Sunday, January 24, 2016

Three Baseball Complexes in One Day

January is a time for fantasy camps. A time for grown men who spend thousands of dollars to play baseball for a week on their favorite team with former Major League players who actually played for those teams.

It's also a great time for autograph collectors like myself to be a spectator and meet players that I grew up watching, as well as players who retired before I was born.

Today, my brother, my nephew, and myself visited George M. Steinbrenner Field, the spring training home of the New York Yankees, to watch the Yankees fantasy campers play 2 inning games against the Yankee legends on the final day of the Yankees fantasy camp. There are so many campers that attend these camps, that they have to group them into teams. In order to give everyone a chance to play, they limit each game to 2 innings.
It's pretty cool to see a guy in his 60s get a base hit off of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, but then it's also fun to see El Duque get his revenge and line a triple to center.

The Yankee game was not opened to the public, but thanks to my nephew being as charming as he is, he ended up making friends with a few of the campers earlier in the week at the hotel that they were staying at. He was invited to attend the game and was put on the guest list.
Autographs were fairly easy. Players were signing before, during, and after each game.
I ended up getting all 5 cards signed that I brought with me.

After we finished with the Yankees, we decided to drive to Clearwater to see if the Phillies camp was still going on. To our surprise, it was. All 4 fields at Paul Owens Training Facility at Carpenter Complex were being utilized. It was campers vs. campers, while the Phillies alumni coached their respective campers.
 Since the Phillies complex is closest to my home, I visit it the most, and therefore have gotten most of the Phillies legends autographs in previous years.
Of all the legends invited to this year's camp, only 2 were players that I had never met.
Thankfully, I was able to knock one name off that list today. I spotted Chris Coste coaching on one of the fields as soon as I arrived.
That leaves me with Matt Stairs as the only on that list that I don't have an autograph of. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find him today.

After a long day, we headed back to my home. My brother then suggested that we go to Bradenton to see if we could get some Pittsburgh Pirates. I didn't have any of my Pirates cards on me, so while I took my dog out for a much needed walk, my brother went and pulled cards of mine of Pirates he expected to be there.
It was almost 8pm when we arrived in Bradenton. We knew it was the Pirates first day of camp and that there's always a reception party the first night, we just didn't know where. Ultimately, we found it, it just happened to be at Pirate City, the Pirates spring training complex, just a few miles from their spring training stadium. Like the Yankees, this also was not opened to the public. However, from the sidewalk we were standing on, we could see the entire party. We arrived as the Pirates alumni were being introduced to their campers. It was indoors, but even though we couldn't hear anything, we were still able to identify several of the players.
What we didn't know about Pirate City is that they have dorms there, so most of the players ended up staying there. We did get lucky, though. Mike LaValliere came out to his car to get his luggage. I called to him from behind the gate and he was nice enough to come over and sign for us.
It was a fun, long day. Definitely the most complexes I've visited in one day. I'm just happy that there were no wasted trips, since I was able to get at least one autograph at each visit.


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