Monday, February 18, 2013

My First Spring Training Trip

Three weeks ago, my buddy Alex mentioned he was heading to Arizona for Spring training and I decided to join him. I was planning on making my first spring training trip in March, but with my new job I wasn't going to be able to make it. Neither of us had ever been to Arizona for Spring training so we had no idea what to expect.

DAY 1 (Friday)

We left early Friday morning (around midnight) and arrived to Camelback Ranch around 8:30 am. They didn't open until 9 am so we had to wait a couple of minutes. I brought a couple of Dodger bats, mini helmets and photos that I wanted to try to get signed. I knew the Chicago White Sox trained at Camelback Ranch with the Dodgers but my main focus was to meet more Dodger players. The Whitesox were already practicing while the Dodgers were hitting in the batting cages when they allowed us inside.

Robin Ventura
As we got to the Dodger side of the facility, the pitchers and catchers began walking by to get to the practice fields. Shawn Tolleson was nice enough to take a picture with me, while most of the other players were in a hurry and said they would interact with the fans after practice.

After practice was finished the pitchers walked back and starting signing autographs for the fans. I was able to get autographs from Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Kenley Jansen. I was very happy to add more starting pitchers to my bat that already had Greinke and Ryu. I just missed out on Josh Beckett but Kershaw made up for that right after Beckett stopped signing.

I took a couple of pictures with Belisario, Guerrier, Magill, League, and Lowe.

None of the position players walked through the pathway where the fans were standing. Instead they walked around the baseball fields and went inside the building without interacting with the fans. After practice finished, Don Mattingly had fans line up and began signing for everyone.

 After staying awake for 36 hours straight, I finally got some sleep. It was definitely worth it.

DAY 2 (Saturday)

The next day, we headed to the stadium early and waited by the parking lot to see the players drive in. Alex was able to get Chris Capuano to sign a couple cards for him. We headed into the stadium at 9am and they opened up more areas for fans to access. There was a lot more Dodger fans there since it was the weekend. I figured that it might be tougher with more people there but that wasn't the case. Tommy Lasorda arrived to camp and set up a table for fans to get autographs. I was about 25th in line and could see that he was already in a bad mood. I've never met Lasorda but read/saw stories about how he can be around fans. Finally added a Lasorda to my collection.

The position players told us they would signed for us after practice.

We watched them take batting practice and they began signing for fans around 1pm. My main goal was to get Adrian Gonzalez but I don't think I saw him sign one time this entire weekend. I just missed out on Hanley Ramirez, but was able to get Kemp, Ethier, Gordon, Punto, Hairston and Bill Mueller.

The Camelback employees told us that they were closing so we headed towards the parking lot to try our luck at getting Adrian Gonzalez there. As we were waiting, I heard that Yasiel Puig was signing for fans inside so I missed out on getting one of our top prospects. I was able to get a couple of autographs while waiting outside. Brandon League, Tony Gwynn Jr., Chris Capuano, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Manny Mota were nice enough to sign for me.

DAY 3 (Sunday)

We decided to try our luck at Goodyear Ballpark to see the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. My main goal was to meet Trevor Bauer who I've been following since his UCLA days. He was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 draft. The only thing that I didn't like about Goodyear was the distance between both teams practicing. The White Sox and Dodgers were literally right next to each other, while the Indians and Reds were about 10 minutes walking distance and you had to enter through different entrances to watch either team. I heard that Indians practice ended at noon so I headed over to the Reds practice fields. Joey Votto began signing for fans but stopped right before I could give him my bat, luckily for me Todd Frazier began signing. After the Reds practice ended, I was about to get Ryan Ludwick and Dusty Baker to sign my bat. Next year, I'll be more prepared to get Votto, Phillips and Billy Hamilton.

It was about 11:45 am and I began to head over to the Indians practice field, but they already finished. I had  walk over to the parking lot to see if any other fans were there and I saw a crowd of about 30 people. I heard that the Indians were great signers so I waited it out to see if any players would come over. The first player to come out was their closer, Chris Perez. While he was signing, Trevor Bauer walked out and I called him over. He was the first to sign my mini home plate. I wish I had another item for him to sign since he was signing multiples for whoever wanted one. Scott Kazmir, Zach McAllister and Vinnie Pestano came out to sign for us. Moises Alou showed up to talk to a couple of their Dominican players since he's the GM for their World Baseball Classic team.

As I mentioned earlier, I headed back to the Reds side after graphing the Indians. I was shocked to see Dusty Baker just walking around the facility with no fans rushing over to him. He was super nice and even took a picture with me.

And that's how my first Spring Training ended!

On the way home, I was looking on Twitter and saw that Sandy Koufax showed up at Camelback. Part of me was sad because I wasn't there but after reading what some fans were doing just to get an autograph, I'm glad I wasn't in that chaos.

I had a blast and hopefully next year I will plan a full week in Arizona to try and see other teams.

Thanks for reading!

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  1. Awesome!!!!! What hotel did you stay at?

    1. At a motel a couple miles away in Glendale.