Cleveland Indians: Grown Men and Foul Balls

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

To be perfectly honest, there’s not a lot going on at the morning workouts in Goodyear.  If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, this is not the place.  It’s pretty laid back, even when they do drills.  There are only a couple of places where you can get close to the players, and a lot of work goes on in places where fans can’t see it.  There are 80 guys in camp with the Cleveland Indians, and they all have warmup gear on because for some reason it’s colder in Arizona than in Cleveland, so aside from the big names they all are indistinguishable.  Still, it’s baseball, and there are about a hundred fans just walking around soaking it up.

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After a while, most of the men in attendance position themselves strategically at various points around the two fields where batting practice is taking place.  These aren’t kids, most of them are at least my age, but they are willing to stand around for an hour or so to catch a foul ball.  One of them has a foot in a walking boot, so unless a ball is hit right to him he has no chance.  But he’s there.

Most of these guys are far enough away from the field that, even if they catch a ball, they will have no idea who hit it, but for some reason they feel compelled to stand there, as though a baseball hit by an unknown player in spring training batting practice has major value.  Granted, balls are flying all over the place, so if you are willing to stand around long enough your chances are pretty good. But still…

I find myself doing the same thing for a little bit, not knowing why.  Part of it is the certain knowledge that if I walk away a ball will be hit to the precise place where I am standing, and the guy in the walking boot might get it.  But even if I catch a ball, it will go home and sit on a shelf.  There are some really cool baseballs on that shelf, two that were caught at major league games, another that was signed by Bob Feller, and another that was signed by Kenny Lofton.  Next to those, anything I catch today would not be worth the space it takes up in my suitcase.  But I stay.

Adam Moore, who will probably be the catcher at Columbus this year, is crushing the ball at Field 2, so people drift over there.  The sky is so bright it is closer to white than blue, so I am a step later than the guys who have been here a while.  But I am also younger and quicker than most of them, and the ground here is like concrete, so if a ball bounces it will travel a long way and I will have an advantage.  I am more likely to get a serious sunburn than a baseball, but I stand there.

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This is not why I came to spring training.  Eventually, I get annoyed with myself and start walking looking for a place where I can see the workouts better.  But every time I hear a bat make solid contact I stop and try to track the ball.  I’m between two fields now, so my chances are double.  I look at my watch.  It’s 11:30 and the game against the Seattle Mariners starts at 1:00, so I assume that the players will start heading for the buses to go to the stadium.  Sure enough, the crack of bats starts to subside.  I still don’t have a ball. I hurry over to the confluence of all the fields so I can see the players walk by.  Some of them are friendly, but those that are get deluged by people wanting autographs and they have to get to the buses.

I head for my car.  On the way I cross paths with the guy in the walking boot.  He has two baseballs.  Damn.