This is such a private and special moment for so few. You still have to check into the main offices of the St. Lucie complex, though the main clubhouse remains closed throughout the week. All players, be them on the parent team or from one of the affiliates are housed in the minor league complex at the other end of the field.
You get back in your car and drive over to the back road that leads to the minor league complex where the same guy has been working the gate is since probably the stadium was build. There are very few fans gathered because there simply is nothing that is going on for the general public.
Reporters and players begin to arrive around 8am. Adam Rubin is always the first one there, other than Jay Horwitz who is sitting outside the front door answering the countless emails that come in on his hand hold.
It’s never a large crowd but it’s always a special one and the players seem to treat the press as being part of this inner circle family that very few get the opportunity to be invited into.
And then it’s time. Everyone heads out for morning stretches, followed by toss along one of the back fields. Every day players that have arrived to camp eventually talk one of the coached (Tuff) into throwing batting practice on another field and eventually all the pitchers are sent over to the stealth series of mounds located between two of the back fields on the back end of the complex, opposite the field maintenance work area. It is here on these 8-10 mounds where Mets coaches and reporters will get their first look at this year’s crop of invitees to P/C.
It eventually ends and everyone returns to the minor league clubhouse and selective interviews are orchestrated by Horwitz. One year, it was Oliver Perez. Another, it was Johan Santana after being rehabbed. Kevin Burkhardt, if he’s in town, always gets the first question, Rubin tried to be next, the rest of the major periodical beat reporters follow him, and the rest say nothing, frozen in the moment and afraid to wear out our welcome.
It’s all over by 1pm. Some players hang around in the clubhouse to play cards, but that’s their private moment. The complex closes down and the only thing left to do is go hang out at Duffy’s for the next seven hours.
Is it baseball? No.
Is it Spring Training? Almost.
Is it the single most important special club you can be part of in your entire life. You betcha.