Franco’s Spring Training Adventures – Part II



What’s up NLB followers? This week I’ve been bouncing around the grapefruit league, taking in as much baseball as possible. This is the second and final part of my spring training adventures that took me to 9 games in 7 days! It has been an absolute blast. Part II includes, why I think that multiple people will be taken to the hospital from Cardinal games this spring, Joe Maddon and the beautiful lady in blue, Zobrist putting on a show off the field, Sam Buchman’s forgettable day, and more. Here are the highlights from the second half of my week:

Day 4

Game(s) Watched Live: Cardinals v Mets
Overall Highlight of the day: Seeing Bob Gibson and Lou Brock in full uniform looking like they still had the itch to play.
Runner Up Highlight: Watching a 2 year old kid continuously try to take off the bullpen catcher’s hat while the parents were completely oblivious. The catcher was sitting on a bench that backed right up to the stands and it was hilarious.
Overall Lowlight of the day: Having to listen to this drunk New Yorker tell my entire section what he’d do if he were the Mets GM. I tried to ignore him but that loud voice and thick accent continuously won out. “I’d trade Castillo for a bucket of used balls.” “I wouldn’t sign Puljos next year cause he’s just a greedy scrub.” “Now, that Pagan is a player. I’d do everything I could to lock him up long term.” And this went on for a solid 4 innings or so… Brutal.

Was Today Senior Citizen Day?

I know there are tons of old people in Florida but when I got to the game today I felt like I just walked into a retirement home. Don’t get me wrong, I like old people (as long as I’m not driving behind them), but they were EVERYWHERE. The average age at the ball park was easily 73 and a half.

So when I walk into the game, I stood in the walkway directly behind home plate for the first few innings. In one half of an inning there were 3 high foul balls that went back in the stands.

Ball #1- Heading straight for a huge pack of senior citizens. They all are looking up. Nobody tries to catch it and the ball crashes off the one empty seat in the row and bounces around until an old lady picks it up. Nobody got hit and nobody seemed phased. I thought to myself “Man they were pretty lucky there.”

Ball #2- Same scenario. High foul pop up behind the plate heading for the stands and once again a group of old people are looking up, only to have the ball hit the back of a lady’s seat and bounce almost straight up. Let me repeat: The old lady was sitting down and the foul ball hit the back of her seat and bounced straight up to an old dude that caught it. Once again nobody seemed phase. I was like, “ARE YOU GUYS SERIOUS?! That lady almost wore a towering pop up off of her dome!”

Ball #3- Surprise surprise, the same thing happens except this time the ball was headed towards a packed section of old folks and I was convinced that finally someone was going to get smoked. I watched in amazement as the ball hit the ground between two old men, ricocheted off of a seat into a perfect Sunday hop for a grandma to catch. Everyone was just smiling and picked back up their conversations. I couldn’t take it anymore. “IS ANYONE ELSE WATCHING THIS?!?! It just can’t happen like this forever.” I watched the rest of the game down the right field line and miraculously no fans got injured.

Day 5

Game(s) Watched Live: Rays v Yankees
Overall Highlight of the day: Chatting with Rays’ coach Joe Maddon after the game and watching him work the small crowd that was left.
Runner Up Highlight: Randomly walked by Brian Cashman, realized it was him and went back for a picture. He was very friendly to me and I appreciated that. Not that I’m going to start rooting for the Yanks or anything crazy like that, I just appreciated him being cool with taking a pic with me.
Overall Low-light of the day: Losing in a best of 3 living room horse death match with Ben Zobrist at his house.

Joe Maddon and the Pretty Lady in Blue

I watched the end of the game in the first row about even with first base. The Rays were in the first base dugout and have to walk through a fence in right field to get to their clubhouse. Joe Maddon was one of the last guys to leave the dugout and while he was walking by a pretty lady in blue called out to him from a few seats away from me, “Hey Joe can I please have your autograph? Please Joe? It would make my day. Please?”

Right when Joe came over to give the lady an autograph, about 20 kids and fans rushed him to try to get there stuff signed also. He stopped to look up at everyone and said “Man. You guys tricked me. You lure me over with the pretty lady in blue and then all run down here and get me. I just came over to give her one autograph… man you guys are good! You totally tricked me.”

