Although Tuesday was my first full day at spring training, I actually had to leave Camelback Ranch early. I had received an invitation to the 2013 Cactus League luncheon being held at beautiful Surprise Stadium in Surprise, AZ – the spring training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.
As was to be expected, there were plenty of local politicians and other dignitaries on hand and it is clear that they are all very proud of the tremendous growth and success that the Cactus League has enjoyed over the past decade. Especially proud was the mayor of Surprise, AZ Sharon Wolcott and with good cause – Surprise Stadium was recently voted the number two spring training stadium in the entire Cactus League, second only to brand new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (yes, it even surpassed Camelback Ranch – which undoubtedly won’t sit too well with Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten).
The event was emceed by Fox 10 sports anchor Jude LaCava who introduced the two guest speakers - Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett, who currently serves as a special adviser for the Royals, and soon-to-be (first ballot) Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, who is currently a special adviser for the Rangers – or as Greg put it “So I can keep an eye on my brother to make sure he’s doing it right.” (Greg’s brother Mike is the Rangers pitching coach).
Brett, a 13-time All-Star, said that he absolutely loves spring training and never misses a game. He added, however, that he rarely attends games during the regular season, as he is committed to being with his family full-time since his retirement. Brett was the last player to seriously threaten the coveted .400 batting average mark when he finished the 1980 season with a .390 average. Brett retired from the game in 1993 after 21 big league seasons, all of which were with the Royals. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 with a career batting average of .305.
When it was Maddux’s turn at the mike, he held the audience in awe. The 7-time All-Star, 4-time Cy Young Award winner and (get this) 18-time Gold Glove winner always considered himself a baseball player and not just a pitcher. His 355 wins ranks 8th all-time and his 3,371 strikeouts 10th. When asked by LaCava what goes through his mind when he things about what’s going to happen next year with the Hall of Fame, Maddux said almost matter-of-fact “I don’t really think about it. I played on on a World Series Champion team and played on several All-Star teams. The Hall of Fame is the ultimate All-Star team.”
Spoken as only “The Professor” himself could put it.
* * * * * * * *
Spring Training Notes:
- Non-roster invitee catcher Eliezer Alfonzo has yet to report to spring training camp. According to manager Don Mattingly, Alfonzo is apparently having some type of personal family issues and, as of Tuesday, his absence is excused. Mattingly did say, however, that Alfonso has missed a tremendous amount of training, which puts him well behind the rest of the team. “He was supposed to be here Monday,” Mattingly said.”There are things he’s dealing with that we knew about from the beginning.”
- I asked Mattingly if anyone else has been considered to replace Alfonso for spring training (more specifically Gorman Erickson) to which Mattingly said that, for the time being, they will go with being down one catcher and that because of contract matters, any decisions to bring anybody else up would be made by Vice President of Player Development De Jon Watson.
- Mattingly said that he plans to give catcher A.J. Ellis more days off this season than he did last year. “We felt A.J. played a little too much last year. I probably should have given him a few more days,” said Mattingly.
- Dodger reliever Javy Guerra received some one-on-one instruction from Dodger legend and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax on Tuesday morning.
- Reliever Kenley Jansen reports that the ingrown toenail that had been bothering him was surgically removed and says that “…it feels good, it feels great.” He adds that he is currently under no restrictions and is working out as usual with the rest of his team.
- Dee Gordon spent some extra time at “Maury’s Pit” on Tuesday morning receiving expert instruction from the Master himself.
- Mattingly said that all of his starting pitchers are healthy and on a normal spring training schedule so far. He added that Ted Lilly’s schedule includes an extra day off between workouts but he is at 100%.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka. Click on photos to enlarge)