I couldn’t have asked for a better day for baseball! The Nationals and Braves played Saturday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium in gorgeous Viera, Florida.
Ian Desmond: Dan Uggla: Evan Gattis and Dan Uggla batting: Bryce Harper fouled a ball off his leg in the first inning: And then almost lost his helmet on a violent hit–a single in the first: Nationals win! Two for the road: Three games in three days! It was an awesome trip. I’ll post normal game entries this week when I’m back in Virginia.
It was sunnier on Friday for the Marlins and Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
It’s great to see kids so thrilled about baseball!
Giancarlo “Create-a-Player” Stanton is as cool as the other side of the pillow:
Thunderstorms took hold of Central Florida during the day Thursday, cancelling most Grapefruit League games. But luckily the skies cleared enough for the Nationals and Braves to play an evening game at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Enjoy these pictures highlighting the night:
The sky is blue, the grass is green, the weather is warm (in Florida), the Marlins are undefeated, and baseball is back. Welcome to March!
Miami defeated St. Louis 5-4 on consecutive days, and added another victory today over the Mets with the other half of their split-squad. In three games, the Fish have scored 19 runs. While I hope that offensive success continues, I won’t kid myself–it’s March 1st. But things look bright as Jose Fernandez reached 98 mph in his spring debut and Garrett Jones homered in his first at bat yesterday.
Today in Viera, the Nationals and Braves duked it out in an absolute slugfest. Atlanta scored NINE runs in the top of the fifth to go up 14-6, but the Nats came back with TEN of their own over the next two frames and won the contest 16-15. And guess what…there were ZERO home runs hit.
In other news, Mike Trout crushed a grand slam in his first game of the year, and Masahiro Tanaka made his Major League debut for the Yankees showing off seven different pitches. Robinson Cano is 3-for-4 in his two games with the Mariners, leading one of my new favorite teams (they still have teal) to a pair of wins. And ex-Marlin Logan Morrison is 2-for-2 with Seattle thus far.
On a personal level, I dug up a picture a while back from a baseball camp I attended at the Naval Academy in 2006. In the picture, I’m standing with a then-current pitcher for the USNA who I only remembered as “Mitch.” Last year, I heard about a Cardinals thrower who was making his Major League debut in a spring training game after attending the Naval Academy and serving for five years. His name was Mitch Harris. I could only help but wonder if it was the same guy with whom I am pictured. Today, I got around to figuring that out, and he confirmed over Twitter that he was indeed the same player. Notice I’m wearing a Cardinals hat in the photo. Mystery solved.
Hang in there, fellow baseball junkies, we’re almost to Opening Day. But the dawn of baseball season does not excite every citizen of America, which, in the 21st century feeds its people instant gratification and action-packed leisure–two things that baseball lacks to the commoner. However, what all Americans undoubtedly love is FREE STUFF! So without further adieu, here is what even the most impatient, uneducated baseball observer can enjoy in 2014.
Great Clips haircuts on April 9th: the St. Louis Cardinal’s site merely states that all fans will be able to get a haircut. No word on whether the haircuts will actually be conducted on site, or a coupon will be given for future grooming. On April 11th, St. Louis is handing out 25,000 Michael Wacha 2013 NLCS MVP bobbleheads! Bobbleheads are as much a part of the baseball tradition as peanuts, Cracker Jack, and freshly-cut grass, so any bobbly giveaway draws a crowd. The next day, redbird fans will receive a replica 2013 NL Championship ring. Again, no word on the details, but let’s hope the rings are at least made out of some sort of metal. If so, that will be a cool promotion! The Cardinals take the cake in early season giveaways.
For a team with unspectacular attendance, the Seattle Mariners do not have a great promotional schedule, but there are a few highlights. May 30th… fedoras–20,000 of them! And the next night, the 31st, is a Robinson Cano bobblehead giveaway. Finally…socks! Mariners socks on June 25th.
The Red Sox only have a bunch of fan photo days scheduled throughout the season, along with two bobbleheads in April. April 7th is David Ortiz and the 30th is Dustin Pedroia. The good news? Everyone in attendance gets a bobblehead, so there’s no need to run anyone over getting into the stadium.
