We jumped right into the action today at Reds Fantasy Camp. After a tasty, complimentary hot breakfast at the hotel, we headed over to the park in Goodyear, Arizona. First impression: BEAUTIFUL! Seriously, the fields are pristine, the facilities are first class all the way. They don't appear to have cut any corners anywhere in this place. It truly is an first class facility. And we haven't even seen the park yet.
When we got to the camp, we went to get dressed in our lockers...our fully stocked lockers. Two jerseys, two undershirts, a pair of pants, a warm up jacket, a hat, and socks. It's really is a thrill to see your name on a jersey in your very own locker.
Unfortunately, that's the only picture I have from the day because we forgot to bring cameras to the park and I didn't take my phone out to the workout or game.
We started with some batting practice, a little stretching and throwing, and then we cycled through various workouts. Our group went to hitting practice first. I was satisfied with my effort. Nothing special, but I had a couple of solid rips.
Next, we went to outfield drills. And that's where Herm Winningham got in my head. To say I had some issues on the flyballs would be an understatement. I caught the first ball, but used my bare hand to keep it from flying out of the glove. That's when Herm started giving me the business, "You're gonna break your hand!" Next ball went off my glove as I was so focused on not bringing my bare hand into it. After that, I was misreading and stumbling left and right. I had no confidence on fly balls the rest of the day.
I did redeem myself in infield practice, which is where we went next. I blew one ground ball, but to be fair, it had some wicked spin on it. I feel much more confident on ground balls than I do on fly balls at this point, which is the exact opposite of where I was before today started. Damn you, Herm!
We did some pitching so that the coaches could see who could handle standing on the mound. I threw more strikes than I expected, but I'd be surprised if I did any more pitching outside of an emergency inning.
After the pitching, we broke for lunch while the coaches all went to draft their teams. My brother and I were selected to be on Brad "The Animal" Lesley's and Joe Oliver's team. For those that have never met Lesley, he's a huge bald guy...kinda looks like Mr. Clean. Oliver is a talker, but he's got nothing on Lesley. (And neither player is in Herm's class. Damn you, Herm!)
Our first game was this afternoon. We were in our road red jerseys and failed to dent the plate in the first inning. The other team put 3 up on the board in the bottom of the inning. We responded with 3 in the 2nd and then the game shifted into a pitcher's duel. Our pitchers shut the opponents down, not surrendering another run in the next 5 innings, and barely even giving up base runners. Our hitters were pounding the ball, but we hit more balls right at defenders than should be allowed by law. In particular, the other team's center field caught at least 4 line drives that were snow cone catches. We had more rallies snuffed out on hard hit balls that I've ever seen.
Then came the 7th and final inning. I was playing second base and the leadoff hitter hit a routine popup to me. And all I could hear, both literally and figuratively, was Herm Winningham's voice (he was the opposing team's coach and does not stop talking. Ever.). The ball hit off the heel of my glove and dropped to the ground, allowing the lead-off hitter to reach base.
The very next hitter hit a ground ball to me, but it was a slow roller and my only play was at first base. The runner advanced to 2nd. The following hitter grounded out to 3B and the runner advanced again. With two outs and two strikes (it should have been 3 strikes. C'mon, Blue!), a bloop to left was all they needed to win the game.
At the plate, I was 2 for 3 with two infield singles and a strikeout - yep, the curveball got me. I feel comfortable at the plate. Just have to keep working on my timing.
In all, it was a fun day. The weather today was incredible. In fact, it was so good, we might have been spoiled by it. I avoided getting injured, which was my goal. I'm going to be sore, no doubt about that. But that's what the alcohol is for tonight. That and to get Herm's voice out of my head.