This is a tough week for me. Pitchers and catchers are reporting to camp and I had to travel to the Daytona Beach area of Florida to spend time with my ailing mother-in-law.
In the past, I would drop my bride off, go to sleep, and get up early the next morning to drive the less-than -100 miles more to Port St. Lucie. I’d drive directly to the stadium, go to the administration office and pick up my press pass, and head directly to the fields.
Sadly, spring training just isn’t in the cards anymore for me.
I especially loved going during the period when pitchers and catchers reported. There were far less politics to deal with and you could concentrate your time on your own evaluation of the pitchers.
All the action evolved around the minor league complex, not the main clubhouse where the St. Lucie Mets play. You actually drive past the main parking lot of Tradition Field and turn right just past the stadium. Go down the block and you will see the entrance on the right.
Jay Horwitz, the Mets media head, still had his hands filled because the amount of press doesn’t change just because (technically) only pitchers and catchers have reported. Actually there should be even more positional players in camp early this year what with all the players attending the Mike Barwis camp.
I have all sorts of memories about Spring Training, be it early when the pitches report, or late, when the team breaks for the trip north, but my number one memory continues to be the ST prior to the 2010 season.
There was a particularly chilly morning that we all left the clubhouse to watch some of the pitchers that were lining up on the mounds just outside the St. Lucie Mets clubhouse. This was the real spring training so all the activity began in the main clubhouse, though some of the pitchers featured that morning did come over from the minor league complex to strut their stuff.
I particularly wanted to see how well Oliver Perez pitched that morning and I stood just about next to Mike Nickeas that was catching him that morning. I noticed someone a couple of pitchers down that I didn’t recognize and asked a few of the beat guys around me if they knew who he was. They all said no and one commented on how he didn’t realize that the Mets had someone in the organization that threw a knuckleball.
And that was all he threw. One knuckleball after another.
I always prided myself on knowing the Mets system well, but I just didn’t know who this guy was. I smiled and just assumed that he was someone they signed the day before (he was signed on January 5th that year).
Well, we all know what happened two years later. R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award and eventually was part of a trade that might go down as the best the Mets have ever made.