Vin Scully is telling family stories about Pablo Sandoval as I write this, which is extremely distracting since I have been waiting months to hear his voice and anecdotes from L.A. But, I also waited months to make that familiar walk through the green left field wall in Roger Dean Stadium, through the bullpen and into the dugout for what, to me, is the best way to start the baseball season: spring training.
My trip didn’t end well — my family and I all got food poisoning and spent some time in the hospital — but the baseball portion of it went smooth.
Some of the shorter batters, I was able to just squeeze ’em into the frame horizontally. Here’s Brian Bixler:
One of the most unexpected things happened around the fifth or sixth inning of this game, when, after several players had been hit, the Nationals’ Ian Desmond charged the mound after taking a pitch off the back from Miguel Batista. The benches immediately cleared and Cards skipper Tony La Russa was in the middle of the action, as was Nats 1B coach Dan Radison. Here, La Russa gets into it with Desmond up the first base line:
Batista was ejected, although tempers flared again in the ninth.
One of the real good guys in the Majors, Logan Morrison:
Have to include this — a little grey bird landed at the top step of the dugout during the game and was totally unfazed by the action, fans or players. He wasn’t the only little critter to stop by during a game — a big toad showed up in the dugout during one Marlins game (Jeff Conine picked him up and paraded him around) and a little lizard jumped on my back after one of the Florida pitchers tried to scoop him up with his cap! He knocked it off me, though.
I still need to go through more photos — the food poisoning kept me in bed for a few days — so I’ll try and post a few more later.
One of the nice things about getting back to the Dean is seeing some familiar faces, including the third base dugout usher, Al, who always has some stories to tell. I dunno if it’s Florida, the ballpark, the spring atmosphere or all three, but everyone down there is super friendly and welcoming. Getting to chat with Lou Brock at Cardinals games, it doesn’t get much better. And I was lucky enough to watch a game with my friend Lynne — a former girlfriend, if you can believe it — on Thursday, when we rooted against the Red Sox.
I also got a free upgrade from Hertz on my rental, a red 2011 Ford Mustang convertible with black leather, Sirius radio and 300 horsepower. My sunburn is still peeling from a week in this guy with the top down on 95: