All that’s left for us now is the Friday round against all the former major leaguers that were in camp this week. Everyone gets to take a least one at bat against a big league pitcher and play an inning or two in the field.
Coaches Mike ‘Spanky’ LaValliere and Don Robinson gathered us together after we got knocked out and LaValliere said “I had such a great week with you guys, it was so much fun,” but had to get one more coaching dig in. “Today you saw why baseball is a game of three outs. If you give them four or five the way you guys did you’ll get beat every time.
“In closing,” Spanky said. “We play you guys in the morning so screw all of you.”
The Pirates promised us a major league experience and that starts right when you walk into the clubhouse each day. Tough to believe there is a nicer set-up among all the major league teams at their spring training sites. The Pirates facility feels and looks as new as it did when it first opened five years ago in 2008.
Spacious lockers and storage compartments; as friendly and cooperative a staff of attendants for your every need; the all important training/rehab room in an adjacent hallway and in a very nice touch an ample supply of baseball necessities before you head out the field- sunflower seeds, bubble gum, suntan lotion and tubs of energy drinks, bottled water and even Diet Pepsi! The only complaint (and it’s a stretch) is the weight room and fitness center is off limits during camp. For a guy like me who does either the treadmill or elliptical six days a week at 4:45 am, I probably could use the cardio workout a couple of days during camp. Then again the quads and hamstrings and hip are telling me otherwise and are thankful.
The Yankee clubhouse was similar though being set underneath Steinbrenner Stadium and taking the ramp up to the field was really big league and very chic. Ample space, great staff and the famous Yankee Stadium frieze running throughout the bunting of the room combined with famous quotes and pictures of Yankees past was chilling for a Yankee fan. The Pirates probably get a small notch higher than the Yankees because it’s newer, more spacious and offers more than the conventional bottles of water to take to the field.
If the Pirates are a 10 then the Yankees are a 9.75. Either way it’s humbling for a week to be a part of the experience.
The Tigers on the other hand was forgetful. The clubhouse was nothing more than a glorified high school locker room, the staff were leftovers from the Khrushchev regime (mandatory to take shoes off before entering at the risk of being waterboarded) and if you were looking for something to drink there was a water fountain in the corner.