March 2007

DAY ONE: GETTING MY PHIL(S)

Lisa here, while Jonathan is on vacation … except that it sort of feels like I’m on vacation too (only sort of, because after hours of writing in the evening, my back reminds me that I’m not) …

Checking in after Day One of my first (of two) spring training trips … am down here on the Gulf Coast of Florida and couldn’t be happier. For whatever reason, my last two years of spring training "assignments" were significantly shorter and limited me to the "other side" of Florida. Which I also like … but I LOVE this side of the state … and am very excited to be able to check in with you all from 10 camps over the next few weeks …

And I was especially happy to visit the Phillies in Clearwater on Day One. A perfect way to kick off the trip …

Because of my absence from the area, I had not seen the new stadium — aka Bright House Networks Field. Wow, Clearwater Threshers fans, you guys must be in heaven during the Florida State League season (not so subtle plea to my bosses, when you’re making up those travel assignments, don’t be afraid to send me back here!) …

In a way it was sort of bittersweet because I have wonderful memories of Jack Russell Stadium … it was the first spring training park to which we brought our daughter when she was a baby (have a great pic of her in her daddy-backpack with a big Clearwater Phillies cap shading her eyes) … though I also remember stepping in a fire ants nest in the parking lot, not my favorite spring training memory!

But this place is gorgeous. I love the ring of palm trees surrounding the outfield. And I especially love the Frenchy’s Tiki Hut up in left field.

It’s also very player friendly … the dugouts have two tiers of seats, one bench in the sun (or stars in the evening I guess) right near the front, and another row in the back under cover in case it’s drizzling. Plenty of room for everyone.

It was one of the first days of intersquad games and a cut-down day from big league camp, so they moved back the starting time for the games from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. to let the guys get a chance to settle in.

Back in the day when they played at JRS, the minor leaguers at Carpenter Complex got very few random fans watching their morning workouts (the new stadium is adjacent to the old complex, so I had no trouble finding it even without a GPS). But on this day, there were dozens of fans ringing Richie Ashburn field to watch some of the non-roster invitees taking BP … in fact, more fans there than later in the day when the actual games began and Brett Myers pitched a few innings on the back field.

Got a chance to chat for awhile with Phillies outfielder Greg Golson, their first-round pick in 2004. He had just come down that morning from his Major League camp experience and had nothing but raves for the players who took him under their wing, such as fellow centerfielders Michael Bourn and Chris Roberson, as well as pitcher Tom Gordon. Great kid, just a pleasure to talk to … I have a feeling he will put up some good numbers with the Threshers this season.

Anyway, it’s time to hit the road again … all the way to Dunedin (a 15-minute drive) to check in with Toronto Blue Jays camp …

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it …

I LOVE THE SMELL OF JET FUEL IN THE MORNING …

It means I’m at the airport on my way to spring training.

I just wanted to take a few moments to express my verklemptedness (is that a word?) at the outpouring of calls, IMs, e-mails etc. from our listeners and readers on Friday during our last ATM radio show … it’s been a great and memorable year sharing the airwaves with Jonathan, attached at the cyberhip, and I will miss that fun, but I’m also exciting about the new challenges that the Bottom Line show and baseballchannel.tv will offer.

For one thing, it inspired me to get my hair cut for the first time in about 25 years (well, cut in the manner of "actual style that might look OK on video," not cut as in "take an inch or two off but leave the style the same as I’ve had it since I was 8 years old").

But more video means more travel, more getting out to ballparks I’ve never seen and more chances to talk to and watch more players … and that is all good.

And it’s not just about the players (though that is of course a huge part of it) … it’s also going to be about the teams, the stadiums, the communities, and all the things that set the Minors apart from the Majors.

So if there is something special or unusual or unique or just plain fun about your favorite Minor League team or town that you think would make a good segment for the video show, please don’t be afraid to post it here and tell us about it! Trust me, we’re always looking for ideas and who better to come up with them than the Minor League fans who are there in the field, so to speak.

For now, though, it’s all about spring training for me for the next few weeks … I’ll be bringing you notebooks from the Minor League camps of 10 organizations and am stoked, geeked, you name it to get down to Florida. And equally looking forward to sharing the stories on the blog as well …

I can taste that cream of she-crab soup at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grille already!

Is this really it?

Hard to believe that on Tuesday, we’ll tackle our last two organizations, the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres. Then we’ve got just the one final show on Friday and ATM, the radio show, will go the way of the dinosaur (Of course, if you’re Carl Everett, this reference will not make sense).

But I digress. We’ve had a blast breaking down all 30 farm systems and talking with those in the know — farm directors, field coordinators, Minor League managers — to get real insight into the top prospects team-by-team. We’ll do it one more time tomorrow. Not sure what we’re going to do on Friday, but we’re open for suggestions here. At any rate, here’s our Five Faves for the Nats (courtesy of Lisa) and the Padres (courtesy of Jonathan).

Nationals
Collin Balester, RHP
Chris Marrero, OF
Colton Willems, RHP
Kory Casto, OF
Zech Zinicola, RHP

Padres
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
Cedric Hunter, OF
Cesar Carrillo, RHP
Matt Antonelli, 3B
Will Venable, OF

Rounding third and …

… we’re down to our last two episodes of "organization preview ATMs" and we’re throwing you a curve with this edition, as we temporarily skip past San Diego and bring you our San Francisco preview instead.

Don’t worry, Padres fans, we’re not leaving out the Friars, we’re just pushing them back to our preview finale on Tuesday, when we’ll check in with San Diego and Washington.

But for now, join us at noon eastern time to talk some Gigantes and some … well, how would you say Blue Jays in Spanish? Maybe I’ll just say it in Canadian. Blue Jays.

SAN FRANCISCO

GIANTS

Tim Lincecum, RHP

Eddy

Martinez

-Esteve, OF

Kevin Frandsen, 2B

Emmanuel Burriss, SS

Eugenio Velez, SS/2B

Sleeper: RP Brian Anderson

TORONTO

Adam Lind, OF

Travis Snider, OF

Curtis Thigpen, C

Ricky Romero, P

Ryan Patterson, OF

Sleeper: 1B Chip Cannon

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