Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lakeland And Spring Training Is A Joy

I remember the first time I went to spring training. It was 1986. I had covered high schools at The Oakland Press the first two years I was with the paper and was on the Pistons beat when, after camp was already under way, I was being placed on the Tigers beat. I had never been to Lakeland before. I just remember seeing the films from there on the TV news. It always meant hope - that spring was on the way. Being a part of it was a dream come true. I have spent roughly three years of my life living in Lakeland. I guess you could say it is my home away from home. When I was on the Tigers beat for 13 years, I spent seven weeks each spring there. Now my stays are shorter. I was at the Tigers Fantasy Camp for a week and will be in Lakeland for a week doing columns and working on stories for our baseball special section in March. I always look forward to it. Lakeland is a good town. I have come to like and respect it very much. It’s not an exciting town, but it is a part of our tradition as much as anything in Michigan. Once in awhile people ask me if it is worth visiting. My answer is yes. Actually, I cannot imagine being a true baseball fan from Michigan and not going there at least once. And for the ultimate baseball geek experience, I recommend going to a Gulf Coast League game in July in Lakeland. They start at noon. The temperature is usually in the 90s with the humidity above 90 percent. You will, I promise, sweat. You will also get an real understanding of just how difficult it is for a player to go through the minors and reach the major leagues. I do find major spring training games boring and meaningless. It is impossible to get an accurate gauge on players. Scouts who don’t understand that are in trouble.

Random Thoughts

- The only good thing about Barry Bonds approaching Henry Aaron’s all-time home run record is watching Bud Selig squirm. Famous Clowns: Yucko, Milky, Bud Selig, Bozo, Homey, etc.

- Haven’t we seen enough of Joey McDonald? Jimmy Howard was a lot better when he got his shot with the Red Wings last season. Regardless of what they do at the trade deadline, the Red Wings are so reliant on Dominik Hasek it is scary.

- I think they should pare down goaltending equipment even more. It is still too big. I would consider that option first before expanding the size of the net.


Anonymous Zac said...

Hey Pat,

Love the hockey talk. I agree that the Red Wings depend on Hasek a little much. With Osgood being injured tons this season I can kinda understand it. I wouldn't mind seeing Howard or Liv in there as well for a couple of games. I think it would be best not to use Hasek to much before the playoffs, especially after the trade deadline. But, there were a couple of games that MacDonald should have won. Thanks.

12:37 AM 
Anonymous rob cole said...

i agree pat. it seems joey has been eating mcdonalds the way he breaks down late in games. howard should get a chance by default in younger days my gramps and i would watch the tigers practice in lakeland he was good buds with vince desmond and i got to meet gates brown and a few others. ill never forget it

8:57 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Liv is definitely another option. You're talking about somebody with great experience internationally. Hasek is so perplexing. I mean, he could be the best thing for the Wings or the worst. He has been both for his teams in the past - including the Wings.

11:53 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Rob Cole,
Vince Desmond was one of the nicest people I have ever met. A true gentleman. The Tigers have had a lot of great and interesting people work them down through the years. Baseball people are generally pretty good.

11:55 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They have changed the stadium in Lakeland. It looks a lot different than it used to. It looks like a major league stadium.

9:47 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! Spring Training in Lakeland is a pure joy for any Tiger fan. I saw my first game at Briggs Stadium in 1956, but didn't make it spring training till 1998. Now I feel something is missing, if I don't go in March. Many of the players are glad to talk to you after the game, on their way to the parking lot. You can get autographs, and have a field day taking pictures. I have several fond memories but the one that I cherish most is when I saw Ernie Harwell standing up in the booth, before a game. I wanted to know if the game would be broadcast locally in Lakeland, because some were not. Looking up at Ernie, I pointed to my earphones and then to the ground, He gave me an emphatic nod yes! You also get to talk to fans following their favorite team from all over the country. You realize that watching baseball is fun , even it the games don't count Dave

3:05 AM 
Anonymous Rob said...

Note to NHL: Soccer has already cornered the world market on low scoring and no fighting. The pads must shrink. Goalies are better at cutting down angles and controlling rebounds than 25 years ago. Equipment technology is also far superior. Pads are so much bigger, yet I'd bet they weigh the same or less than back then. Goalies today look like the 4'x6' sheet of plywood used for Scoro. I used to like great defensive battles, but they've become the norm over the last 15 years... boring.

10:07 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

The one in Orlando where the Braves play, and the Yankees' in Tampa really look like regular season stadiums. It has changed a lot from when the parks in Florida were more like local ball fields than stadiums. Marchant Stadium is just keeping up with the times.

10:11 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Ernie is a terrific person, but I guess everybody knows that by now. And you're right, seeing fans rooting for other teams is cool. I like that part a lot.

10:13 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I don't want to see the NHL go too far offensively, but I do miss the days when NHL snipers were capable of beating a goalie without a screen or the shot being tipped. You rarely see that anymore.

10:15 AM 

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