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Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Experience from Cardinals Spring Training

By David

2007 is the first year that I can say I attended spring training for a World Series Champion. The St.Louis Cardinals are the team, and on Saturday I made my way over to the Cardinals side of Roger Dean Stadium after meeting a plethora of Marlins players.

Unfortunately, it was noon time and practice was winding down. I figured that it would be to late to take the trolley over and I might as well stand by the teams parking lot in the hopes of acquiring a few autographs.

I stood there patiently with 5-6 other fans who were awaiting the arrival of the players. 12:15, 12:30 and 12:45 ticked by without any Redbird leaving the parking lot. Finally, Albert Pujols approached us in his Cadillac, but instead of stopping he quickly drove away.

It wasn't a surprise that baseball's best player didn't stop because he has gained the reputation from many autograph seekers to be selfish and to ignore fans. The one thing that ticked me off the most was that there was four, yes four measly fans standing there waiting for his autograph. It might have taken him a minute at the most to roll down his window and sign four baseballs. That impression of Pujols will stay with me until I see his behavior reform.

Luckily, the majority of players stopped for the fans. The first person to sign was outfielder Skip Schumaker and following him were Yadier Molina, Anthony Reyes, Josh Kinney, Josh Hancock, Ricardo Rincon, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Eli Marrero and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Unfortunately, Dave's son Chris sped away in his Cadillac, and following him in that process were Aaron Miles and Mark Mulder. Manager Tony La Russa was busy and did not sign, but he has gained the reputation for being a very nice person.

Many of the Cards players including Josh Hancock, Josh Kinney, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter were especially nice. Carpenter receives the award for nicest Cardinal, but Wainwright is not far behind.

He came off as being a very kind young man and a player who will go the extra mile to do something nice for a fan. Carpenter, the ace of the Cardinals staff, was one of the last people to leave, but not only did he sign my baseball, he took a picture with me.

I was very surprised that the best pitcher in the National League could be so approachable and it seemed like he was just another player on the team. I hope that his teammate Albert Pujols could learn a few lessons from him in the hospitable category.

I can't wait to attend Cardinals spring training later this week as the rest of the position players will be there.

My Experience from Marlins Spring Training

By David

I returned from Jupiter, Florida two hours ago and while ArtiGras was taking place just a few blocks away, I was attending Cardinals and Marlins Spring Training at Roger Dean Stadium.

I arrived at approximately 10:30 A.M. to see many Marlins Pitchers begin to file in. Today was the day for pitchers and catchers to report, but many players including Dontrelle Willis have been at the complex for a few days.

I had attended Cardinals Spring Training last season but never have I had the opportunity to check out the Fish. Temperatures might have been in the low 50's, but the sun was beaming down and I was ready to snag a few autographs.

To my surprise, I received a plethora of signatures and through this experience I began to learn how amiable many of the players are. The first person to sign was starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, but that was followed by Josh Johnson, Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, Miguel Olivo, Dontrelle Willis, Renyel Pinto, Reggie Abercrombie, Eric Reed, Joe Borchard, Josh Willingham and manager Fredi Gonzalez all coming over graciously to sign for the 10-15 fans who were stationed with me.

The ace of the pitching staff Dontrelle Willis greatly shocked me because he stood there for a good 15-20 minutes signing for any fan who wanted to meet him. You would think when you're such a high profile pitcher you wouldn't be so nice, but that wasn't the case with Willis. He receives the award for nicest Marlin.

It was a fantastic experience from Marlins camp and I look forward to going back later in the week to meet more players.

My Experience from Baltimore Orioles Spring Training

By David

As I took Tri-Rail[South Florida's train system] down to Ft.Lauderdale yesterday I was filled with anticipation. This would be my first visit to O's camp and even though only pitchers and catchers were there I knew it would be a terrific experience.

Unfortunately, it was a gloomy day with highs only in the mid 50's and off and on showers. As I entered Ft.Lauderdale Stadium I was greeted by a kind elderly man who handed me a team roster, pocket schedule and pamphlet about ticket information.

The stadium was pretty empty with about 20-30 fans watching the team work out. Starting pitchers Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen got their work in and then it was time for several relief pitchers including closer Chris Ray to work out. After they were done pitching, the players grabbed bats and worked on bunting.

At O's camp, the fans are very close to the players and this permits for easy access to receive autographs. Chris Ray, Ramon Hernandez and Paul Bako were nice enough to come over, but it would be later in the day when I acquired the bulk of my autographs.

I discovered that the key to snagging autographs is to wait patiently by the players parking lot, and as they exit the majority of them will role down their windows to sign for the fans. I happened to be one of 7-8 eager fans who were standing and waiting for the players to come out.

In the 60-90 minutes that I was out there, I was able to receive the signatures of John Parrish, Jamie Walker, Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard, Ramon Hernandez[for the second time], first base coach Sam Mejias, third base coach Juan Samuel, manager Sam Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

Unfortunately, the only players who were outright rude were relievers Danys Baez and Chad Bradford who sped away without stopping to sign a few baseballs. I was also able to see pitcher Steve Trachsel step onto the field for the first time as a Baltimore Oriole.

The majority of the players were very nice, but Paul Bako receives the award for nicest Oriole because he stood there signing autographs for a good 10 minutes.

I look forward to going back to O's camp next week when the entire roster will be present.

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