Hello from Phoenix!
As what feels like the only person on the planet without a smartphone, I now have a chance to share some thoughts about what we observed today…and on that front, if you’re looking for more timely and consistent updates, you definitely should follow the Sounds on Twitter if you’re not already. Our media relations mastermind, Michael Whitty, has been Tweeting some updates throughout our time so far.
I spent most of today with Whitty and Sounds assistant GM Doug Scopel. This is my first season covering a Brewers farm team, so suffice it to say, having a guy like Doug around who is so familiar with the Brewers’ complex and the players helps immensely!
Our morning started early at the Brewers major league clubhouse, which had media access from 8-9:30. Most of the players were arriving and milling about, doing things like playing cards, eating breakfast, going to the training room, watching TV or reading the paper. I got introduced to several players and was able to tape interviews with three former Sounds and current Brewers — first baseman Mat Gamel, reliever Tim Dillard and closer John Axford.
After our time in the clubhouse we eavesdropped on manager Ron Roenicke’s daily media session, which is held in Ron’s office in a fairly informal setting. Today the three main topics, not surprisingly, were the health of starter Shaun Marcum, the health of outfielder Corey Hart (both of whom Roenicke said are progressing very well) and the hot hitting of outfielder Norichika Aoki.
Following the Roenicke session, Doug, Michael and I walked back toward the minor league side and made the rounds to meet and see a few other folks, including the 2012 Sounds coaching staff — manager Mike Guerrero, pitching coach Fred Dabney and hitting coach Al LeBoeuf. Both the Brewers and Sounds had road games this afternoon so a lot of people were in a greater hurry than they otherwise might be. We watched the Sounds team (which, keep in mind, still is without several likely Sounds due to the fact that close to 40 guys are still in “major league camp) take their morning batting practice session, and I also spent a few minutes on the computer sending my taped interviews back to our flagship station in Nashville, 102.5 The Game.
After going to In-N-Out Burger for the second time in about 15 hours, we headed out to Camelback Ranch, the complex in Glendale that is shared by the White Sox and Dodgers, as the Sounds were on the road playing Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox). If you’ve never been to Spring Training, the atmosphere for minor league games in the Cactus League is completely different than during the regular season. Typically you’ve got about four fields that back up to each other, and each field has one, maybe two small sets of bleachers. There is no music, there are no public address announcements, and today there were about 15 fans watching the Triple-A game (mostly family members of players). You could hear a church mouse whisper at these games, but it’s great for guys like me because it’s my chance to see some Sounds players on the field before April 5. I’m able to start putting faces with names, etc. We left the end of the Sounds game a few minutes early and walked over to the major league stadium, where the White Sox and Dodgers were playing. Without much rooting interest for either team or reason to take a look at a certain player, we stayed only for about 10 minutes. Broadcast legend Vin Scully, the Voice of the Dodgers for six decades, was not working the game, otherwise someone who shall remain nameless would DEFINITELY have gone up to the Press Box to sneak a peek (compare it to a young composer having a rare chance to watch Beethoven work on his 5th Symphony).
On Tuesday the plan is to head back to the Brewers’ major league clubhouse to gather some more interviews, which will air on 102.5 The Game during their afternoon show, The Sports Revolution, and will be posted on the Sounds’ website. I may also be calling in to The Sports Revolution with a live update from camp. On the interview to-do list for Tuesday are Brewers GM Doug Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke and all-stars and former Sounds Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.
You’ve had the paragraph form, here’s the notes version of various thoughts and impressions from Day 1 of Brewers/Sounds Spring Training…
- Several people today, both media and team personnel, raved about how much talent should be on the Sounds’ roster, at least to start the season. It should be a team with several “prospects,” including starting pitchers Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers, catcher Martin Maldonado and outfielders Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer. There just aren’t a lot of spots (maybe 1-3) up for grabs at this point on the major league roster.
- One of the biggest remaining questions for the Opening Day roster in the big leagues is who gets the final position player roster spot. It seems like it’s down to infielder Taylor Green (the Brewers’ 2011 Minor League Player of the Year, an award he earned primarily from his strong showing with the Sounds before getting called up) and first baseman Travis Ishikawa. It appears as though Brooks Conrad has solidified a spot, so do the Brewers want Green for his ability to play a few different positions, or would they rather send him back to Nashville so he can play every day. And does Ishikawa make the roster as a back-up first baseman to Gamel, who will have a regular role on a major league roster for the first time in his career.
- Tim Dillard is a master impersonator, as you’ll hear if you click on the interviews link above. I easily could have filled 10 minutes with him this morning just on impersonations. In case you haven’t heard, just about one player per major league team has taken the opportunity to impersonate ESPN report Tim Kurkjian. Well, Dillard gave it a stab when ESPN came to Brewers Camp, and I think it’s one of the best I’ve heard. Dillard said the producers gave him about 15 minutes notice that they were going to have him do it.
- If today was any indication, it’s become mandatory at Spring Training when you run into someone you know to be asked these questions: When did you get to town? How long are you here for? How was your off-season? Those came up quite often today.
- When you walk through the doors of the Brewers’ administrative offices on the major league side, you immediately see a large conference room surrounded by windows on one side. When we walked in this morning, there were about 15 people in there having a meeting, including Melvin, Roenicke a former major leaguer Craig Counsell, now a special assistant to the GM. It’s moments like that where you realize that players’ careers, talent and perceived value are constantly being discussed and evaluated, from the ace of the starting rotation to the “last man” on the lowest minor league roster. Every major league team is trying to win the World Series, and Melvin and Co. have a 24-7-365 decision-making process to try to get there.
- It’d been a few years since I’d been to Spring Training…it feels great to be back in the sunshine of the Cactus League.
Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)
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