The Tampa Bay Rays have an interesting lineup of goodies. Wil Meyers has a Rookie of the Year bobblehead on April 5th…and a bike horn on August 3rd. How does one make a regular bike horn into a Wil Meyers bike horn? I guess we’ll find out in August. On May 10th, fans will receive a DJ Kitty plush hat (left). But I think the winner is the Joe Maddon Mr. Potato Head on August 2nd!
I’m not sure the Marlins realize that promotions help fill seats because they are not giving anything interesting away this year. Then again, it could just be because no one wants to sponsor them.
Alright, I’m of course most looking forward to the Nationals promotions because I’ll be attending most of my games in Washington. They’ve got a good bobblehead lineup going on, featuring Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, and even a Racing President. But all the hype this year, I predict, will be for the Jayson Werth garden gnome on August 5th. 25,000 garden gnomes with Werth’s face! That’s exciting! In fact, the Nationals even named one of their mini ticket plans after the garden gnome!
After more research, I discovered that the Nationals may not be the first team to dispense personell-inspired garden gnomes. The Minnesota Twins are giving away the “Gardy Gnome” to the first 10,000 fans on June 7th. While this may just be a ploy to get fans through the gate when the Astros are in town, a manager Ron Gardenhire, “Gardy,” gnome will certainly impress.
The Cubs have some quality promotions this year including a fedora hat and a model train. But the South Side’s most impressive offerings are the plethora of bobbleheads. Fan can receive a doll commemorating Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” on May 16th, and one illustrating Greg Maddux’s 3000th strikeout on September 5th. Ernie Banks, Kerry Wood, and Joe Tinker, among others, will all have their own bobbleheads at Wrigley Field as well.
And while all the knickknacks are fun and exciting, some of the best promotions happening around the league include Firework Fridays (presented by the Reds, Angels, Marlins, Rangers, and others ) and tasty evenings like Dollar Dog Night at Nationals Park.
Every team’s promotional schedule is viewable on its site under the “schedule” tab. Enjoy it, fans.
In recent years, developments in the NL East have shown us that the short-lived tide of Philadelphia dominance is rolling out, and the young crops of Washington and Atlanta are surging into the powerhouses of the league. Meanwhile, the Marlins and Mets remain the jokes of the division and are not expected to contend in the near future. These stereotypes and consistent outlooks will once again characterize the talk of spring among NL East followers, but there are several storylines below the radar that may have a greater impact on the race than experts report.
As the 2013 season wound down, the Atlanta Braves developed some serious emotional problems. From their immature plunkings of Bryce Harper to their home run spats with the Marlins and Brewers, the Bravos exhibited an unprecedented wave of insecurity. And after they skated into the postseason on a padded division lead and a few syndicated fights, they were beaten by the Dodgers in four games and knocked out of contention. Whether the aforementioned insecurity stemmed from an ongoing spat with the opponents or was rooted in internal or clubhouse issues, it’s not a good sign for the Braves going forward. Maybe the offseason break was enough to reboot Atlanta’s hot heads. But if we can learn anything from the 2012 Marlins, it’s that issues of chemistry off the field boil over and wreak havoc on the field. We’ll see what happens with the behavior of the Braves this year.
While the Braves pondered their playoff choke, the Nationals bolstered their starting rotation by trading for righty Doug Fister. Fister won 14 games for Detroit in 2013, and pitched over 200 innings. However, his 3.67 ERA was a bit higher than his Major League average, and he was only bailed out by the Tigers’ potent offense. Unfortunately, the Nats’ bats were dismal in 2013 and scored 140 fewer runs than the Tigers did last season. Whether Washington’s offense can jumpstart this season will be key to Fister’s success or lack thereof.
Matt Williams was hired as Washington’s new manager, taking over for the wise, old-school Davey Johnson. Williams had been a base coach for the Diamondbacks since 2010, and is a young, firey personality–completely opposite of Johnson. If the team takes a liking to their new skipper and adjusts well, things can only get better for Washington. But the manager is an important variable in the Nationals season.
