February 2015

Ah, Spring Training

 

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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.

A Month Away

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Well, one month from today it is play ball at Bright House Field.  Yep, the 2015 Grapefruit League season gets started with the Phillies hosting the Yankees.  1:05 p.m. for the first pitch.

Sixteen games will be played in Clearwater this spring. There’s also a March 1 game against the University of Tampa.

Monday’s Tweet
C Cameron Rupp; “Today’s the day!! Off to Clearwater! Its baseball season…..Texas I’ll miss you, it’s been real. Florida is home for a couple months!”

Guest Instructors
ICYMI: Ruben and Ryne yesterday announced eight Alumni will spend time in camp as instructors: Larry Andersen, Roy Halladay, Dave Hollins, Greg Luzinski, Charlie Manuel, Dan Plesac, Aaron Rowand and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. It is the first time for Plesac and Rowand.

Voting Deadline
Voting for the 2015 Phillies Toyota Wall of Fame ends at 5 p.m. this Friday.  Vote as often as you wish.

Birthdays
Today: RHP Freddie Toliver (54), LHP Mike Wallace (64), OF Bake McBride (66) . . .
Wednesday: C Chris Coste (42), LHP Dan Plesac (53) . . . Thursday: GM Lee Thomas (79) . . . Sunday: 1B Costen Shockley (73) . . . Monday: C Todd Pratt (48), 1B John Kruk (54), RHP Jim Nash (70).

Unfamiliar Faces
What do Tom Barry, Anderson Garcia, Al Verbal and Bill Webb have in common?
They were among 14 pitchers with a very limited cup of coffee with the Phillies. How limited? Check out http://www.phillies.com.

Phun Fact
Richie Ashburn was an All-Star centerfielder who played left field in the first major league game he ever saw on opening day 1948; ended his career with the Mets in 1962 and played second base in his final game.  His first hit came in his first game, off Johnny Sain; his 2,000th hit came off Carlton Willey; his Phillies record hit (#2,111) came off Bob Buhl and his last hit as Phillie also came off Buhl.  All three pitched for the Braves. His very last hit in the majors came in his last at-bat.  The pitcher?  Buhl, then with the Cubs. Each hit was a single.

GM John Quinn once told Ashburn he hits too many singles.  Ashburn bristled: “If I hit them any harder, they’d be outs.”