And he met a little friend (just to the left of Tim in the last picture) named Sean to play around with. My dad and Sean’s dad, the guy with the blue shirt and glove right in the middle of the picture, were my main foul ball competition. Both my dad and I only played for fouls until we got one, then we concentrated on watching the game. As that last sentence implies, yep, we both got one.
As best as I can tell:
After a brief detour through the Metrodome, its back to Spring Training. We still have a few more reports to go from the desert. This one has no real *story* per se, its just a bunch of pictures. It does, however, have a theme: practice. We took a bunch of nice pictures of Mariners doing the hard work of preparing for the 2011 season and its time to share them.
Each morning, the entire Mariners major league camp would report to practice field M3 for a big stretching routine:
The Mariners coaching staff hits hours of fungo to the Mariners infielders during Spring Training. Here, Justin Smoak gloves a grounder on the first day of full team workouts on M2:
This next picture is hilarious to me. This was the first day of full squad workouts and the coach (cannot remember which one) said, “First grounder of the season!” and then hit this ball to King Felix Hernandez a/k/a Larry Bernandez:
Erik Bedard has been a pleasant surprise this Spring. He is flat out pitching like a stud and finally looking like he might live up to the original hype. Here he is getting in his work in the mega-bullpen between M3 and M4:
What makes this next picture cool was unintentional and hard to decipher. However, if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see that I captured two balls in the air — Figgy gunned a ball to Justin Smoak that appears in the upper lefthand corner of the photo and Brendan Ryan his underhanding a second baseball to 2B:
One day, the guys all came out to practice and the outfielders reported to M6. Ichiro was all set to play catch with Milton Bradley when he realized he’d forgot his glove in the clubhouse. Ichiro’s interpreter, Anthony Suzuki, bolted off to the clubhouse and came cruising back with Ichiro’s glove:
…Tim took the other three from close range.
So there you go, a look behind the scenes at Spring Training practice. For my money, practice is where the fun is at Spring Training.
In the fifth installment of our series of Spring Training updates, we’ve assembled our favorite family photos from Spring Training. These are photos taken while the Mariners were practicing, but they focus on one or more members of our family (mostly Tim) and show a different perspective on the Spring Training experience.
Here is one of our first pictures from Spring Training 2011:
By the way, here is a closer look at the map of the Peoria Sports Complex:
In the picture of Tim pointing at the sign, he is standing at the “M” (inside a diamond) just below and to the left of practice field M3. If you follow the walkway from that “M” straight up the map, you will reach a circle with a blue box inside it (between M3, M6 and M2). That circle/blue box is a concession stand and restrooms. The lines running left and right from the concession stand/restrooms are cement walkways that run down the middle of large strips of grass. The grass and walkways run all the way from a fence that connects M1 and M7 (right around the infield dirt of both fields) to another fence that connects M3 and M4 (also right around the infield dirt of both fields). All of that grass area is open to the public during Mariners workouts.
Pretty much the first thing we’d do each day (assuming the Mariners weren’t out on the fields already) was head to the grass between the player parking lot at M2.
The grass areas are perfect for playing catch with you father or your son (or both). As everyone else waited down by the player entrance, this is where we set up for some catch:
FYI, that building down there on the left is the indoor batting cages.
Tim has got a lot better at catching and throwing over the last 6 months. His catching improved dramatically when we got him a smaller glove that he can actually close! Here, he fields a grounder:
Sometimes Tim’s throws are perfect. Other times, he throws like Rick Ankiel at the end of his pitching career. Thus, I have to be ready for anything when he uncorks a hard throw:
As the Mariners head out to on in from M3-M6 before or after a work out, its an ideal time to get up and close for your favorite players. Here, my mom got some shots of Mariners walking by and giving Tim “five” as they headed out to M3:
M6 seems to get the least action…or at least the fewest spectators…so its a nice place to hit without having to worry about other fans getting in the way.
