Monday, February 21, 2011

My Day At Spring Training

The Mets held their first full-squad workout today and I was lucky enough to be there.  This was my second time seeing a workout so I had a better idea of who and what I wanted to see.  My first time going was three years ago and I was basically only focusing on getting autographs.  This time I wanted to see more of the actual workout and I also wanted to focus on a few specific players.

When I got there the Mets were listening to one of the coaches.  Shortly after that they got into lines and started doing organized stretching.  It was simply the same stretching that anybody who has ever been on a high school sports team has done.  After more running and stretching they split up onto two different fields.  The pitchers and catchers were on one field and the position players were on the other.  They did some throwing and that was the end of separating the pitchers and catchers from the position players.  Pitchers threw live BP to the hitters and the hitters had regular BP with the coaches.  Pitchers practiced pick-off moves with the middle-infielders and infielders took grounders.  Some pitchers threw in the bullpen while others only threw BP.  I wish I could tell you exactly what David Wright or Carlos Beltran spent the morning doing, but I was focused on a few other players so unfortunately I can't.

I focused on Mike Nickeas, Josh Thole, and Zach Lutz.  They all happened to start the workout on the same field so I only saw what was happening on one field.  Nickeas and Thole actually didn't do anything for the first part of practice as the catchers just stood by home-plate and chatted.  Lutz took grounders at third base with Nick Evans.  At the same time pitchers were practicing pickoff moves to second base with the middle-infielders.  Naturally, one throw from Oliver Perez sailed past Luis Hernandez and into center field.

Once that part of practice was over all of the catchers and some pitchers went to the bullpen.  The bullpen was off-limits for fans but I got a sense of the pitchers and catchers that were together when they walked back in pairs.  R.A. Dickey and Mike Pelfrey both threw in the bullpen, Dickey with Thole and Pelf with Dusty Ryan, before throwing live BP for the hitters.  Dickey pitched to hitters that included Zach Lutz and Brad Emaus.  The players continued to rotate stations which mostly seemed to mean the hitters went to different forms of BP before finishing with running and conditioning.

As for my day, I stayed in the same area for most of the day.  I was as close to the bullpens as possible because I knew both Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole were there and Zach Lutz was on a field adjacent to the bullpen.  Thole finished with Dickey pretty quickly and Lutz was there to be one of the hitter's on Dickey's field.  Zach seemed pretty happy when I actually knew who he was and thanked me when I wished him luck for the season.

As I waiting in the area between fields players, coaches, ad media members walked by.  One media member that passed through was Kevin Burkhardt who was nice enough to stop for a picture.  I wanted to say something but all I could think of was that I wanted his job so I stuck to thanking him about four times.  New manager Terry Collins also walked by and I got an autograph from him.

A couple of the most amusing moments of the day came from Chris Young.  First, he walked through but couldn't stop to sign so somebody simply told him he was "ginormous."  Later he did stop to sign and I asked him what the weirdest thing he's ever signed was.  Ladies and gentlemen, at one point Chris Young signed a baby.

While waiting in the same area I got an autograph from Sandy Alderson.

At the end of Josh Thole's time catching the live BP I mentioned to him that he was one of my favorite players and that I was wearing a Thole shirt.  He smiled and thought told me that was cool before he had to continue working.  Keep this in mind when you read about him later.

Mike Nickeas ended up being the last catcher to leave the bullpen.  But, when he did emerge with his pitcher they went to one of the fields I was watching and joined the live BP.  Speaking of BP, Bobby Parnell was the pitcher with Mike!  Obviously I watched that field.  At that point I didn't know where Josh Thole and Zach Lutz had gone but I had two other favorites and I was content.  When Mike was done catching he made his way across to the other field and that was when I first asked for a picture.  He was very polite and said he would but first he had to take his own BP.  He asked if I was going to stick around and I sad I definitely would so I skipped going for the made hoard of autographs and watched the catchers take batting practice.

I found Josh Thole when Mike joined the rest of the catchers.  I don't really know how to evaluate a batting practice but both Josh and Mike hit some balls hard today.  During the batting practice I had a chance to actually talk to Mike.  I thanked him for the hat and I told him it was the coolest thing I've ever gotten.  He seemed genuinely happy that I enjoyed it.  During this BP I also got an autograph from J.P. Ricciardi who had been watching the catchers.

Once the BP was over Mike stopped to take a picture with me before he went with the rest of the catchers to do conditioning.  Throughout the day Mike was really nice and he seemed surprised when I actually did stick around and wait for the picture.  I couldn't ask for a nicer player to have as my favorite.

I still wanted an autograph from Josh Thole so I went to wait for the catchers.  Chris Capuano was still out signing so I got his autograph.  Daniel Murphy was also signing so I got his autograph and asked him about having the chance to play with Nick Evans again.  He said he was excited about being back with Evans.  He also smiled when I told him I like his hair (it's curly okay?).

As for Josh, he eventually finished his work and knew he would have to sign autographs.  Everyone was screaming for him but he walked straight to me and signed my baseball first.  That's right, he found me and deliberately ignored everyone screaming to him to sign for me.  It was awesome.

The entire day was awesome.  My favorite players are two of the coolest people ever and I found out that even if the Mets stink this year at least they're nice people.

Phew.  I've said a lot.  I'll have pictures up tomorrow for your enjoyment.
Let's Go Mets!

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