On the road to Tucson . . . Feb. 26 The closer I got to Tucson, the more anxious I became. It is hard to believe that spring training has finally arrived. It seems like forever since I was told I was invited to the major league training camp.
We left Camarillo on the Ventura Freeway, then took the 210 to the 10 and took the 10 on in. It was my first time to spring training so I didn't know what to take down. So I kind of took everything. You take your extra clothes, bat, gloves and shoes.
I've been wondering how it was going to feel being around major league players. Also, how they would feel about me.
Day 1 . . . Feb. 27 Last night was one very long night. Morning seemed like it would never arrive. I have been waiting for this day to arrive it seems like all my life. After arriving at the park and meeting most of the players, I felt much better. All my worries and questions seemed unfounded. The players and coaches were very friendly and sincere. Having known some players from Florida (instructional league) really helped. The topic for the day was: Have you heard about all the running?
After a team meeting we entered the field. That was very exciting, wearing a major league uniform . . . my name above my dressing area . . . and sitting next to major league players while dressing.
Practice was busy. We stretched, joked around some and did 12 wind sprints. We loosened up our arms, then split into various groups to work on defensive situations.
The wind sprints were tough. You go from one foul line about 100 yards to center field, then jog back and do it again.
Once we started practice, I felt very comfortable. Everyone was great to me. These players and coaches are really down to earth and quality people. At the conclusion of batting practice, we ran 17 more wind sprints. Now I know what they were talking about before practice.
I am really tired. But I feel great about my first day's practice at major league camp. I know I will sleep much better tonight.
Day 2 . . . Feb. 28 Well, I was right, I slept much better last night. The attitude in the clubhouse today was much more relaxed. More conversations and a lot more kidding and joking around. I feel more comfortable with the other players today.
Practice was the same as yesterday. It is easy to see that the pitching is more advanced than the hitting at this stage of spring training. No one seems to be pounding the ball. But the coaches don't seem to be concerned. I hit better yesterday. The running today was easier for me. However, the lower half of my body feels like I was hit by a runaway truck. I am really sore.
Today, several players offered some suggestions around second base. I thought this was really great.
I really like the infield coach John Goryl. He's helped me a lot. He's a second pair of eyes. I ask if it's going good or going bad. And he tells me the truth.
Tony Bernazard is helping too. If I'm going to tag on a pickoff play, he's got the experience to say that my foot is too far--bring it back so it won't get spiked. You know, the little suggestions that you learn from experience. He knows how far and how close to get to the bag.
Bernazard is a great guy. He's Latin so he doesn't know a lot of English. I'm out there trying to do a job and so is he. If it works out for him, that's fine, we'll still be friends. We're all getting along.
I am now looking forward to tomorrow's practice.
Day 3 . . . March 1 Practice was as usual. We had a club meeting with Peter Bavasi (the team's president and chief operating officer). The Indians' management is trying to change the image in Cleveland--more public relations work. They're going to make the ballpark there more appealing. They're going to place banners around the park. Also, they said they were planning to place signs around the outfield fence honoring some of the great Cleveland players of the past.
Peter was very enthusiastic and hoped the morale would be high. I was really impressed with his interest and desires for the team.
There is a lot of optimism for this year. From what I hear, the people in Cleveland like us a lot. It's a Cleveland team, and they back you.
Hitting today was better after the first round. I asked the coach (manager Pat Corrales) for some extra hitting. I was able to take a few extra cuts. The extra swings felt very good. In fact, a lot of them cleared the fence.
Pat Corrales is helping me a lot--telling me things like if we have a pickoff, to cheat a little here, cheat a little there.
We've been taking pregame (infield practice) and they'll just say, 'You look good,' or 'We like the way you turn a double play.' It's kind of a confidence builder for me. When I take pregame, I'm the only rookie out there, and if I get feedback it helps me--even if it's a little criticism here or there.
The players have been super. You get a little ragging here, a little ragging there. It's not just at me. It's fun out there.
You have characters like Bert Blyleven (a veteran pitcher), just having a good time. That's what he's doing. He'll come up with some remark and make everyone laugh and make it fun out there--to break up the routine, have a laugh once in a while.
I don't feel tense or much pressure, I'm just out there doing my job and giving it all I got. It's going well so far.
Day 4 . . . March 2 It was pretty much the same today. I went out and did my thing. I felt good, there's not much new to report.
The media has been pretty much as expected. There have been different people down here doing interviews. I want to feel like I'm one of the guys, so I do my interviews, too.
You know, during the Olympics I got some experience with the media. And during college, too. It's just like any experience you get--it makes it easier the next time, makes it easier to deal with. In the Olympics we had a lot of press conferences--you learn things to say.