Late nights and early mornings. That’s the theme for Spring Training. However, I’ve reached that point in my life where I can do either…but not both. That was the conclusion after waking up Friday morning. Granted, my alarm on day one sounded at 3:45 a.m. and I closed my eyes for bed after 1 a.m. Even in my 20’s, it was tough to stay awake for nearly 24 consecutive hours.
You may be wondering why I am publishing the second day of my Spring Training diaries in May. Well, to be honest, the Cubs maildays got ahead of me and then I just dropped the ball on sharing the rest of my trip. My first day at Cubs Spring Training included taking in the Cubs/Rangers game and joining The Heckler bar crawl.
But…this morning my good buddy Crawly asked where the second day of the spring training trip was. So, that led me to this post your reading. I’ve known of Crawly for five or six years, but did not actually meet him until two years ago at Club 400.
You see, Crawly is a Cubs Convention celebrity. He’s everywhere, and usually it’s in the front row of the sessions featuring Cubs management and players in the ballroom. We probably hung out at Club 400 events for a good year before he remembered my name and we’ve become great friends since.
The day I arrived at Spring Training, Crawly called me. The phone call actually came just as I had checked into my Mesa, Arizona hotel room before heading up to Scottsdale for The Heckler bar crawl. Crawly said he’s at the airport and flying to Arizona for the weekend.
We exchanged text messages on Friday morning (day two of my trip), and planned to meet up at Sloan Park. The Cubs had a night game at the San Diego Padres complex in Peoria this night. My original plan was to go to the White Sox complex for an afternoon game, and on to Peoria to see the Cubs.
Crawly was staying with his friend, Jon, from Real Cubs Insider. Jon gave us a tour of Sloan Park. Checked out the team store, which blew me away. There are probably 200 different Cubs hats alone in the team store. Then, we went to the back fields, where I would spend a lot of time the following mornings to watch minor league instructs.
After that, we went over to the batting practice fields, and a few guys were coming out to take some swings. One of the first Cubs players to come out and take swings was Kyle Schwarber. He even played around on the bases…future stolen base threat???
This is the first Spring Training for David Ross…as the Chicago Cubs manager. He came out, and I tried to catch a good picture of him watching batting practice. This was the best shot I could capture.
One of my favorite moments from my trip was our interaction with Ryan Dempster. A couple days earlier, Dempster had tweeted out about baseball cards. Crawly had replied that he should send the Cubs to the One Million Cubs Project.
As we watched batting practice, my head was on a swivel. Jon gave us a great little spot to watch and take some pictures, so I would randomly check back near the small bleachers on the other side for any Cubs players that had walked over to sign autographs.
Directly behind us, I noticed a couple guys sitting in the grass. It appeared to be an interview. And it also appeared to be Ryan Dempster. I wandered by to get a closer look, and sure enough it was Dempster. We waited until they finished and caught Dempster walking back in and chatted him up, as he signed a baseball for me.
He looked at Crawly, and said: “Hey, I need to get those cards for that guy.” I looked up at Dempster and said: “I’m that guy!” They also posed for a picture.
As we continued watching batting practice, a few Cubs would come over and sign autographs. I was able to get Adbert Alzolay, Duane Underwood, and even Theo Epstein. He was rocking a Pearl Jam hat.
Crawly mentioned The Heckler was doing a Sloan Park tour in the afternoon. I decided to skip out on checking out the White Sox game, and that was the point I decided this was going to be a Cubs-only trip. All Cubs, all the time.
I had met Brad from The Heckler the night before at the bar crawl, and we have some mutual friends (we have many mutual friends, but these are non-Cubs related friends). Crawly and I crashed The Heckler tour (sorry, Brad). In the middle of the tour we noticed some guy scaling a fence. Many of us recognized who this was, but our tour guide did not and yelled out: “Hey, buddy! I wouldn’t do that!”
It was Ryan Dempster. He came up and told a couple stories to the group including a hilarious incident from his playing days when the Cubs trained at Hohokam Park. He shard a story about getting pulled over by a cop while he and Ted Lilly were bicycling to the Cubs park.
Once the tour concluded, I gave Crawly a ride back to Jon’s place where he was staying. There was a group of Club 400 friends meeting up that night, but I decided I was only going to burn the candle at one end and would turn in early.
My second day ended by grabbing some 2020 Topps Heritage blaster boxes at Target and ripped some baseball cards in my hotel room.
Another memorable day at Cubs Spring Training! Thanks to Jon for the tour, Brad for letting us crash the Sloan Park tour, and Crawly for sharing our first spring training together.