Here are two great pictures Colleen took of Kellan watching Tim pitch to my mom as I play the field:
Kellan missed the first day of Spring Training workouts because the rain was threatening, the wind was gusting, and he was tired. So he made his debut at Spring Training the next day, and this was his first picture “watching” the M’s prepare for the 2011 season:
There are a bunch of bushes and small trees between M4 and M5. Here, Tim climbs in a tree (with M4 behind him):
WIth seven practice fields and 60+ players running around from field-to-field plus getting to play catch and hit with your family members, there is a lot going on at Spring Training. Tim couldn’t stay put in one place for too long. He had to go, go, go:
In the picture above to the right, Miguel Olivo is trying to shake Tim’s hand, but Tim has a handful of rocks. Instead of shaking Miguel’s hand, Tim opened his palm and showed Olivo the rocks he had collected beyond the M3 RF wall.
One day, Colleen fed Kellan a bottle while sitting on a little stone wall that circles the concession stand. Tim took a break from his own BP and ran over to his mommy and spelled his name in the gravel:
The picture above to the right is the actual picture of Luke French that Tim is taking in the picture above to the left. I thought that this was funny because right before taking this picture, Tim said to me, “Look, daddy, its the number of Christmas!”
Tim did most of the batting when we took BP beside M6. But my mom and I took a few hacks too. Here is a hilarious picture of Tim throwing at his grandma:
Shortly after the last picture, a bunch of Mariners outfielders started warming up down the M6 LF line just on the other side of the fence from out little BP site. We took a break from BP to watch the guys play catch. When Greg Halman caught the last ball thrown by his partner, I called out, “Hey, Greg!” He turned around and I pointed down to Tim. About 5-10 seconds later, I took this picture of Tim:
While Tim was pitching to my mom, I took a long range photo across the grassy area of Colleen and Kellan watching some pitchers warm up:
One last fun family photo for this entry:
Tim loves trying to push these big baseballs — click here for proof. As for Kellan, he might have had a little help (hidden mostly behind the baseball) sitting up on top of that big baseball for this picture.
As I think these pictures show, the lazy days hanging around the Mariners Spring Training workouts at Spring Training are great.
Last October 1st, we took Kellan to his first game. The Mariners took on the Athletics and I snapped this photo…
Last season, Tim and I tracked down his “first batter,” Frank Catalanotto, and got him to sign Tim’s “first pitch” picture:
We’ve still never tracked down Tim’s first pitcher, the recently retired Gil Meche. But I was hoping that we would be able to get both Luke French and Rajai Davis to sign Kellan’s first pitch picture during Spring Training. Unfortunately, Davis was traded to Toronto and is in Florida for Spring Training.
Therefore, our number one goal for Spring Training was to get an autograph from and photo with Luke French.
We kept an eye on Luke from the first day of our Spring Training trip…
Still, we kept an eye on Kellan’s first pitcher that day as he threw a session in the Mariners huge bullpen (its about 10 pitchers mounds wide):
A couple days later (the same day Milton Bradley gave Kellan his bat), we were still looking to connect with French. In fact, tracking down and getting a picture/autograph with French was the sole goal of the day before we planned on leaving the Peoria Sports Complex early to go on a tour of Chase Field.
As the Mariners made their way out of the clubhouse, they were all business. I didn’t see French as he made his way out to the practice fields. But it didn’t matter because all of the players were telling fans they couldn’t sign autographs until after practice.
Once we headed out of the field, Luke was there…
As I mentioned in the Milton Bradley entry, my mom, Colleen and Kellan hung out watching live BP on the main field during most of this practice session. After getting in his work, French grabbed a bucket and sat down (about 25 feet in front of my mom, Colleen and Kellan) to watch live BP on the M3 practice field:
After a while, French hopped up from his perch and milled around a little bit behind home plate. As Tim snapped this picture, Luke was exuding a strong “I’m about the leave” vibe:
There was no time to wait for her thoughts, I grabbed Kellan’s picture (which I had in a protective portfolio folder) and scurried around home plate and toward the other end of the complex.
This aerial photo shows my path in yellow and French’s path in red:
I was trailing behind French and he must have heard footsteps because he turned around and stopped in his tracks and waited for me to catch up. I asked Luke if he could sign something for me, and he said “no problem.”
I felt a little weird with the portfolio in hand because Spring Training is chalk full of sports memorabilia dealers who carry big notebooks full of baseball cards and glossy photos and collect autographs to take back to their shops to sell. I showed Luke the picture and explained that it was the first pitch of my son’s first game. And I flipped through the portfolio to show him that it was empty except for this picture — i.e., I was not just a random dealer looking to make a buck. It seemed like he appreciated that.
