I experienced a number of things today that will likely be highlights of my spring training voyage this year, and none of them involved watching the Brewers beat the Padres in Peoria, Arizona. One involves a senior citizen, another involves a hot dog, and a third thing involves two of the Brewers' more promising youngsters.
The Brewers have recently started a marketing campaign aimed at getting and keeping senior citizens in the stands and interested in baseball. It's a very good idea, and should keep quite a number of the older age market coming to Miller Park. Some people don't need prodding, though, and I spoke to one such lady this morning while watching minor leaguers do their thing at the Maryvale baseball complex.
As I sat staring at Corey Hart taking ground balls at third (more on that later), an older lady came up to me and asked me if I was enjoying myself. Of course I was, and I mentioned that this was the third year in a row I had been down here from Minnesota and that I was enjoying myself more every year. She said that she enjoyed coming more every year too, and that she had been coming since the Brewers had their complex in Sun City, many years ago. She's taken the trip down here to Arizona "for more years than I can count" and is a fan truly in love with the game of baseball and the Brewers in particular. We got to talking about Miller Park (well, mostly how County Stadium was a better place to watch a game, even in the decrepit state it was in), trips down to Beloit to "watch the kids, even the ones with big heads," and Jeff D'Amico and his very short wife. It was truly an awesome conversation with an older lady who really knew her baseball, and knew a lot of the dynamics that go on behind it. I am a wiser person for talking with her for 30 minutes or so, and I do hope I see her again this year and in coming years.
I think my favorite two stadiums to visit (outside of Maryvale) during spring are HoHoKam Park to watch the Cubs and the Peoria Sports Complex, where the Padres and the Mariners share a home for the spring. I like the Peoria complex especially for three reasons. First, both times I've been there, I've gotten free stuff. Last year, it was a Ryan Klesko long-sleeved t-shirt, and this year it was a nice looking Padres baseball cap. Secondly, they ballpark is a lovely place to watch a baseball game. Thirdly, they have this concession vendor whose specialty is something called a "Colossal Dog." It is a hot dog (in its way) that is about a foot and a half long and as thick as any bratwurst you are going to find. I took a picture of it the first year we were here, and the vision of it stayed with me to this very day, when I went back to Peoria to watch the Brewers play the Padres. The first thing I did upon entering the stadium was to find the Colossal Dog stand and buy one. The best part is, it comes on a standard-sized bun, which is about half the size of the thing. It fills you right up and you don't need to eat again until the game is over.
I'm going to hold off on the thing about the Brewers' two young promising prospects until the end of this little spring training update. You'll see why.
The Brewers' game today was pretty boring. They won again, but a combination of a Colossal Dog, a few MGD's and a hot, beating sun really made the game tiring by the end, even with an exciting finish. Starting pitcher Ben Sheets looked solid, if not spectacular. He was a little wild early on, but settled into a nice groove, and I'm surprised he left after the third inning. Curtis Leskanic came on in relief and looked good for a couple of batter (striking out both) before getting hit hard for two home runs. One of the home runs was of the inside-the-park variety (by a catcher, no less), but that wasn't entirely Leskanic's fault as center fielder Alex Sanchez didn't play the carom off of the wall correctly, and then made a poor throw into the infield. Leskanic looked to be throwing well, if not a little high in the zone. Mike DeJean relieved him and pitched a solid inning, striking out 2. Wayne Franklin then came in in the sixth inning. He pitched erratically, but got himself out of a number of jams with a good mix of offspeed stuff. He spotted his fastball decently, though when he began to rely on it, he got hit a little bit. Ben Diggins came on to close the game with a 5-4 lead. He allowed a single and a walk, and with two outs balked the runners to second and third. It was a rather strange balk, as Diggins appeared to lose his balance in mid delivery, and then proceeded to slip off the mound and do a pirouette while holding onto the ball. He eventually got the batter out with a fly ball.
Despite scoring 5 runs, the offense wasn't all that impressive individually. Royce Clayton had another solid game with 2 hits, although he did strike out to a young pitcher with control problems that had just walked Keith Osik on 4 pitches. Speaking of Osik, he continued to play well and could be a dark horse to earn one of the catcher's spot. Enrique Cruz had two errors at shortstop, and neither of them were really excusable. The first one was on a ball hit directly at him, and the ball ate him up. The second one was a bit trickier, as he had to field a ball on the run, but it was still a very make-able play. Wilton Veras also had a ball hit directly at him eat him up.
Now, on to the minor league section of this report. I woke up a little bit late this morning and was only able to take in about an hours worth of minor league practice, but it was an hour well spent. Here are some updates on various players:
Lance Burkhart seemed to be having some problems making solid throws from home to second base. His arm seems to be a little on the weak side, and not all that accurate, either. He's more valuable at catcher, but he might be better at third base.
Nic Carter needs to make a number of adjustments to his swing before he'll succeed at the next level. He gets way out in front of pitches and tends to either chop things straight into the ground or get way under them. He needs to level out his swing and keep his hands back. His bat speed was decent, but not good enough to compensate for the above things.
Pedro Esparragoza looked very athletic behind the plate, but in the batting cage, he looked uncomfortable. He has a big, weak swing that may not get many balls too far out of the infield.
Prince Fielder has an amazing swing.
Corey Hart took a step back on defense today at third. In the 15 minutes I watched him, he was very hit or miss when it came to fielding balls cleanly. His arm is fine, but he needs to continue to work on footwork and agility.
Taylor McCormack looked solid on defense at third base, showing solid motions and a strong, accurate arm to first base.
Vinny Rottino showed excellent agility at third base and catcher over the past few days. He could be a valuable utility guy to one of the clubs this season.
Ralph Santana seems to lunge into every swing and still doesn't get much power with his swings. He needs to work on keeping his feet steady and staying with pitches through the zone.
J.D. Wheeler is back and looking healthy.
Pete Zoccolillo has a wide-open stance and a kick towards home plate when he swings that seems to generate a good bit of power. He hit a lot of balls very solidly today.
And now for the thing on the Brewers' two promising young prospects. I had the chance to go and interview two of members of the Power 50's top 10 today and I will be sharing the results of the interviews in the near future. Who are the two prospects? You shall see soon enough.
I'll be back again tomorrow with continuing coverage of the Brewers' spring training from Maryvale, AZ. Keep warm.