Ah, Spring Training

 

1979_1
Spring training.  That wonderful time of the baseball calendar that happens at this time of the year.  Leave cold, gray Philly for sunny, warm Clearwater? With glee.

Always enjoyed spring training even though you worked seven days a week for six-seven weeks.  It didn’t seem like work.  The players weren’t grumpy, the managers weren’t grumpy and the media wasn’t probing.

Obviously, a lot has changed since my first spring in 1964.

Then
Everybody stayed at the Fort Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater: all players, the manager, coaches, writers, broadcasters and club officials.

Now
There is no hotel headquarter.  Everyone rents condos on the beach.

Then
The General Manager, Director of Minor Leagues, traveling secretary and myself were the only executives to spend the entire time in Clearwater.

Now
Nearly 20 persons are there fulltime with another 10-12 having periodic work assignments.

Then
There were no offices at Jack Russell Stadium. We worked out of our hotel rooms.  Oh, the manager had an office at the park, a small, cement block room with no heat or air conditioning.

Now
The front office staff occupies the entire third floor at Bright House Field.   The space is vacant the rest of the time as the Clearwater Threshers offices occupy the second level.  Truly a first-class facility.

Then
When we had a home game, a ticket window was open at Jack Russell Stadium.  Tickets weren’t sold in advance.  Matter of fact, we carried tickets with us and gave them to anyone who wanted one.  Total attendance in 1964 was 17,418.

Now
Big business.  Tickets are in demand at Bright House Field where sell-outs are frequent. Ever since Bright House Field opened in 2004, spring attendance tops 100,000.

Then
Players spent spring training getting in shape.  Salaries weren’t as astronomical and players spent the winter working on some sort of a job.

Now
Players come to camp in shape because they work out all winter.  Many come to Clearwater early.  Facilities at Carpenter Field complex are available to any player, majors or minors, year round.

Then
Daily workouts at Jack Russell Stadium began at 10 a.m. and ended around 5.  With only one diamond, it took a long time for hitters and pitchers to get in their work.  Oh, there was a second field about a block away.  Rookies spent time there.  Weight room? None. Instead, waiting to take showers in the small shower room.

Now
Between facilities at Bright House Field (game field, half-field and indoor batting cage) and four diamonds, a large indoor facility with pitching mounds and batting cages next door at Carpenter Field, a lot of players can get in a lot of work in a short period of time. Weight rooms are also available in both places.

Then
Social media meant wining and dining writers and broadcasters. Still carrying those extra pounds.

Now
Social media is where the world lives: twitter, instragram, facebook, tumblr, google+, pinterest.

Then
Daily chore included cleaning the bird dirt from the Press Box table top.  Birds nested in the steel beams overhead in the open press box.

Now
Press box is heated and air conditioned.  Birds not allowed.

We’ve come a long way.

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