Luke happily signed the picture for me. I thanked him profusely and explained that I was sad that Kellan was asleep in the bleachers because I had wanted to get his picture with Luke. I told him we would try to catch up with him again by the end of the week. He said okay and we parted ways.
I ran back over to M3 and “showed” Kellan his newly improved “first pitch” picture:
By the end of the week, we’d still never run into French again. It was Saturday, and the Mariners/Padres fan fest was our last opportunity to track down French during Spring Training.
Fan Fest, which will get its own entry soon enough, featured a bunch of games for kids in the concourses of the Peoria Sports Complex main stadium and a work out by both teams on the field. The Padres went first.
Around 11:00 a.m., we knew the Mariners would show up soon so my mom, dad, Colleen, Tim, Kellan and I gathered together down the 1B line in hopes of getting a picture with Ichiro (a still as of yet unfulfilled goal) as he entered the stadium through the players entrance in the rightfield corner.
Eventually, the Mariners arrived en mass. While I didn’t see Ichiro anywhere (at least at first), I saw Luke French front and center:
He’s the player closest to the camera with his glove on his left hip in that last picture. The guys were down the line about 20 feet from the end of the seats in foul territory. Several of the Mariners ventured on the field to chat with some of the Padres.
None of the fans around us made any attempt to chat with or lure any of the Mariners over toward the stands. I thought, “what the heck,” and I called out, “Hey, Luke!” I figured that with a crowd of his teammates all around, French would probably appreciate it if someone singled him out. He did.
He turned and looked at me like, “Huh, what’s up?” I gave him a big “hey, come over here” wave. Three seconds later, Kellan’s first pitcher was standing next to us along the foul line.
I asked if he’d pose for a picture with my son and, when he said yes, I handed Kellan over to him. I explained that we’d met earlier in the week and he’d delivered the first pitch of Kellan’s MLB career. Luke remembered our first encounter and he was happy to meet Kellan and pose for pictures:
He must have thought the paparazzi were descending on him because my mom and Colleen both pulled out their cameras and we attacked the photo opportunity from three angles:
Thanks, Luke! And best of luck in 2011!
We’re here in Peoria, AZ for Mariners Spring Training. We’ll see no games while here. Just practice. Frankly, I think that practice is the best part of Spring Training. We’ve had many memorable encounters and have tons of great pictures to share. But I haven’t had time to put an entry together yet. So I figured we’d share a couple videos from Spring Training before putting together a write up.
The first day of spring training was extremely windy with periodic spurts of rain. After the Mariners stretched on one field, the different position groups split off onto separate fields. This video shows the outfielders running over to the Mariners main practice field, and features Ichiro giving me a funny little look as he passes by me and Tim:
Many of the chain link fences on the Mariners Spring Training complex are wrapped in dark green fabric meant to cut down wind on the field. Its my least favorite part of the M’s Spring Training complex. Interestingly, the Padres complex (just on the other side of the Mariners and Padres shared stadium) doesn’t have any of these annoying wind barriers on the fences. In this video, Felix Hernandez is seen pitching in a jumbo-bullpen through a little flap in the wind barrier:
In this video, a group of Mariners pitchers are going through pitcher fielding practice (PFP) on one of the Mariners practice fields. At this point, the pitchers were fielding ground balls and then throwing to third base. You’ll notice that the few fans watching the Marines practice are almost completely silent. That’s the standard at Mariners Spring Training. Well, Tim isn’t the standard fan. He’s loud. After this video, Felix fielded a ball and threw to third base. Tim let out a loud, “Good job, Felix,” prompting Felix to spin, lung toward Tim and give him a double arm point and a loud “THANK YOU!!!” This prompted Nate Robertson (following Felix) to ask, “What about me?” Tim was silent, so I responded in a somewhat sarcastic tone, “Good job, Nate.” All of this drew a chuckle from the players and normally silent fans.
In the final video in this entry, Ichiro is shown taking BP on one of the Mariners practice fields. Pretty much every swing shown here resulted in a nice line drive into shallow right field:
I received a funny email today. The author was Sara, from ScoreboardGourmet.com. I’d never heard about website before. It is a site that is dedicated to discussing the food served a sports stadiums. An interesting idea.
Sara was writing to ask permission to use one of my photos in one of her entries. I agreed. And just like that (as my father-in-law put it), I became a hot dog model. Here I am, modeling the “Ruthian” at the Peoria Sports Complex, spring home of the Seattle Mariners:
And here is the link to the full entry. If you’re in Peoria, be sure not to miss the Ruthian.
My parents are two of the luckiest people around. During the regular season, they live at my boyhood home about 15 miles from Safeco Field. During Spring Training, they live at their winter home about 3 miles from the Mariners spring training home — the Peoria Sports Complex.
Before the 2008 season began, Colleen, Tim and I headed to Peoria to meet up with my folks and my Mariners for some Spring Training.
Courtesy of Google Maps, here is an aerial view of the Peoria Sports Complex:
At the top center is the stadium where the Mariners and Padres play their home spring training games. The Mariners spring training fields are below to the left. The two fields to the far left are the Mariners Single-A training fields. The next two fields to the right are the Mariners Double-A and Triple-A fields. Next, is the Mariners secondary Major League field. Above that field is the Mariners administrative building and parking lot. Next to the administrative building to the right is the Mariners primary Major League field. Below the primary field, is a partial field where they do infield drills.
Then on the right side, the Padres have a mirror image of the Mariners training fields.
Spring training is incredibly cool and relaxing. One thing I love is all of the open grass between the training fields. It is a perfect set up that allowed us to watch the Mariners run drills and take BP while my dad and I played a lot of catch:
Those pictures are all taken in the grass between the Mariners Major League fields and the administrative building, which also has a big bullpen set up and indoor batting cages lining the big open grass area. In fact, you can see the bullpens behind my dad and Tim in the top two of the last four-picture set.
In the first day or two of our trip, we just watched the Mariners training. Here is Ichiro watching Raul Ibanez taking BP on the main field:
On our first day there, we ran into Mariners catching prospect Adam Moore who was working out one-on-one with a coach on the secondary Major League field…
…after he finished up, we got his autograph on one of the baseballs Tim had collected earlier in the day and got Tim’s first picture with a professional ballplayer. Finally, at the end of 2009, Moore made the Mariners major league roster. Hopefully we will see a lot of him in 2010.
I really enjoyed watching the Minor Leaguers…
Ah, remember how I mentioned it is relaxing at Spring Training…
…this is an ideal way to spend a morning, relaxing with your family and playing catch with your dad while watching the Mariners prepare for the regular season.
Yep, and then we got more baseballs…
Spring Training is also good for normal bats too…
…that’s a bat that my dad got from a Mariners minor leaguer. No cracks or anything. Just a nice fully-intact bat. Tim and I got two bats from minor leaguers as well, both with small cracks.
Here’s another cool part of Spring Training…
While my dad and I would play catch, Tim would run around with his grandma…
Soon, it was time for some games, so we would head to the main stadium in the afternoons:
Here is a view of the main stadium:
Here is a view of where we sat at most of the games:
When we arrived at Spring Training, they’d already played a bunch of games. And Ichiro was batting .000 (zero hits so far). He was something like 0-20.
His luck would change as soon as we arrived. Actually, he didn’t play in our first game. But in his very first at-bat that Tim and I saw him have in the spring, he got his first hit of the spring…
During one of the games, I took “The Ruthian” challenge:
On this trip, I also was able to achieve a life long dream…
…my first ever Mariners game (or any professional baseball game) on my birthday. I always wished growing up that I could have rounded up a bunch of my friends and gone to a Mariners game on my birthday. But its hard to do when you weren’t born during the baseball season. So this was a real special treat for me. And, as a special gift, Ichiro and Adrian Beltre both hit a homerun for me, and the Mariners got me the win.
For our final spring training game, we sat on the outfield berm…
But we still managed to get a picture that I absolutely love:
BUT WAIT…our pre-season baseball wasn’t finished yet.
Several of my colleagues are big Phillies fans and share the “weekend” ticket package…or maybe its just the “Sunday” ticket package. Whatever. The Phillies had two more pre-season games after breaking camp in Florida. They call it the “On Deck” series. And one of my colleagues gave us their tickets because no one in the group was going to use them.
So, a day or two before opening day, Tim and I headed down to Philadelphia for a freezing cold game against the Blue Jays.
This was our view from our seats in Section 130:
Okay, he wasn’t really saying that. But I LOVE that picture. Hilarious.
It was so cold that we gave up our excellent seats and headed over to the sunny seats in the leftfield porch:
I was fine leaving early. So we made a deal that we’d leave after spending one inning behind the Phils dugout watching Moyer up close. We made our way over there in time to see Pat Burrell step to the plate…
We got a great close-up view of Moyer on the mound:
And with that, we called it a day, and a pre-season, and we went home and waited for our favorite holiday, Mariners opening day.
In middle school and high school, I played first base and left field. When I was stationed at first, I used a Rawlings RFM14 (Wally Joyner signature model). I Iiked it. It was a good glove. In fact, it helped me set a school record for consecutive put outs without an error in 8th grade at old College Place Middle School.
Here, in the only known picture of me during one of my high school baseball games…
Back in 1991, I went to Spring Training. For the final spring training game of the year, the Mariners let me be their bat boy for the day — a Mariners win over the Cubs behind the pitching of Randy Johnson and hitting of Ken Griffey, Jr. That day, the much-loved Harold Reynolds actually used my RFM14 to warm up before the game. So, it was definitely a good glove with a rich history.
Then came 1994 and my playing days were finished. But for some of my lucky friends, there was more organized baseball to be played. A contingent of my best friends went on to play at junior colleges and a couple four-year universities. One of those guys was my good friend since Sherwood Elementary School, Brian “The Amazing Speed” O’Neal. “The Amazing Speed” was a joke nickname in 5th grade. Later on, one of the guys would bestow upon Brian the nickname “Butch,” and for me it has stuck.
Anyway, Butch went on to play college ball in Oregon. He was a pitcher, and later a first basemen. With my playing days behind me, it made sense for me to loan my trusty RFM14 to Butch. And so, I did.
Fast forward 15 years to Monday, December 7, 2009. Butch and I have exchange thed occassional email and we spoke briefly on the phone once this past season. But for the most part, we’ve been out of contact for probably 12-13 years. But on Monday my wife called me at work to inform me, “You received a package in the mail today…from Brian O’Neal!”
Alarms instantly went off in my head. “Oh, my god,” I thought, “ITS MY GLOVE!”
Although I have never made any effort to retreive my glove or ever really been concerned about getting it back, I’ve never forgot about that glove. It has crossed my mind from time-to-time as the years have passed.
Could this really be the day? I didn’t know why else Butch would be sending me a package.
Colleen asked if she could open the package.
“No way,” I responded! “How big is it?”
“Like a package from Amazon.com,” she replies.
“Hmm…” Now, I’m not so sure.
On the drive home after work, I continue thinking. Brian and I made a bunch of home “movies” — most notably, “The Hound Of The Edmondsville” — when we were…hmm…sophomores, I’d guess. Maybe this Amazon.com sized box was a VHS copy of the “‘Brian & Todd: Come Jam With Us” video we shot at the little kid hoops at Sherwood? That seemed more the size of an Amazon.com box.
Finally, I walk into the house and see the box. “Hey, that seems glove sized,” I though. I shook the box like it was a birthday or Christmas gift. “Hmmm…that doesn’t seem very glove’ish. And it does sort of have a video cassette’ish sound to it.”
Colleen walked in and I declared to her that “I have two ideas of what this is…otherwise, I have no clue.”
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH:
And, Butch included a note:
That’s just too funny…and thoughtful. I’m sure he figured I had given up on any thought of ever seeing the glove again. So it was very cool of him to take the time (and postage) to send it across the country to me.
Anyway, I was pretty excited to see my old friend again. I did some inspecting and found that the years hadn’t been kind…so, after typing out a quick “thank you” email to Butch, Tim and I headed to “The Baseball Store,” our local Rawlings outlet. I decided the glove could use some new laces, and I figured that it would be fun to do them in dark green, which is the primary color of our high school baseball team.
Here are some photos from the last twenty four hours.
As you can see in the upper left, the sewn connection at the top of the webbing tore off. Hopefully Butch didn’t take a hard liner to the eye due to that. I had to fix that and, as you can see at the bottom right, it now looks much better.
Here are some comparison shots of the back of the glove…
Although Brian’s “fix” was creative, I think mine will hold up a little bit better.
Finally, you can see that my old friend was a little tired and flat from his 15 year journey…
Its good to have my old friend home again.