Spring Training Memories

This time of the year, I can’t wait for spring training.  After all the snow, that feeling has really escalated.  Let’s face it, I’m a lousy Eskimo.

The sounds of shovels, snow blowers, plows needs to be replaced by the crack of the bat, a fastball thumping into a catcher’s mitt and the voice of a Phillies announcer from Florida.

Going back many decades, I couldn’t wait for the sound of By Saam broadcasting a game from Jack Russell Stadium.  It meant good-bye to old man winter and hello Mr. Baseball.

Then, a few decades ago, I went to Clearwater for my first spring training with the Phillies.  Stayed at the Fort Harrison Hotel.  A card table in my room was my desk.  Portable typewriter and a hotel phone provided the equipment.  Needed to use a copying machine? Visit the hotel’s sales office.

Seeing Jack Russell Stadium for the first time was something I will always remember.  After years of visualizing the place, I was now there to work as a bright-eyed rookie. My job?  Didn’t know.  Learned something different every day as part of your basic on-the-job training.

We only had one field, the one at the stadium.  Workouts lasted all day.  Players stood around more than they were active.  Players were packed in a tiny clubhouse under the first base stands.  The manager’s office was not much bigger than a phone booth.  Rookies dressed in “rookie row”, a narrow row of narrow lockers on your left as you walked into the clubhouse.

Once the games began, it seemed like more fun.  Crowds were thin.  Never forgot my first game.  Cookie Rojas was the first batter and he grounded a ball back to the pitcher who overthrew the first baseman.  I jumped out of my metal folding chair, “Go, Cookie Go.”  The late Allen Lewis, a Hall of Fame writer with the Inquirer, grabbed me by the belt and yanked me back into the chair. “Sit down. Rule number one in the press box, no cheering.”  I don’t remember what I said but I never cheered in the press box again.

Alumni Memories

Starting Tuesday (16th), many of the Phillies Alumni will offer their spring training memories in this space.  Have been receiving some great, great memories.  I’m sure you will enjoy.

At the same time, Scott Palmer will provide video of Alumni memories on this site.  Scott will provide daily video updates from Clearwater. 

Your Memories

Before then, let me know your spring training memories…your first spring training, where you stayed, what impressed you the most, what didn’t you like, etc.   

Time to warm up and think baseball.

 

 

4 Comments

Ahh yes…..how many days until pitchers and catchers? Not sure of the exact number but I have my family’s countdown, 16 days until WE report!
Our first Spring Training was 2008, and little did we know what we were seeing the beginning of. I took my oldest son Alex, who was 6 at the time, stayed at the Holiday Inn Express right down Coachman’s Road, and from there it’s a 3 minute drive to the ballpark and a 2 minute drive to Lenny’s. Perfect.
We remember watching this new guy names Brad Lidge, who was kind enough to sign autographs the day after he hurt his knee. I remember looking at this kid in khaki shorts and a polo shirt, thinking how young he looked. Now, on the diamond, he appears so much older and who could have known that his picture would be the iconic moment of our Championship Season? Awesome stuff.
For those of you who have not been down to Spring Training, you’ve got to get there. The Carpenter Complex is right next to Bright House Field, and provides an intimate setting to enjoy the sights and sounds of the game. You are very close to the players and can hear them talk and joke. The combination of late winter baseball with Florida weather is as close to perfect as you can get. Plus Clearwater Beach, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is beautiful.
Took the whole family last year, and we’re all heading down again soon. We’ll be the ones with the loud twin boys. Looking forward to seeing everybody there!
GO PHILLIES!!!!!

My first Spring Training was just 2 years ago in 2008…I picked a good year to go it seems! I went by myself and did not know anyone else there but made lots of great friends right away. From a guy sitting next to me in the airport in Philly to Clearwater locals and entire families who traveled long distances to be there. That is what I remember the most; total strangers stopping to chat with me like we were old friends. Baseball brings people together like that. And then I even ran into an old friend whom I had not seem in almost 20 years; he was working as an usher at Bright House field and ran over asking if it was really me. Add to all that baseball, sunshine and being able to mingle with the players and it was the best two weeks I had ever spent away from home.

I went again last year and it was just as wonderful. Sadly, this year, I am out of money and the snow has made things difficult with many days out of work that I need to make up. I am so depressed I cannot go this year :O( But I know you and Scott will keep us all up to date on what goes on. So I’ll be freezing my behind off in Delaware, but I will be in Florida in spirit.

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Spring Training cannot get here soon enough! My hubby and I will be making our fifth ST trip this year. Went previously in 2000, ’02, ’03 and ’07. So many memories! Seeing Tug McGraw give a fan a (jokingly) hard time because the guy handed Tug a card to sign of him as a Met; the guy in 2003 who insisted very loudly that Rheal Cormier was Jesse Levis, and Cormier just smiled and played along; the players looking like Chrismas elves on St. Patrick’s Day with their green uniforms and red batting helmets; walking around the bases after the final ST game at Jack Russell. Plenty of others too! Mostly just relaxing in the warm sunshine watching the Phillies play baseball, and not having to get (too) worked up about the outcome of the game!
We’ll be there the 11th through 18th – I’ll make sure I say ‘hi’ if I see you!
Sue
http://rrrt.mlblogs.com/

My first spring training was also in 2008. My wife and I along with my 10 month old son joined my father who had been 4 times along with my brother and brother-in-law who had been there 3 times. We got some great autographs, enjoyed shepards, and clearwater beach. We stayed at the LaQuinta Inn across from the stadium, I would not stay anywhere else because we could walk to the stadium everyday. Can’t wait to get back next year we are already planning!

Chris

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