Spring Fever, Week One

As the Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules get underway, there are a few questions that keep running through my head. Who will be the Rays shortstop? Who will be the odd men out in the Red Sox outfield? Will Kris Bryant start the season in the majors? Could Alex Rodriguez implode under the weight of his own ego? Will thefoulline.com crew finally settle on a suitable date for a Port Charlotte game?

So many unanswered questions, but I know one thing for sure. The games have started, and baseball is back! Take a day off from work, grab a beer and a hot dog and head out to some spring training games. I promise you won’t regret it. The baseball season is a six month grind, but spring training is only one month out of the year. That makes it special in its own way.

The season will be here soon enough. Enjoy the spring fever while it lasts.

Start of Spring Quick Hits

  • SportsCenter has begun giving us live play-by-play coverage of every Alex Rodriguez spring training plate appearance. I will now be abstaining from all things SportsCenter until opening day.
  • Yu Darvish needs Tommy John, Cliff Lee has already had elbow soreness, and Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow seems to be held together by paper clips. All the round 3-5 pitchers seem to be giving out already. Grabbing an ace early may be more important than ever this year.
  • Team Yankeehaters swears they aren’t taking a pitcher in the first two rounds. Surprisingly, I believe him.
  • Pedro Alvarez hit the first home run of the spring. Potential bounce back? 35 home runs can’t be ignored in an age where power is dying.
  • Which round will Ginger gamble on the Joey Votto bounceback? Round 4? Perhaps round 5?
  • Allan and I made an observation when watching a spring game that Anthony Rendon looked 20 pounds overweight. Let’s hope his uniform was just baggy that day. He’s an exciting young star.
  • Speaking of Allan, it’s only a week in, and Bryce Harper has already gotten on his nerves.
  • I still wanna go to jetBlue Park one day. It’s the best stadium in the Grapefruit League.

13 days!

Blowin’ In the Wind

My good friend Dylan – original thefoulline.com fantasy league member and Foul Line contributor – and I have a tradition where we go to at least one spring training game a year. This has been going on for several years, and it’s always a great time. The thing about going to a game with Dylan is that something crazy/fun/outlandish happens every time. That, and I’m pretty certain that we’ve never witnessed a Red Sox victory. During the years of going to games with Dylan, some of the highlights have been seeing the two Red Sox World Series trophies and getting great pictures with them, getting interviewed by MLB.tv, the Jed Lowrie foul ball game, meeting Nick from the Penalty Box bar in Rhode Island, the Great Ellsbury Birthplace Debate, and meeting Dewayne Staats. But today’s game may have been the craziest. Today’s game will be known as “the one where we almost watched someone die.”

The best thing about going to a game with Dylan is the constant banter. All the topics are covered: baseball, personal lives, politics, travel, The Foul Line. It’s always witty, and I’m constantly laughing. It makes for a great baseball viewing experience. A few weeks back, Dylan texted me and asked if I wanted to go see the Sox and Cardinals play on February 26th at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers. He was going to get standing-room-only Green Monster tickets. Of course I was in.

I picked him up at his house for the five-minute drive to the park. Upon getting to the stadium an hour and a half early, we noticed a strong 30-mph wind blowing straight out to center field. It was going to be a bad day to be a pitcher. Dylan grabbed a sausage & pepper sandwich with a Sam Adams. I opted for the Fenway Frank and a 312 wheat beer, and we made our way to the top of the Green Monster. The thing about jetBlue Park is that that everyone working there is a prick. I didn’t see one person smile the entire day. They’re working at a beautiful stadium, watching the most beloved team in all of sports, and they treat everyone like they’re wearing an “I love George Steinbrenner” shirt. It’s bizarre.

Anyhow, Dylan and I grabbed a spot on the wall and started watching the Cardinals take batting practice. Balls just started launching out of the park. Texas-Leaguers were carrying in the monsoon-like winds. At this point, more and more people were making their way to the top of the Monster with hopes of catching a BP ball.

It was the typical crowd: the 45-year-old dude who brought his mitt and was chasing down every ball with Jim Edmonds-like enthusiasm; the dad with his kids trying to score two souvenirs for his baseball-loving boys; the middle-aged woman who flinches and ducks at any ball that hints at hitting the wall; and Dylan and me, eating our food, sipping our beer, and watching ball after ball fly over our heads.

As the Cardinals were wrapping up their batting practice, some unknown player started crushing balls over the wall, one after another. The souvenir-baseball feeding frenzy was in full effect. People were chasing down balls like they were the Wonka Bar golden tickets. Dylan and I continued to watch and take it all in.

As Mr. Unknown was winding down his impressive power display, he launched one more ball high over the wall. As the ball carried, it appeared to be hit so well that it was going to leave the entire stadium. At the last minute, an overaggressive ball-hound jumped up for the ball and began to tumble over the rail to a 25-foot fall. When he was half way over the wall and on his way down to certain peril, the 45-year-old, with his mitt still on, dove and grabbed the guy’s legs, saving him from having a really bad day. It was the best and most important catch of the day.

This led to me saying to Dylan, “Damn, that guy almost died!”

To which he replied, “And that’s why I don’t chase after BP balls.”

And here are your Dylan-centric Quick Hits

  • Due to predicted lousy weather, both teams put all their scrubs in the starting lineups. When Daniel Nava is the big name, you might be in for a snoozer.
  • The experience of watching a game from the vantage point of the top of the Green Monster is unparalleled to any seat at any sporting event I have ever had. I highly recommend it.
  • Sox starting pitcher Ryan Dempster was on the mound today. With the scrubs backing him up in the field, Dylan commented that he hoped Dempster had his Eh game. You know, because he’s Canadian. It’s funny, eh?
  • There are fewer things I enjoy more than a Fenway frank, a cold beer, and watching baseball.
  • Dylan was able to turn two standing-room-only tickets into two prime seats on the monster, just by being in the right place at the right time.
  • (For the confused Rays fans, “Standing Room Only” seats are when your team sells all the seats at your park, and your only option is to stand.)
  • 312 beer is poured using an old telephone receiver tap. I’m not sure why, but it was awesome.
  • We’re still waiting for the final three spots to get filled on thefoulline.com fantasy league. Clock’s ticking.
  • I’m returning to the Yankeehaters team name. It was fun being the Boston badboys for a season, but the Yankeehaters just feels right.

Thanks to all for reading! The baseball draft is ONLY 4 weeks away! Start prepping now.

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