated the play. I don't know, maybe Johnny decided to bunt on his own. I saw Butterfield talking to him after the inning. It didn't matter, the bunt went foul and Mac moved up the runner with a fly ball to right. Jose drove him in with a single. Then Bautista stole and moved to third on an error on Russell Martin's throw. I really don't think the Yankees will be thrilled with Martin behind the plate. He looked terrible in that game.
  • Eric Thames didn't look good at the plate, at least in the games I saw. He is hitting .239 after a great start this spring. I still think he'll be good player, in the future, but he didn't impress. 
  • I felt ripped off that Yunel Escobar didn't have one of those amazing, bring you out of your seat plays, that we got used to last season. He didn't look bad, he made all the plays, but there wasn't anything special. It means nothing, and he is hitting great this spring, but I have already grown to expect him to make a spectacular play every game. 
  • Ben Juan Rivera has a great arm, not quite Jose Bautista great, but still great. He also, if the games I saw are an accurate example of his play, has the range of a garden gnome. But I did see him hit a home run and he is hitting .389 this spring so he might be alright. It is a good thing Rajai Davis has great range, he is going to have to cover half of right too.
  • Jerry Howarth is in the running for the nicest person on earth. 
  • I never saw Aaron Hill or Scott Posednik in the week I was there. 

I have more but this has gone on long enough, we'll save for stand alone posts.