Knology Park, spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays
Happy Canada Day!
I never did do a post about the last spring training game I attended. It was a night game, and I had to drive an hour to the hotel after it ended, then hit the road for home early the next day. It was at the Toronto Blue Jays' spring training facility, so in honor of Canada Day, here it is...
MARCH 26, 2008: This was my last day in Florida, and I decided to see two games: the Yankees at the Phillies
in the afternoon, and the Reds at the Jays at night.
The Yankees game was not a lot of fun. It was very crowded, of course, and brutally hot. And the Yanks were blanked. Nevertheless, I was game for Game 2.
Knology Park is a mere swallow's flight away from Bright House Field. It's an easy five or ten-minute drive. I got there really early, since the Yankees game went quickly (funny how that happens when you don't hit). I drove around the neighborhood a little, just to see what it was like. Nice enough, but it was mostly homes and offices; there was really nothing to do. So I parked in the Lowe's parking lot across the street (they charged $10) and bought a ticket. (Unlike the other games I attended, there were plenty of good seats still available. There weren't many scalpers, and the ones there were weren't doing well.)
The Reds were warming up on the field when I got there. I wandered around stadium for awhile, then "borrowed" a box seat along on the third base line. It was the least crowded part of the park, and the view was not marred by netting. (I don't like watching through netting. It doesn't bother the camera, as long as you focus beyond the netting, but it bugs me.)
The infielders were taking turns fielding balls in front of me, including Andy Phillips:
I was pretty close to the players.
Andy kinda looked at me funny a couple of times. I was the only one in the entire section that early. Not sure if he was wondering if I was journalist, or if he thought I was a stalker or something. I could have told him, "Don't worry, I only stalk Bubba," but somehow, I don't think that would have been very reassuring.
My actual seat was in the upper bleachers on the first base side. The guy at the ticket booth tried to sell me tickets behind home plate, but I asked for a seat further out. Like I said, I don't like being behind the netting if I can avoid it. (As it turns out, one of the Jays threw a ball into the stands that almost landed on my head. I put my hand up to catch it - or at least deflect it. But the guy next to me, who was well over 6' feet tall, jumped up and caught it. He brought a glove. No, I wasn't upset he took the ball. I was glad it didn't hit my camera. And he got the ball for his kid.)
Andy Phillips and Scott Hatteberg were running intervals in the outfield when I took my seat.
This game was very different from the other ones I attended in Florida. It was more like a minor league game. People participated a lot more in the claps, cheers, etc. (and there were a lot more of them). They sang along to the national anthems to the point that the singer was pretty much drowned out. (At Ed Smith a couple days earlier, no one even knew the words to "O Canada.")
Also curious was that even though there were plenty of empty seats, no one moved from their assigned seat. My row was full, but the two rows in front of me were empty. Yet no one moved up, even when it was clear that whoever had those seats wasn't coming.
And nobody left early. Perhaps it was because there was a fireworks show after the game. Or because it was a beautiful night. I left my jacket in the car, because it was so wicked hot during the Yankees game. I later heard it was supposed to drop to 60F that night, and feared I'd be freezing in my shirt sleeves. But it was a gorgeous night for baseball. The best baseball weather of my entire trip.
The visitors' dugout was on the third base line, so I had a good view of it.
Starting for the Reds was Aaron Harang:
Going for the Jays was Jesse Litsch. The kid had a no-hitter going into the 7th.
(No, I didn't say, "Hey, wow, Litsch has a no-hitter!" - though I was tempted. ;-)
Litsch is a Florida boy, and a lot of the people in the stands, including those next to me, were friends of his family.
They were also talking about former Yankee phenom Tyler Clippard, now with the Nats. He's another Florida boy...and said to be quite the party animal. They were talking about his DWI. Apparently, he drove someone home from a party because the person who was supposed to drive them was too drunk. It was only one block...but he got busted.
I wonder if he's really a party animal, or if they just remember him like that because that's how he was in high school?
Andy Phillips started at third base:
David Eckstein was his pesky self, going 3 for 4 with a double.
Greg Zaun had struggled in spring training, but he was 1 for 3 with a double in this game.
Andy in pursuit of a foul ball. (It ended up going into the stands.)
Andy did make a great diving stop in the 5th. His throw was not in time, but it was pretty impressive that he made it at all, considering that he was flat on his face.
Also during the 5th inning, there was a loud double boom. The people around me said it was the space shuttle, on a rare night landing. They don't usually like to do landings at night, but weather delayed the planned daylight landing. The sound was the sonic boom as the shuttle entered the atmosphere. (Actually two booms, one for the nose and one for the tail. For most aircraft, they are so close together it sounds like one boom, but the shuttle is so large you actually hear the double boom.)
The no-hitter was finally broken up in the 7th inning. By Jeff Keppinger, who hit a seeing-eye single to center. (I think he's going to be David Eckstein when he grows up.)
The Jays fans were irate, yelling things like, "What a cheap little hit!" But Litsch had run out of gas. Scott Hatteberg singled, Joey Votto walked, Jolbert Cabrera grounded into a forceout but scored Keppinger, and Andy Phillips hit a sac fly to deep center. Litsch eventually got out of the inning, giving up two runs on two hits and a walk.
But in the bottom of the inning, Harang immediately gave back one run on a Frank Thomas homer. Bill Bray came in in relief.
Bray got the hook after giving up three hits, three runs, and a walk in only a third of an inning.
Last licks for the Reds came against RHP Brandon League. Votto went down swinging, then Jolbert Cabrera doubled to right.
Andy Phillips singled to center, scoring Cabrera.
Andy took 2B on a passed ball.
But Hairston went down swinging, and Rosales grounded out to end the inning and the game.
Andy didn't like the call, and let the umpire know it.
Final score: Toronto 6, Reds 3
Labels: game photos, spring break