Joe stayed and signed autographs and chatted with the fans until everyone that wanted one was satisfied. I thought it was super cool of him to do that, especially after an extra inning game that took forever.

PS. I think I’m completely over the whole autograph thing. I’d much rather have a picture taken with someone than an autograph, unless I have some sweet picture for them to sign, which has never been the case. Anyways, I’m happy today that I left the ballpark with pictures of me with Cashman and Maddon instead of a signed ticket stub.

Julianna Zobrist Puts on a Show at the Local Coffee Shop

After the game I headed over to a local coffee shop to meet up with Zoby and his VERY talented wife. Julianna is a gifted musical artist and wanted to go to open mic night at the local coffee shop to practice some songs she’s been working on. The owner of the restaurant had told a bunch of people all week that she was coming in, so it was a pretty packed house and fun to watch her do her thing. I hadn’t seen her sing live before, but left impressed.

This priceless exchange happened after Julianna’s mini concert at the coffee shop. Zoby and I are sitting on a couch in the back while Julianna was talking to some ladies about music in the front. An older gentleman walks up to Zoby on the way out:

Older dude: “So, when are you going to pitch again?”
Zoby respectfully: “Well sir, I haven’t pitched since high school so probably not for a while, but I should play in the field sometime this weekend.”
Older dude: “Do you play in the infield or the outfield?”
Zoby: “Both. I play all over.”
Older dude while patting Zoby on the back: “Hang in there son. They’ll find a position for you.”

I wanted to say: Sir, the Rays are paying him good money to NOT play just one position. Please don’t feel sorry for him!

Day 6

Games Watched Live: Pirates v Phillies @ 1:05, Yankees v Red Sox @ 7:05
Overall Highlight of the day: The Sam Buchman story (see below)
Runner Up Highlight: Listening to Yankees and Red Sox fans yap back and forth all night.
Overall Low-light of the day: Having a sharp ground ball bounce off my hand… The guy next to me definitely interfered with me, but I still have to make that play. I was so upset I had to get up and take a walk.

Why Sam Buchman Will Never Make His Wife Wait Again

Who is Sam Buchman? I have no idea. All I know is that I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a ballpark where the entire crowd was laughing at the same thing at the same time… Until today. Until Sam Buchman’s wife taught him a lesson he won’t ever forget.

Now to the actual story. It was the middle of the 8th inning and the Pirates were getting ready to come up to bat. Right as the Phils’ catcher is throwing down to second, the PA announcer comes over the loud speaker to the entire stadium. Everyone assumes that he’s going to announce the Pirates prospect coming to the plate. Oh no.

PA Dude: “Sam Buchman, please meet your wife outside the stadium by the ticket booth right away.”
Entire Crowd: “Ohhhhhhhhh.” Laughter then ensues with numerous spontaneous jokes flying around. Nobody knew who Sam was, but they still took the liberty to yell out their input.
“Don’t go Sam! You’re already in deep %&$#!”
“Best of luck getting out of the dog house by the end of the weekend.”
“Oh, no she didn’t!! Who does that woman think she is?!?!”
“Enjoy your evening Sam.”
“Somebody please tell her that there’s only an inning left!”

Even the Pirates first base coach got into it by turning to the fans in my section and saying, “Oh man. Sam Buchman is in deep trouble tonight. Ouch.”

Silky Smooth Shortstop

There was one guy on the field that stood out to me more than anyone else today and that was Jose Iglesias. The kid was silky smooth with the glove, making a handful of tough plays look routine. He also turned in a spectacular web gem, diving up the middle, getting to his feet and throwing a perfect strike to nip the runner at first…  AND he had two knocks on the day. He reminds me of a speedy version of Alex Cora.

Day 7

Game(s) Watched Live: Phillies v Pirates
Overall Highlight of the day: Witnessing Halladay carve up the Pirates for 3 innings.
Overall Low-light of the day: Watching a foul ball bounce perfectly to this old guy only for him to miss it and fall into the lap of “super cool guy.” Super cool guy was wearing a flat billed hat with the sticker still on it and was rocking super bling earrings… I was crushed. Really wanted to see the old dude make a play. Didn’t happen.

Halladay being Halladay

I sat 11 rows behind home plate, the perfect spot to watch Halladay go to work. He looked in complete control and made multiple Pirates look downright bad. In my entire week of watching games, I had not seen such horrible swings and half swings like I saw that day.

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