Waves crash on a sandy beach as the palm trees sway in the
cool gulf breeze. You get up from your spot on the beach just in time to hear someone
ordering a grouper sandwich and a bloody mary as a band plays some reggae
tunes. You hop in the car, light up a
cigar you bought in Ybor City, Tampa the night before and head on your way. It’s
about noon, and your beach day is already over.
You look out your open windown as you drive across a causeway and see the water is full with boats,way more than the amount of cars on the highway. People are jumping off
rocks and into a shallow bay and as the water receeds from your rearview mirror
the sights of a small downtown, some businesses, small hotels and bars line your
journey down Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.
You then proceed to make a left hand turn and a ballpark
built in classic Floridian style architecture begins to appear. With the car in
park you step out and the smell of spray sunscreen infiltrates your nostrils.
All of a sudden an older man in a Hawaiian shirt offers you tickets to see a
baseball game. There’s a police officer that is smiling, laughing, and joking
around with some people. You walk up a small driveway and a statue of a pitcher
delivering a fastball on top of a fountain appears.
You can hear someone selling programs and then all of a
sudden you hear what seems to be a trumpet playing the “charge!” music. You are
astounded to find out there is no trumpet, just a short Italian man with a
beard and a pocket full of programs using nothing but his hands to make the
trumpet sound. There is people sitting on the steps around him as he shouts “Where’s
everyone from Bucks County?!” A small group of people cheer. “Deleware County!”
Yet more cheers. “South Jersey!” Cheers
mixed with boos*. “Where's my friends from the great city of Philadelphia?!” The
loudest cheering and then the charge music again.
You move along the way and hand your ticket to a somewhat
attractive ticket taker and walk through an archway and the sight of a
baseball diamond are in front of you. You take a few pictures with your cell
phone so you can send them to your friends back home (who are stuck in 40 degree temperatures and maybe snowy weather) and then head out to left field, and up to a tiki bar. A fan of great
deals, you see you can get a bucket of ice** and 5 beers for $30. With your
bucket in hand you head towards left center field and down a grassy berm. You
are about 5 feet from the outfield wall when you lay down, take
one of the beers from out of your bucket, breathe the crisp warm Florida air
and take a swig of that beer.
You start talking to a knowledgeable fan about if you think
Delmon Young can maintain weight, or whether or not Dom Brown will finally be
good. Your new found “leisure bro” wants to know if Roy Halladay can have a
bounce back year, and wonders if Chase Utley will actually play some spring training
games this year***
It’s about 1:00PM at this time and you are about to see the
first live action baseball game you’ve seen in about 5 months. You take a sigh
of relief and you know you’ve completed your journey from Clearwater Beach to
Bright House Field, ready to take in all of the leisure and excitement of
spring training baseball.
As a knowledgeable baseball fan and fan of vacations, there
is no better trip than spring training. The combination of learning about what
your favorite baseball team will look like in the upcoming year, learning about
the future of your franchise and also being able to go from beach to baseball
in 20 minutes makes spring training a desirable destination for many baseball
This spring, right here on Buzz on Broad, you can find a
weekly spring training column ending the day before opening day. Not only will
these columns recap major events from Phillies spring training, but will answer
some questions about the intricacies and strategies of the spring session, such
as what the heck does a split squad mean?
The Phillies lost their first spring training game this
weekend and fought to a tie today against the Tigers. Throughout the spring,
less and less will you care about the overall record in spring training and
more about the stat lines for individual athletes. In the pitching department,
Cole Hamels pitched two scorless innings in his first outing and Roy Halladay
pitched 2 innings only allowing a homerun. Doc’s fastball was in the 90mph
range, but his changeup looked good as he recorded 2 strikeouts. Antonio
Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman and BJ Rosenberg all saw action this
weekend, with mixed results. Most of the time this early in the spring, you do
not look at the stat lines, but what kind of pitches are thrown and where the
velocity is on fastballs.
Pitching velocity is down this early, so hitters look
slightly better as they are quicker to learn the timing. Also sometimes,
pitchers like to work on only a few pitches at a time in game situations, so
hitters can begin to look good. Domonic Brown and Ryan Howard have both
recorded 2 hits, and Chase Utley looked sharp in 2 plate appearances. Since it
is so early in the spring we cannot take too much stock into these early at
bats or pitching lines.
One semi-big news item out of camp yesterday was that reliver
Michael Schwimmer was dealt to Toronto in the 8th inning for a minor
league first baseman (Art Charles). Schwimmer had fallen out of favor with
management for a variety of reasons (tweeting roster moves, claiming an injury
as the reason he was optioned to AAA last year) but neither side will claim
that is the reason. Bottom line is, with a plethora of relievers in addition to
some of the off the field issues, the Phillies felt they could send Schwimmer
packing and take a chance on a “maybe this guy might be good down the road
because he’s big and hits homeruns and strikes out like our current first
This week, the Phillies will see action against the Yankees,
Braves and Blue Jays among others. Cliff Lee will get his first Grapefruit
League start before we get a look at the “competition” for the 4th
and 5th starter spots. We will also get some good looks at bullpen
pitchers as the starters will continue to only see a few innings of work
through the first few weeks of March. The next week or so will see a lot of
action from minor league players, as the starters will likely only see 2-3 at
bats per game they play in.
Stay tuned as we continue to take you though the Phillies
spring slate and other Grapefruit League action!
*I live in South Jersey so I can say
this. And yes Pennsylvanians boo us. **The ice also comes in handy in the
hot florida sun, making the bucket challenge totally worth it. ***As we know Chase Utley played in
the spring opener Saturday.
John Carullo is a Phillies contributer for Buzz on Broad and Self Proclaimed Spring Training Guru. If you are planning a trip to Clearwater, ask him your questions on twitter @jcarullo19. Feel free to ask him any of your other spring training questions as well!