The Mets finally had a decent offseason this year. They signed free agent Curtis Granderson and starter Bartolo Colon. Granderson missed much of the 2013 season after breaking his forearm in Spring Training and then doing likewise to a pinky finger later in the year. He will be 33 when the season begins, and will likely never return to his 40 home run form that he boasted for two consecutive seasons for the Yankees, especially since he will be playing in the expansive Citi Field. But his presence in the lineup will be more protection for David Wright than the Mets have had in a long while, as long as Granderson stays healthy.
Unfortunately for New York, ace Matt Harvey is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and will likely be out for the whole year. So unless the Mets’ starting rotation has a fantastic season all-around and can make up for Harvey’s absence, I don’t see the team making a serious run. But their potent lineup, if it stays injury-free and lives up to expectations, is good enough to at least be a nuisance in the NL East.
Miami’s biggest move this offseason was the addition of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed a three-year contract with the Fish. The Marlins have not had a catcher with a consistent and dangerous bat in a long time. In a best-case scenario, Salty’s lineup presence will protect Giancarlo Stanton enough that Stanton can at least see a fair amount of pitches to swing at. But as we’ve learned from the Marlins in the past, best-case scenarios almost never play out.
Jose Fernandez will be in his second year, his first full season, in the big leagues, and will likely only get better. But all-around, the Marlins are not there yet.
Again, the Braves and Nationals will be favored to duke it out for the division crown. If the Braves have overcome their mental problems from last season and can shake off their playoff defeat, they can certainly win this division again despite their dry offseason. And if the Nationals have a hard time scoring runs again in 2014, no matter how good their pitching, the Braves will have an even easier season. But if Washington’s offense comes out strong and supports the rotation, and if Matt Williams keeps this team chemically bonded, D.C. will bring home an NL East crown.
The Braves play in Washington for the Nats’ home opener on April 4th, and the two teams play a series in Atlanta the following week. In the six head-to-head games they play in the first two weeks we’ll get a taste of the contention between these two powerhouses.
Just under three weeks remain before Spring Training starts, and I have run out of ideas for blog posts. So in the meantime, enjoy this instructional video I put together about catching and releasing raccoons.
I know this video is completely ridiculous, but I had fun and that’s all that matters, right?
And yes, this does still involve a little bit of baseball; we armed ourselves with Louisville Slugger bats while we set the catch free.
January. It’s a terrible time for baseball fans because we’re a whole month away from just the tiny buds of Spring Training, and more than two months out from the first real pitch of the season. But I’m looking forward to the sunny morning skies of late February in Jupiter, Florida when the 2014 Marlins take the field together for the first time. Most baseball fans dream of watching their team in the warm, relaxed atmosphere of Spring Training, so for anyone considering trekking down to Roger Dean Stadium this year, here’s your definitive guide.
Opened in 1998, Roger Dean Stadium hosts Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals in Class-A Minor League Baseball. But for February and March, the complex is home to the Major League counterparts of those two clubs–the Marlins and Cardinals. Despite the fact that Jupiter is relatively isolated compared to other training towns in the state, it is a fantastic spring location since it hosts two clubs. As a result, games are played here nearly every day in March.
The St. Louis Cardinals are a real masterpiece of a baseball franchise. Founded in 1882, the team draws fans from all over the midwest, captivating young spirits with a storied tradition and a vibrant community. As a result, Jupiter is buzzing with red while Spring Training is in session. Cardinals fans come from far and wide to see their team in action and flood the first base side of Roger Dean to get up close to their favorite studs.
On the other hand, the Florida/Miami Marlins hail from just two hours south of Jupiter and draw maybe 10% the number of fans as the Cardinals. They don’t buzz, just murmur. Yet the teal or orange-clad are there to support their Floundering Fish, so for that I give them props. That said, and despite the fact that I’ve only ever mingled on the Marlins side of things, I will try to address how fans of either squad can fully enjoy their trip to Roger Dean.
The Marlins occupy the third base side of the field, while the Cardinals operate on the first base side. Subsequently, the Marlins practice fields are behind the left portion of the stadium, and the Cardinals are on the right.
