Spring training has started here in Florida where we are spending the winter. It’s always a great time of the year for me, since baseball is my favorite sport, even though I could never really hit a curve ball! When spring training starts, better weather was always just around the corner, and down here in SW Florida, the weather could not be more perfect; 80’s and sunny every day. Fortunately, we have two MLB teams that train in our area, the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Both are American League teams and arch-rivals of the Detroit Tigers, whom I adopted when Manager Sparky Anderson moved from the Reds to the Tigers in the late 70’s a few years after we moved to Michigan to work for Ford Motor Company. As shown on the map, the Tigers spring training location is in Lakeland, between Tampa and Orlando, quite a bit north of us.
Over recent years, I've enjoyed watching many teams play each spring, typically scalping tickets prior to the game. In fact, I’ve been scalping tickets to all kinds of sporting events for years, and have never been shut out. The closest I ever came was in the early 80’s when I wanted to see Isaiah Thomas play for Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers against Ohio State lead by Clark Kellogg. I patiently waited outside the stadium asking if anyone had any tickets, with no luck until about game time when a woman and her wheelchair-bound husband were about to enter the arena. They suggested I come in with them, as her husband would be in his wheelchair in the handicapped area so I might as well use his seat, which was right on the floor behind the handicapped area near the Hoosier bench. From the seat, I could faintly hear Bobby Knight giving profanity-laced instructions to his players. But there were no thrown chairs that game, unlike the infamous 1985 Indiana-Purdue game documented in this YouTube video!
The Hoosiers went on to win the game, the Big 10 and the NCAA championship. Isaiah Thomas was subsequently drafted by the Detroit Pistons where he lead them to two fantastic NBA championships.
But I digress, so back to the Spring Training topic. I was disappointed when the Reds moved their spring training to Arizona from Tampa a number of years ago. I had written about seeing the Reds play at Al Lopez Field in Tampa during spring break while in college in this previous blogpost, never realizing the Reds and Indians now share the same spring training facilities in Arizona until researching for this blog.
The Red Sox spring training park is my favorite, since it has a replica of the Green Monster in left field. I make a point to spend an inning or two watching the game from on top of the scoreboard and always bring a cold beer since it’s in the bright sun. When the beer is gone, so am I! While growing up we had a “red monster” aka our barn in right field of our makeshift ball field on the family farm as described in this previous blogpost.
When the Red Sox came into camp earlier this spring, they had an unexpected visitor waiting for them in the stadium, an alligator as shown and described in this article.
The Twins stadium is also very nice in that most of the seats are in shade so not as much beer is required when watching the Twins play! I recall another scalping incident at a Twins-Cardinals game several years ago when I bought an extra ticket from an elderly man and his daughter. Turns out the man had macular degeneration so his daughter was trying mightily yet rather unsuccessfully to describe the game to her dad. I offered to take over for her, which please both of them to no end. I was literally describing each and every pitch, hit ball and fielding play. He was a big Cardinal fan, so I pretended to be one as well, using my smart phone, which he could not see, to google Cardinal players, records and statistics. He was even better than google in that he always added an interesting tidbit about any Cardinal trivia we shared. And to cap off the game, I caught a foul ball and gave it to his daughter. Great fun!
Our son is visiting us this week for his birthday, so we’ll be scalping some tickets for the Red Sox/Pirates game tomorrow. I was hoping the game might be enough for his birthday, but what he really wants is a new putter. Have you seen the high prices of putters these days? We’ll see, but for certain, he’ll have to give me more strokes!