Tagged: David Freese

Spring Training Trip 2010

This week I made my first pilgrimage to the festival known as Spring Training.  There is no better excuse to get out of town, find some sun and get a taste of things to come.

I had my first ballpark hotdog of the season within minutes of arriving at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.  It was a little taste of heaven.  Grilled.  Spicy mustard and sweet relish.  Yuuuum!  
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Roger Dean Stadium is a nice place to see a ball game.  It is the size of a minor league park, so all the 6000+ seats are close to the field.  The atmosphere is more relaxed and loose than during regular season games.  Players take more time to sign autographs and interact with the fans.  If you want autographs, spring training is the place to be.
Here is a picture of the Cardinals’ clubhouse:
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The flag in the picture reminds me of a particular gripe I have concerning the Star-Spangled Banner.  There are many rules dictating how we should fly Old Glory.  There should be rules about how the National Anthem is sung.  
First, it should not be drug out like a funeral dirge.  I do not care how lovely your voice is, nobody wants to hear you hold notes for excessively long times because you want your five minutes in the spotlight instead of three.
Second, nor should it be sung like a ditty in a lounge act.  Keep it sharp.  Keep it tight.  If you do that, then you can have your big moment of embellishment at the end.
Third, we all stand for the anthem because it is the rule.  A proper anthem, sung with heart and gusto, should make people jump to their feet and be ready to go and fight!  They should want to cheer with patriotism at the end, and not simply because we are glad it is over.  
I would rather hear someone sing it badly with heart, than a beautiful voice that misses the point.
But, I digress…
You can read the stats, scores and analysis elsewhere.  I will give you what we all really want: pictures!
I suppose we should start with this guy:
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Sure hope he makes the club!
Here is Ryan Ludwick at the plate.  With all the talk about Pujols and Holliday, Ludwick gets left out of the conversation a bit.  He is a Silver Slugger, and I expect in this lineup, he will get some pitches to hit.
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One of the things I was most looking forward to was watching my favorite catcher, Yadier Molina, play.  At his first at bat, he did not disappoint, sending a ball into the left-field corner and sliding into second, safe with a double.
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Sadly, that slide did him in for the time being.  Here he is at second after the slide.  I have looked at this picture trying to decide if I can see the pain. His stance seems uncomfortable.
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Molina left the game after running to third and pulling up when Oquendo was waving him home.  Strained oblique.  I got to see him play less than two innings.  Bummer. The next time I saw him was a couple days later in the dugout, next to Oquendo:
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Due to a bruised knee, I did not see much of Colby Rasmus either.  I will be interesting to see what he does in 2010 with a year of major league experience under his belt.
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Felipe Lopez is back with the club.  I hope he does as much damage for the Cardinals as he did against the Cardinals last year.  Lopez was my only “away from the park sighting” of a player.  I saw him with his family at the pool.  No, I did not talk to him.  I am shy and did not want to intrude.  Here he is at the plate, wearing number 8.  I still think of that number as Troy Glaus.
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Speaking of Glaus, last year due to his injury, the Cardinals had an opening at third base.  This year, they do, too.  David Freese won the job last year, then lost it due to injury.  He seems on track to win the job again this year.
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The contest for the last couple of roster spots is a tight one.  Joe Mather seems to be a strong candidate, particularly since Rasmus is hurt and Mather can play center.  Mather had a 2009 season plagued with injury and illness.  
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The other two strong candidates are in the picture below:  Nick Stavinoha and Allen Craig.  Stavinoha has the advantage of some major league experience, but Allen Craig has put together two strong spring trainings in a row, as well as a great Triple-A season in 2009.  Cr
aig first caught my eye playing for AA Springfield two years ago.  I liked him immediately, and I am pulling for him to make the club.
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What a difference a year makes.  Last year, Brendan Ryan was just trying to make the club.  This year he is the everyday shortstop.  He played acrobatic defense last year and hit around .300.  I love it that he is still wearing the socks!
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Much to my pleasure, there is another Cardinal wearing the socks this year.  Our newest starting pitcher, Brad Penny.  Brad Penny had an excellent outing on Saturday.  Our rotation is really looking tough this year.
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Here is another shot of Penny before the game with backup catcher, Jason LaRue.  I was happy to see LaRue re-signed this year.  It is so nice to have a backup of that quality.

