If any of you have been wondering where I've been the past few weeks while my blog has sat unloved, wonder no more! I've been busy with Spring Training goodness here in the Cactus League! Two weeks ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies opened their new facility for the first time to the public for the pitchers' and catchers' reporting date and the first spring workouts of 2011. Since that day (and including it), I've been out for five or six days worth of sun, green grass, watching drills, catching homers, and seeking autographs.
First off, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new DBacks-Rockies joint Spring Training complex, is absolutely amazing! I was out at the Diamondbacks' side (obviously) on that first day with about 20 other people, and I was stunned to see how open and accessable it is for fans! Walking into the gates to get to the clubhouse and practice fields, there aren't even fences around the practice infields, meaning fans can watch and get photos of players without having to squeeze their camera lenses in between chain links, and around the big full fields, there's so little "foul territory" that you feel like you're right there getting ready to cut off a relay throw from left! Each morning, players enter from the player parking lot down the same walkway that fans use to get in, and they do morning stretching and runs behind a row of short barricades. After they finish, many of them are in the habit of signing a few autographs for fans and taking photos before heading out for their daily drills.
Why, just during the few days I've been there, I have obtained autographs from 45 different players and coaches on a pair of baseballs - including Matt Williams, Luis Gonzalez, Barry Enright, Justin Upton, Jarrod Parker, Chris Young, and Paul Goldschmidt, just to name a few. Some players have been nicer about it than others. For instance, Barry Enright, one of our starting pitchers last year who is competing to be in the rotation this year, has taken the time every day to pose for photos and sign for fans. He's been the kind of fan-friendly person every player should be. Similarly, I have considered Justin Upton, our right fielder, to be somewhat hard to get an autograph from and I was totally surprised to see him being so kind to DBacks fans; he signed for every person out there on Tuesday, for something like 30 minutes after practice! One of the hardest people I've tried getting an autograph from, catcher Miguel Montero, even signed a ball for me, for which I was very grateful. Chris Young even stopped for a few autographs for some of the kids out there before he had to run off. He made it clear to everyone that he'd only be signing for the kids, but I tried asking anyway. I said, "Hey, how about one for a big kid too?" Chris gave me a wry smile, signed my ball, and said that he liked the way I said that.
Some of the other funny moments include a light moment with Manager Kirk Gibson. The very first day, I made friends with the security guy (Mike) who guards the path into the Diamondbacks clubhouse and makes sure no one gets through without a pass. Gibby came up and started quizzing Mike on what to do if someone tried to get in ("You throw 'em out!" said Gibby with a smile). Another time I kind of got in trouble. I was standing outside the fence during catcher batting practice. Coach Charles Nagy threw me a baseball while he was shagging in the outfield, but moments later when he had run to the other end of right field, a ball bounded up and stopped about one inch inside the gate right where it opened. My impulses got the better of me, and I reached for the ball, but the coach standing in the infield collecting the balls yelled toward me that "you can't keep that one.... Throw it back!" Oops! I totally didn't mean to seem like I was trying to steal a ball, so I immediately pushed the gate open a couple more feet and lobbed a throw back in to him. Slightly embarrassing? Yeah, but no one said anything to me after that, so no harm no foul.... Gotta remember to keep my hands to myself. That ball landed just perfectly for me to pick it up though!
I also met Arizona superfan Susan - who knows every player and coach and is friends with all of them! She can always be heard cheering on the team, even in the loudest of stadium crowds, and her "Great job, gentlemen! Best in a million universes!" chants are recognized by everyone! I kind of tried to shade her for my first couple days there, talking with her about the team and about her love of the team. I learned who was fun to talk to and some stories about the players I would never have gotten otherwise! Always pays to say hi to people!
Barry Enright also recognized me from Twitter and from FanFest. I introduced myself there as @DBacks08 when I got a photo with him, then saw him again when I obtained his autograph. When I showed up just a couple days later at Salt River Fields, he smiled and gave me a nod. I've been cheering for him all week, and I hope he makes it into the rotation again this year, even though he has some stiff competition from Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga.
As a final note to this post, I have finally begun using Twitter on a regular basis, primarily for getting tweets from Diamondbacks players and news on the team. More and more Diamondbacks are getting profiles on there, and I encourage my readers with Twitter to follow them:
Barry Enright: @BarryEnright54
Clay Zavada: @Clayzavada35
Wade Miley: @wade_miley33
JJ Putz: @jjp2012
Justin Upton: @realjustinupton
Mark Grace and Daron Sutton: @DBacksbooth
Official Diamondbacks News: @dbacks
My Twitter: @DBacks08
I'll post some of my Spring Training pictures as soon as I can find the cable to connect the camera to the computer. Until then, I'll be hitting up the first ever game at Salt River Fields, the Diamondbacks vs. the Rockies, tomorrow at 1:00pm! It'll be televised, and I'll be sitting behind home plate, so look for me on TV, or come say hi in section 212 (mention the blog so I know who you are)!