The evaluation game, five innings, gives the brass a chance to separate position players so everyone gets fair playing time. Truth is with only 12 to a team you will get all the time you want anyway as the injury bug will hit in game one (it did~) and grow during the week. The Tigers at least asked for a position preface on their sign-up form while the Yankees didn’t. With the Yankees you run the risk of getting three of me on a team and all of us being unhappy. The Pirates do it the right way.
In this morning’s evaluation game they batted us alphabetically and our randomly selected team hit first. With no ‘A’s’ on the roster, I became the first batter in the first game of camp on a gorgeous Chamber of Commerce day and an immediate test for TheBat. With the count worked to 3-2, TB saw perhaps the slowest pitch of its young life and laced it over the third baseman’s head to break her maiden and get the very first hit in her very first try! Atta girl.~
With that now behind us the rest of the game went just fine. We won 11-0, which meant nothing, and I finished the day 1-2 with a walk and an RBI. A good day in the field as well being challenged from about every angle with guys whose best throws were 15 years ago.
After the morning play all the coaches are summoned to a secret hiding place and theoretically the player draft begins. More than likely it’s closer to a World Wrestling Federation Executive Committee meeting. With only 25 or so rookies in camp, the brass knows who can do what and the best way to try and even the teams. The campers are having lunch in the cafeteria in the interim waiting for a sign of white smoke and the decisions made.~
I know I won’t be invited to the green room as a first rounder. Have to figure with advancing age yet a quasi-track record of still being able to compete I am probably somewhere in the middle- say sixth or seventh round pick. See Mom and Dad- I told you I would get drafted by the Pirates. It just took about 40 years longer than I planned!
Finally after about 90 minutes and everyone milling around the clubhouse bulletin board, the door to the coaches room opens and the teams are posted for the week. Nobody has any idea how or why they were selected. Each team is named after a Pirate legend of the past. Bob Elliott was not one of the teams.
The coaching pairs are published in advance and this 1960′s Pirates fan would have loved to play for the combination of Steve Blass and Bill Mazeroski or Roy Face and Bill Virdon. Mike LaValliere and Don Robinson would not have been my first choice. I doubt I was their’s either. We are now however teammates for the week.
LaValliere, known as ‘Spanky’ during his playing days, was an outstanding defensive catcher for the Pirates from 1987-93 with a lifetime .268 batting average. Spanky, 52, was a fire plug listed as 5’8, 190 during his playing days but was probably an inch or two shorter and at least 20 pounds heavier. He was one of the slowest runners in MLB history which may be the reason I am paired with him. Since then he hasn’t missed many buffets.
Robinson, 55, pitched for the Pirates from 1978-87 with 109 career wins. He was known as an outstanding hitting pitcher with 13 big league home runs including a pinch hit HR in 1990, the first time in 20 years a pitcher hit a pinch hit dinger. He was part of the Pirates World Championship pitching staff in 1979 and goes down in baseball history as the hurler that gave up Mike Schmidt’s 500th homer in 1987.