Monday, March 7, 2011

Lakeland Day 2: Nationals vs. Astros (AKA Road Trip to Viera)

I won't lie; the drive from Lakeland to Viera is long and actually pretty boring, except when you're going through the part of I-4 where all the Disney World exits are. At that point it becomes downright chaotic. But at any rate, this was the first baseball game I've ever been to that wasn't Tigers or Mud Hens. Of course, it was entirely because I wanted to see Pudge, which I got to do. I didn't get his autograph, but for once, my shyness had nothing to do with it. It was actually due to a combination of a high school glee club that was singing the national anthem and me being in the wrong place. Can't do anything about that (and I JUST missed getting Steven Strasberg's autograph; the coaches made him leave before he got to me). However, my seat was at just about the perfect vantage point for me to watch him (and I was close enough to the dugout that I could hear him laughing at one point; if you've ever heard Pudge laugh, you'll know it's rather distinctive). There are only three downsides: 1) He didn't get a hit, 2) He was only in the game for six innings (which I expected, being spring training and all), and 3) My camera kept auto-focusing on the screen behind home plate instead of the players, so I was constantly battling blurriness. Still, I managed to get a TON of fairly decent pictures of him (and by "ton," I mean bordering on stalker-quantity). I've put the best ones on Facebook, along with the pictures of the other players. And now for some additional notes:
  • There was at least one other Tigers fan there, as I saw a guy wearing an Austin Jackson t-shirt. There were also a few Cubs and Reds fans there. 
  • This game took FOREVER. I mean, the final score was 14-9 in favor of the home team, and the Nationals scored nine runs in the 8th inning (all with two out), but it was dragging even before then thanks to a lot of hits, walks, deep counts, and long at-bats. 
  • At one point, Pudge jogged out to talk to whichever Nationals pitcher was on the mound (he made a LOT of those mound visits in this game), as he was walking back to the plate, the stadium people played an airplane sound effect. That didn't really make sense (I know it's Space Coast Stadium, but it still doesn't make sense).
  •  Nationals fans seem rather unsatisfied with Jayson Werth. They cheered for him enthusiastically when his name was announced in the lineup, but after that, whenever he batted, there was a lot of complaining and booing going on. The fact that he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts didn't help matters. I checked the boxscore, and he IS hitting only .077 so far, but it's only spring training. I mean, closer to home, the Tigers middle of the order is hardly setting the world on fire right now, but I'm not worried about them, and most of the fans in Lakeland don't seem to be worried either. 
  • Speaking of Jayson Werth, at one point he fouled a pitch straight off the umpire's chest and the umpire didn't even flinch. 
  • Unlike in Lakeland, the Space Coast Stadium grounds crew does NOT dance. 
  • I also got to see former Mud Hen (with a very brief Tiger cameo mixed in) Jeff Frazier, whom I've met before. He had a nice day with a single and a walk. At one point, though, he nearly took out his third base coach on two consecutive foul balls. 
  • Nationals pitcher Garrett Mock began the fifth inning by giving up a hit-by-pitch, a walk, and a three-run homer before getting pulled. As Jim Riggleman was heading to the mound to make the pitching change, an old lady that was sitting near me shouted, "Leave him in! He needs the practice."
  • I was sitting about three rows behind the Nationals dugout. During the middle of the game, one of the vendors stopped at the stairway closest to me and gave the familiar "Ice cold beer" shout that you hear at every baseball game. A guy from over near the Astros dugout shouted something, and somehow everyone on the first base side could hear him. The vendor yelled out, "Is somebody dying out there?" to which the guy replied "I'm dying over here!" Apparently there was only one beer vendor in the entire stadium? At any rate, the vendor shouted, "I'll be with you soon, sir." The guy (politely) yelled back "Take your time." The vendor's response? "I won't take as long as this game is." That got laughs and applause from just about the entire stadium. I think even a couple of the players (including Pudge) smiled at that.
  • When we sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Comerica Park, we sing "root, root, root for the Tigers." At Fifth Third Field, we "root, root, root for the Mud Hens." I always wondered how it got sung if the home team was more than two syllables. Well, as far as Washington is concerned, they just try to condense "Nationals" into that line as best they can.
  • I really wanted to see Pudge throw someone out, but the only time a runner took off (and it wasn't a hit-and-run) was when there were runners at the corners and he held onto the ball to make sure the runner at third didn't take off for home. This was the correct move, because the runner sure did look like he was going to try and score. 
  • And yes, I did get to see the phenom Bryce Harper. He hit two doubles during the nine-run eighth.
  • Finally, I'd just like to point out that I am loving the above picture. That is quite possibly the best picture that I have gotten of any player ever. Anyways, that's it for tonight. Tomorrow it's back to Joker Marchant Stadium to see the Tigers play the Marlins.

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