So, we’ve been taking a million pictures at Mariners Spring Training this week. I’ve been debating how to write up our experiences.
Chronologically by day?
Nah…too many pictures for some days and not many at all for others.
By experience (or groupings of experiences)?
Okay, let’s give that a shot.
First up, the Milton Bradley experience.
The first week or two of Spring Training are the best. Games haven’t started yet. Its just practice. The Mariners have 6.5 practice fields. During most of Spring Training, the big leaguers practice on the two least accessible practice fields. But during the first couple weeks, the big league camp spends most of its time on the four most fan accessible fields.
A couple days ago, the Mariners stretched, played catch, ran defensive drills, and then broke into hitting groups. Groups rotated between four practice fields — M3 through M6:
M3 – batters tried to get hits off of pitchers, but the pitchers played hard to get;
M4 – pitchers threw their “bullpen” sessions on the field as batters stood in and tracked the pitches and baserunners practiced leading off of second and breaking for third base;
M5 – batters took traditional BP while baserunners practiced leading off of third base and breaking for home plate; and
M6 – traditional BP, no baserunning.
Here is a peak at M3 with Brendan Ryan in the cage (I cannot recall or identify who was pitching):
At the beginning of the rotation process, Tim, Kellan, Colleen, my mom, and I watched live BP on M3. The first batter was Milton Bradley who faced Chris Seddon. Bradley’s first two swings hit the right centerfield fence on the fly. His third swing almost took out Seddon on the mound. After a couple more random hits, Seddon’s final pitch to Bradley was hard and inside. Milton swung defensively and helplessly (and sarcastically) yelled “Get off me!” as he hit a weak can of corn into the grass just behind second base.
I could tell Milton cracked his bat on the swing. He immediately went to his duffle bag and swapped out bats (each player brings two bats from the clubhouse to the practice field). I took a mental note.
My mom, Colleen and Kellan generally stayed put at M3. But Tim and I shifted around and watched some of the action on each of the fields.
On M4, Tim and I stood just behind Ichiro and watched him sit on a bucket and swing a weighted bat as he prepared to not take some hacks at the plate…
…all the while Michael Saunders and his group practiced getting a jump from second to third base. When Milton Bradley’s group was at this station, I noticed he was using a bat with athletic tape around the middle. I figured it was probably the bat he cracked against Seddon. (By the way, Seddon really settled down and missed a lot of bats after Bradley’s first round).
On M5, Ichiro and his group got jumps from third toward home plate as other guys took BP:
We had planned to leave at 11:30 a.m. to head down to Chase Field for a tour. We started to leave — we made it out to the sandy/rocky area beyond the OF wall at M3. But then we decided to push off Chase Field until later in the week.
When we got back to the area between the four home plates, Kellan and I looked around for Milton Bradley, but we couldn’t find him anywhere:
…and all of a sudden I saw Milton enter M3 coming from M4. (By the way, that’s Tim in the red and blue in front of Kellan and me in the picture above to the right). Players were starting to pack up and head back to the clubhouse.
As Milton headed toward his duffle bag, Kellan and I took off (my mom and Colleen had no clue what was going on, but they followed us)…
…and rounded the corner of M3’s 1B dugout. There is a gate just past the dugout and I was hoping it would be open. As you can see in the picture above to the right, it was. As Kellan and I arrived at the open gate, we saw Milton pack up his duffle bag and start to walk toward the RF corner (where players exit the field to return to the clubhouse).
Todd: “Hey, Milton!”
[Milton looks over and sees us. He veers over in our direction.]
Todd: “Hi, Milton. Hey, is there any chance my boy can get your broken bat?”
Milton: “What’s he gonna do with it?”
Todd: “Hang it on his bedroom wall.”
[Deeming this a worthy response, Milton extracts a bat from his bag and hands it to me and starts to walk off.]
Todd: “Thanks, Milton!!!”
[I start to walk away with the bat and a great big smile.]
Milton: “Hold up! Is that the broken bat?”
I didn’t hear him. But my mom pointed me back to Milton.
Lo-and-behold, Milton had given me the wrong bat. Above to the right, we made the switch. Now, I had the bat with the tape around the middle that he’d been using on M4.
In the next picture, I guess we’re examining the bat:
Sure he would:
You know, Milton has a terrible reputation. But I invite you to click on these pictures to enlarge them. As he was signing the autograph, he has a big huge smile on his face. He was very pleasant in our little interaction.
As he signed the bat, I added:
Todd: “Hey, could we get a picture too?”
Milton: “Hey, you got me here, why not?”
So we turned toward my mom and Colleen (who both had cameras out and trained on us).
As they snapped away at the pictures, Kellan grabbed at Milton’s hat:
Milton had taken off his hat and put in on Kellan’s head:
…as Milton and I smiled for the cameras:
After more “thank yous” to Milton, we split up and started celebrating Kellan’s awesome new bat:
So, it was an awesome interaction and experience with Milton Bradley. Many, many thanks to Milton! He was incredibly nice, and not just becuase he gave us the bat. He seemed like a very nice and genuine guy. We’ll be pulling for Milton to have a comeback season in 2011.
Anyway, check out the bat closeup:
We had to mail the bat home because we couldn’t carry it onto the airplane. Its finally here and hanging on Kellan’s wall. Here is what it looks like now: