Just getting back into the swing of things fresh off a week-long vacation in Arizona. Got to check out the Grand Canyon, hit the links several times and got to check
out my first Spring Training action.
I came back with a new-found insight on the autograph collecting
business and zero signed baseballs.
I left for the trip hoping to get signatures from Ryan Braun, Prince
Fielder and Trevor Hoffman, three of my favorite players from my
favorite team. Because this was my first Spring Training experience, I
wasn’t quite sure what to expect and quickly found out that getting
signatures is about as predictable as an episode of “Lost.”
I quickly learned that I basically had two choices: I could stay in my
sweet seats behind home plate and hope to meet up with Mr. Braun and Mr.
Fielder another day or I could join the masses hanging out around the
player’s entrance to the field and catch the highlights of the game on
SportsCenter. But there was definitely no way I could do both.
At Maryvale Park, the best place to get up close and ask for autograph
requests is down the left field line near the tunnel where the players
enter the field after exiting the locker room. Me and my ever-helpful
fiance arrived at the park more than an hour before the start of the
game but soon found out we already missed out on our best chance at
I’m guessing that if we would have arrived about a half-hour earlier
when the players were finishing up BP we could’ve had a better shot by
trying to catch them as they went back into the locker room but you
live, you learn.
We had fifth-row seats that were sweeter than the homemade carmel corn
they were selling in the stands so getting up to roam the park was about
as likely as seeing a no-hitter. And if you knew the pitching matchup
that day you’d probably toss in odds on seeing a triple play as well.
Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan got the start on this day and a typical
outing from the most overpaid pitcher in the league made our decision to
wander the park much easier. If there is one player who has ever
transformed one impressive postseason performance into more in the
history of the game I’ve yet to be made aware of him. This guy and his
$12.5 million-a-year contract have held the Brewers hostage for more
than three years now and his batting practice-level of pitches seems to
have somehow gotten worse this Spring.
In typical Suppan fashion, his outing lasted as long as it took my to
get a beer, with the visiting Angels batting around and taking a 5-0
lead in the top of the first. We rode out the next few innings and an
8-2 deficit before embarking on our autograph adventures. I mean how
long does the opposition need to redirect his pitches over the fence
before Brewers’ management bites the bullet, admits they made a $42
mistake and send him packing? I realize that money makes you do some
crazy things (just ask Tiger) but this guy brings nothing to the mix and
we all know it. But I digress.
We headed down to the left-field area and waited along the fence in
hopes of some straggling players coming out or maybe we’d catch some
others heading in for an early shower. The area was already four deep
and probably 16-20 people wide so there was little hope of waiting it
out there. We then went to the bullpen area and actually saw Yovanni
Gallardo signing for a few but unless you were 10 years old or younger
you received very little of his attention.
The next hope was to catch Hoffman before he warmed up but it seemed as
though Suppan’s brief outing caused him to start loosening up ahead of schedule.
At the end of the fifth inning we noticed that a couple of Angel players
were done for the day and were signing along the outfield wall before
exiting the field. I figured some of the Brewers star players would
likely be calling it a day soon as well so we headed to the fence and
joined the masses.
Braun and Fielder eventually came by the area and denied the numerous
requests from fans as they pulled the ole “keep your head down and just pretend we don’t see
them trick” and walked away without laying down one lash of the Sharpie.
After missing almost three innings of action, we headed out beyond the
fence in right field and copped a sweet spot on the grassy hill. With a
full beverage the sun feeling better than any autograph conquest I could
imagine, we gave up on our mission and got back to our jobs as fans.
The Brewers made a late rally but came up short, but it didn’t matter. We
came away with zero signed baseballs, but it didn’t matter. The day was a
success because of the experience, the company and the fun we had.
On my next trip to Spring Training, I’ll either plan to only go to get
autographs or to only enjoy the action of the game. Because the one
thing I found out on this first trip is that to have the best chance at
success for either, you definitely can’t try and do both.