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Hmmm…who else did I see?  Oh yeah, this guy.  Chris Carpenter was in excellent form on the day I saw him pitch.  He ready to go.  Opening day, maybe?  Last year, I got so sick of the term “a healthy Chris Carpenter”.  This year, it has been nice to think of him as a lock, rather than a question mark.
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On the day Carpenter pitched, I sat next to a couple friendly old fellows.  They were testing me.  Asking me questions.  Some I knew.  Some I tanked, but that was okay because then I got to learn something. Here are the two I got right:
The game was low scoring, so one of the guys says, “Only a few runs and hits.  Pretty boring game, huh?”  
I said, “No.  This is great.  I love pitching.”  
I could hear the approval in his voice when he said, “Good for you.”
The other guy asked me a question that I am sure he did not think I would know the answer to.
He says, “Do you know the first two words to ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’?”
I immediately guessed the trick.  “You mean the first two words to the verse, right?” I said and began to rack my brain.  I had looked this up once.  I knew I knew it.  Finally, the words flowed.
“Katie Casey was baseball mad.  She had the fever and had it bad.”
I got it!  I liked the verses to the song because they are girl that wants nothing more than to be at the ballpark.  I was pretty sure it was written about me in a former life.
But…back to the players.
In the way of former Cardinal sightings, I offer you Brian Barden.  Brian tagged teamed with Joe Thurston at third last year before a little guy named Mark DeRosa came along.  Why did we not re-sign DeRosa?
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And, I enjoyed watching this exchange between the NL MVP and the guy that would likely be the NL MVP, if Pujols went to the AL.  Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez have a friendly chat behind second base before the game:
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Under the category of “players that I remember making a splash at the World Baseball Classic”, I offer you, Frank Catalanotto.  He played very well for the Italians.  I particularly remember his defense.  Although, he had a double off Carpenter, so maybe it was his bat.  The Mets fans around me said he was competing for the last roster spot.  
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This was a trip I will never forget and intend to repeat!  I was so happy be at the ballpark again.  To see the green grass.   To be in the sun.  And, to be hot.  I was actually hot for the first time since September.  
If you go, I recommend eating at The Food Shack and The Lazy Logger Cafe.  Both were excellent.  I also recommend taking the tour of the Jupiter Lighthouse.  105 steps up, but worth the view.  
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But, possibly my favorite sight of all was my toes buried in the sand:
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Step Away from the Edge

Good
news:
  It is Opening Day.  Summer is here!

Bad news: 
  Someone forgot to put Opening Day
on Mother Nature’s calendar.  It is still
winter in
St. Louis.

Good news: 
I was home from work today.

Bad news:    The
reason I was home was because I was sick. 
It was a two Kleenex box day.

Good news: 
I got to see the home opener in real time between the St. Louis
Cardinals and the Pittsburg Pirates.

Bad news:    Pirates
won.

Good news:  We
got the first loss and blown saves out of the way.  We can concentrate on winning now.

Despite
pitching five scoreless innings, starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, will take
the heat for walking his last two batters. 
Lefty reliever, Trevor Miller, will take the heat for letting them
score.  Rookie Jason Motte will take the
heat for being one strike away from a save, but instead giving up the game
winning double.

In other
news that will make Cardinals fans shake their heads, former Cardinals middle
infielders had big opening days elsewhere. 
For the Orioles, Cesar Izturis hit .500 including a home run and ended
the day with 2 runs and 2 RBI’s.  Felipe
Lopez matched those numbers, hitting two homeruns for the D-Backs, one from
each side of the plate.  Go figure.

Before we
all go throw ourselves from the St. Louis Arch or toss ourselves in to the
Mississippi river in despair or to simply make our
nose stop running, let us take a few moments to review a few things that might
get lost in the Opening Day grumblings:

  • Kyle McClellan, despite a
    rough Spring Training, pitched a scoreless inning
  • Khalil Greene notched both
    his and the Cardinals first RBI. 
    Welcome to
    St. Louis, Mr. Greene.
  • Hometown rookie, David Freese,
    recorded his first big league RBI on a sacrifice fly, scoring speedy pinch
    runner, Joe Thurston.
  • Adam Wainwright reached base
    in both of his at bats.  Once on an
    error, which led to a run.  Once on
    a double.  You cannot say he did not
    help himself any way he could.
  • Albert Pujols batted .750
    with two singles, a double and an intentional walk.
  • Ryan Ludwick had a .400 day,
    hitting the first bomb of the year
  • Skip Schumaker, coming off
    the bench, is officially batting 1.000 against lefty pitching.  Schumaker also stole the first Cardinal
    base of the year.
  • Chris Duncan is .333 with a
    double and a walk.  The walk led to
    a run scored by pinch runner Joe Thurston.


Remember
this is one of 162.  We are not supposed
to win them all.  Baseball is where the “you
can’t win ’em all” phrase comes from.  So,
put the razors away.  Step back from the
edge.  Take a deep breath.  In with the good air.  Out with the bad air.  Put it in a bubble and blow it away.  The Cardinals are going to be just fine.

Maybe it was Memphis

Maybe it was Memphis
Maybe it was southern summer nights
Maybe it was you maybe it was me
But it sure felt right
-Michael Anderson

Since I will see both minor and major league games this year, it
did feel right to start off my season seeing both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Memphis Redbirds play two exhibition games over the weekend.  The match-up took place at
Auto Zone Park on historic Union Avenue in Memphis Tennessee.

