One of the blog’s long-time readers e-mailed me last night during the Red Sox game to ask why Kei Igawa wasn’t on hand to take that photo with the other Japanese players.
It was a good question. It also made me realize that there is a lot about spring training that I should not assume everybody knows.
So here are a few things to keep in mind:
Pitchers: Pitchers not scheduled to pitch do not have to travel. They don’t even need to hang around for home games. Once they get their work done (conditioning, maybe some throwing) they are free to leave. Teams usually keep some relievers around just in case. Always rookies. The same is true of position players to a lesser extent.
Travel: MLB mandates that teams bring four “regulars” on road trips to maintain the integrity of the games. What defines a regular is a little loose. It’s quite amusing to see the veterans jockey to decide who goes on what trips. It’s not uncommon for somebody to get a “tight hamstring” the day before a long bus ride.
Media: Get this, we’re allowed in the clubhouse during games. Because once the regulars come off the field, they dress and go home. So we’re in there interviewing players when other players are getting ready to go on the field. One time last year I started interviewing Jason Giambi believing he was done for the day. He suddenly said, “I gotta go hit.” He came back a few minutes later and said. “Double, they ran for me. So what where you asking?”
The results: Nobody cares, unless you’re team looks up one day and it’s 1-9. Many of the games are decided late by players who will be in the minors. The only thing everybody wants is for the game to get over in nine innings.
Prospects: Major league managers and coaches often have little clue about minor leaguers. Joe Torre, for instance, has enough to worry about in New York without keeping tabs on how some kid looks in Trenton. If a player is close to the big leagues, the manager will have some info. But for a player like Jose Tabata? All Joe knows is what he sees on the field. The major league staff relies heavily on the minor league staff in those cases.
Media, part 2: Spring training is loaded with assorted dopes carrying notebooks or tape recorders. We call them “foofs.” MLB grants credentials pretty loosely for the spring and every day brings a new foof with some silly questions. Some radio reporter asked Joe the other day if he had a message for the people of Hawaii regarding Bronson Sardinha. One clown asked players what turned them on. He used to sit in the player’s chair when he asked questions. You get all kinds. Torre, incredibly, never seems to get irritated.
The stadiums: The parks used for spring training are primarily the fields of the Class A Florida State League. Legends Field is the largest at around 10,300 seats. Most of the stadiums are pretty nice but the visiting clubhouses are often cramped.
Joe Torre: For home games, we talk to him after games in his office. On the road, we get him in the dugout before the games and for a few minutes after. Sometimes it’s right on the field. He is always relaxed.
So there you have it, a little behind-the-scenes of spring training. Hope that answers a few questions.