My Spring Training Odyssey

I have been to countless regular season games and a bunch of post-season games, not just in Toronto or New York either. But I have NEVER ever seen a pre-season MLB baseball game … at a Spring Training facility. With Spring Training wrapping up, I figured now’s the last chance to post an article I’ve delayed doing for 5 years or so.

Yes, I have seen a few pre-season games, a couple at the SkyDome (Roger’s Centre now) and even one in Philadelphia, at Veteran’s Stadium in 1994 … vs my hometown Toronto Blue Jays. That is a story in itself culminating with me the lone Blue Jays fan in the front row, beside my Jersey-ite cousin Johnny (who doesn’t care any which way) doing the old we’re not worthy bow to Joe Carter as he does a warm up run beside me. The Philly Phans already irate at the Jays went mental on me and booed me and rained down popcorn at my direction like nobody’s business… I wonder why?

As I said uptop there, although I have seen pre-season games in major league stadiums I have never seen a game in the spring in Florida or Arizona. But I came close in 1990. I was 14, and the Jays were the reigning AL East Champs (for the 2nd time) and it was March Break…hmm I guess this was fitting last week. I digress. We, like almost every single northern North American family headed on down to the pan handle state to visit Mickey, Minnie and the Disney crew. My dad had wonderfully brokered a deal with my mom and sister that involved extra shopping hours if we took a nice detour to DUNEDIN to watch a practice and warm up for a ST game for the Jays. Jaw drop. I still remember how excited I was.

I was in awe staring at everything. How they run the practice, where the media people observe and of course the best spot to catch players chatting and snag an autograph or 2. As the women took cover from the sun, my pops and I darted over to the roaming Jays—me with my marker, cards and commemorative baseball and he with his 24 picture limit camera went hunting.

I was almost too giddy when I reeled in a big tuna on my first try. Number 2 in the rotation and future level of excellencer Jimmy Key. My not so subtle slide into view pic ‘with’ Jimmy Key is one for the ages.

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Next up was solid #4 rotation filler Todd Stottlemyre in his intimidating Mickey Mouse sweater shirt.

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Around our household this meeting and moment was historic because well, it was the first time I ever made it into a major newspaper. Yes I was in the Toronto Star…no the damn reporter didn’t ask for my name, just that snot nosed little kid, but the release of this edition was so epic for us that we called back to Toronto to ask someone to go get it and keep it for us until we got back.

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Even though I’ve subsequently been in the local paper for actual achievements, my dad still lauds this one time as one of his favorite moments. I do too… I was in the Star damnit! BTW, check out those triple striped kicks. Adidas fo’ lyfe!

I didn’t really have a lot of cards of players that were there…actually I only had one and I swooped in to get Mike Flanagan’s signature, on a card that I would normally toss into the “commons” pile.

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That spring I was determined to fill up a baseball with tons of Blue Jays autographs, never happened but hey I did have a good start that March.

Of course I got Jimmy and Todd’s signatures;

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Mike was gracious enough to not only sign the card but the ball as well (top in blue). Do not ask me who that other signature is… I have no recollection!

More autographs including Kelly Gruber & John Olerud on the full post @ n8itude

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