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Walking into the ballpark, I felt I had died and gone to redbird
heaven.  The entire field was covered
with St. Louis Cardinals and future St. Louis Cardinals, such a beautiful
sight.

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I had heard that Auto Zone Park was even
nicer than AT&T Ballpark, the home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks.  And, the ten-year-old park is nice, but I do
not think it has anything on the ballpark in
Oklahoma
City
.  AT&T
Ballpark managed to add historic value to a new park, by making monuments to
Oklahoma born players,
such as Johnny Bench, Mickey Mantle and others. 
The park in
Memphis is missing
the historic element.

 

However, you know you are in Memphis when you are
greeted by a live band playing in the courtyard, just inside the front
gates.  In the city that gave birth to
the
Memphis sound, music is everywhere.  Also, the courtyard is graced with the lovely Memphis Redbird Red Hots.  


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I knew I took a bunch of pictures, but even I was surprised when I uploaded them to my computer that there were 600+ taken over the course of two days.  Unbelievable.  I swear, I did not have my finger on the button the whole time.  I actually kept a scorecard, too.  But, evidently I was very busy.  So, when I say here are “just a few” pictures, you will know I mean it.


Everybody stops to watch Albert Pujols take batting practice.  I think he could sell tickets to his batting practice to raise money for the Pujols Family Foundation.

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The Cardinals 25-man roster includes a number of rookies.  Here are just a few getting ready to take batting practice:  Infielders, Joe Thurston and David Freese, and outfielder, Colby Rasmus.  I believe fellow rookie, infielder, Brian Barden was in the cage.

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New Shortstop, Khalil Greene, looks happy to be a Cardinal.  He had a great spring training, and hit a bomb in Memphis, so we are so happy to have him.

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Yadier Molina heads to work.

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One of my favorite game sights is the catcher, starting pitcher and pitching coach walking in from the bullpen, all warmed up and ready to go.  The walk means it is almost game time.   In the first picture are Yadier Molina, P. J. Walters and Dave Duncan.   P. J. Walters, who will start in Triple-A Memphis, made a spot start for the Cardinals in Friday’s game in place of Chris Carpenter.  Walters had a very fine outing, as the Cardinals won 13-1.

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The second picture is Yadier Molina, Joel Pineiro and Dave Duncan.  Joel Pineiro had a great spring training, and he pitched well on Saturday.  He got into a couple jams, but did not loose his cool.  He pitched better the longer he went.  The Cardinals won 7-3.

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Another beautiful sight:  

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I took the following two pictures, because I wondered if the kid in the #12 Aaron Miles jersey was asking John Mozeliak, “Hey, Mo.  Why didn’t you pick up Miles?  Now, I need a new jersey.  Forget the autograph.  I want a new jersey.”



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Amazingly enough, another kid walked up with a #12 T-shirt.  I imagined him asking the same question.

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This is a nice shot of Khalil Greene , but the guy on second base got my attention over the weekend.  Memphis center fielder, Shane Robinson, has a nice bat.  He made a great diving catch in center, and literally climbed the wall to try to get to a Rick Ankiel home run that was long gone.  

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But, I found the following shot of him hilarious.  From left to right (field), we have Jon Jay (5’9″), Shane Robinson (5’7″) and Joe Mather (6’4″).  Mather looks like a Giant.

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Chris Carpenter was scratched from the Friday start, which is fine with me.  There is always a worry that he has X number of pitches left.  No need to waste them on an exhibition game.  He was reported to have a calf injury, but if he can cop a catcher’s squat to catch Adam Wainwright, the calf must be healed.

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Before Saturday’s day game, I was at the park before it was open.  So, I decided to take a little walk all the way around it.  When I got to the back of the park, the gate was open.  I resisted the urge to trespass.  However, I could see through to the field.  I was not surprised by what I saw:  Third Base/Infield Coach, Jose Oquendo was hitting early morning ground balls to Skip Schumaker.  Here is a picture of Schumaker warming up later.


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Speaking of Jose Oquendo, late in the game on Saturday, he was sent in to pinch hit.  The crowd went wild.  He fouled off a couple and then drew a walk.  When he took his lead at first, the crowd wanted him to steal.  He got moved around to third base.  He had an opportunity to tag and score on a fly ball, but evidently, he did not send himself.  Ironically, he was stranded at the base he will be coaching all year.

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The-closer-who-must-not-be-named, Jason Motte, pitched in the ninth inning Saturday.

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Not to be outdone by the Cardinals coaching staff, Memphis Redbirds Manager, Chris Maloney, sent himself in to pinch hit.  He made nice contact, but grounded out to finish the game.

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Ballpark Food Note

I give the ballpark hot dog a grade of “B”.  Good quality hot dog, toasted bun.  Good, but not fantastic.  The unique food to have are the barbecued pork nachos.  Very good, but very pricy at $8.50.  The hotdogs were $4.00