Tickets to individual games range between $20-$30 for seats in the actual lower bowl. My advice is to not buy these seats unless you can find them at lower prices. Instead, grandstand/bleacher seats along the left field line are cheaper alternatives for decent views. In addition, most games are not sold out, so after the first few innings, it is relatively easy to migrate into the real stadium seats so long as one avoids ushers when necessary.
Along the right field line sits a pleasant grass berm, which is great for anyone who wants to sprawl out or run around or do whatever. However, one must have a ticket for the berm in order to be there. Often, Cardinals players will walk in and sign autographs at the berm before proceeding to the dugout. It’s a great spot for signatures, especially since it’s not nearly as crowded as it is down by the dugout.
Now, for autograph enthusiasts, the best time and place to be active is in the morning on the practice fields. Most games start around 1 pm, which means from about 8 until noon, all the players are doing drills, scrimmages, and bullpen sessions on the back fields. To access the Marlins facility, there is a sidewalk that runs down the left side of the complex, along the players’ parking lot. A few hundred yards down is a gate, behind which is another sidewalk that leads down towards the fields. The gate is generally unlocked between 9 and 10 am and remains open until game time, so that leaves a few hours to chill out and get up close to your favorite players. From the late innings until after the game, as players begin to file out, hang around the players’ parking lot (directly adjacent to the respective clubhouse outside the stadium). The key in any situation here is to be patient. Also, one is mathematically more likely to have an interaction with a Marlins player than with a Cardinals guy because the player-to-baseball-nerd ratio is much lower.
Disclaimer***I have never actually been the Cardinals’ side of the stadium, but I assume that the same is true as far as easy access.
The stadium opens an hour and a half before game time, but most players don’t walk into the park before an hour prior. On the Marlins/left field side, the patio between the grandstand and the rest of the stadium extends all the way to the field, which allows fans to camp out right behind the bullpen. Players often stop to interact with fans on the way in, so hang out there, or farther down towards the left field corner if you’re interested in that. As I said above, the berm is the place to be on the St. Louis side of the field since it’s not quite as densely populated and directly adjacent to the gate through which the players arrive.
For foul ball enthusiasts, don’t be fooled by the large cross-aisle that runs around the middle of the seating bowl–it is far too proximal to the field to soak up foul balls. Instead, the patio behind the Marlins bullpen in left field is large enough, and generally empty enough to boast the best ball-catching opportunities in the stadium. Also, the players in the bullpen will of course toss souvenirs into the crowd when appropriate.
As far as food goes, there’s nothing special. If you want to try something, get a big cup of freshly-squeezed lemonade to stay hydrated. So drink up, lather up the sunscreen, sit back, and relax this spring regardless of your club preferences because baseball is almost here. Stay hopeful, chaps.
*Feel free to ask me anything specific about the stadium as this post was a general overview
For someone with so many thoughts, I really don’t speak that often. But that’s just a product of my phlegmatic temperament. However, I do write often. In fact, I have been writing down my thoughts in the form of short stories, journal entires, and now blog posts ever since I could hold a pencil and comprehend my own desires. And that’s why it’s such a pleasure to write about a few of my favorite things–the greatest sport on the planet and the Miami Marlins.
So thank you to all the readers who appreciated my thoughts and bumped Fish Fry up to #26 on the 2013 rankings. I promise to make this year even more informative, adventurous, and exciting.
But before I kick that off, I have to give a shout out to my partner-in-crime Paul Fritschner, a die-hard Nats fan, who acts as listener and critic of my every baseball thought. Paul started his own site on MLBlogs, which I’m sure will impress, and likely surpass mine as the Nationals fan base and league presence is rapidly growing. Make sure you check out his work at Our National(s) Pastime.
Paul and two other, less baseball-savvy friends attended a Marlins-Nats game with me in September (above photo), which resulted in one of the most fantastic and entertaining evenings of my young life, and a really fun blog post to chronicle it.
Paul and I also write about athletics for our school at The John Paul Wolf Pack.
So check out his work, and keep coming back here and I’ll try to boost my stats with more about the Nationals, Braves, and whoever else fans actually care about while I sprinkle in some Marlins articles for my own entertainment.
You stay classy, Baseball Fans.