French toast sticks, strangled eggs and turkey sausage 'links'. Had a pretty light breakfast because the plan was to hit up Yoders famous cafe. Apparently, this was the Amish place where Adam Jones had his rant about Yankees and Red Sox fans invading Camden Yards. The irony is that, last time I checked, the Amish are pacifists and Jones advocated violence. Not complaining, I just thought it was pretty funny.
I got the fried egg on toast sandy. Pretty simple stuff, but it was good. The toast was hearty and the egg was fried to perfection. I added hot sauce and a piece of the Ham hock that they served BroPhil when he ordered a side of ham'b (It was a huge slice of ham.)
We had a few hours to kill, so we first drove past Ed Smith on the off chance that the kids would be getting after it on the practice field. Just imagine if you drove by to see Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis chasing each other around the practice field, snapping each other with towels. Then Buck comes out and is like 'I thought I told you two to cut it out!' and they're like 'Sorry Mr. Showalter...' But it was not to be. When we drove by all was quiet.
Because we did not yet have tix for that night's game, BroMatt was getting a little paranoid -- is the game gonna sell out, are we going to be left in the cold, oh, oh oh! -- so to ease his troubled mind we swung past McKechnie field and secured our tix. $10 per, with postgame firecrackers included. Beat that!
While BroMatt queued up, BroPhil went inside Popis Place, which is right next to the stadium (just about touching it for goodness sake) to relieve himself. Apparently it's the only place worth a damn visiting in this Bradenton neighborhood, aside from McKechnie. I don't know about that, all I know is that I was sitting there quietly reading my book (The Final Frontiersman) when I heard a commotion. I turned to see some guy, maybe 50 or so with a moustache, cursing loudly and spiking his Pirates hat against the open door of his rental car. He appeared to be by himself.
I would have stared a little longer to try to decipher what his blow-up was about, but I've learned in life that if someone is talking to themselves, and you look at them long enough, they'll soon be talking to you. He drove off, and I can only assume that his rage was over a parking ticket. One might have assumed that he was just so upset about the Pirates' fortunes over the past two decades, but I don't often spike my hats in public because of the Orioles' struggles. I have had plenty of other, more intimate, failings in life that drive me to sudden bursts of fury while sitting alone in my car in traffic.
Afterward, we wanted to check out some place called the Cortez Clam Factory that BroPhil had sniffed out on the iNet. It looked pretty trashy from the outside. Just another dirtbag dump in some strip mall in the middle of the blazing sun in Nowhere, Fla. We went inside and it looked about as classy on the inside as it did on the outside. Apparently the oysters and shrimp were top notch, according to BroPhil and BroMatt, but I sat this one out. I'm not as much of a seafood connoisseur as they are, and the $50 at Phillipes the night before was enough for one trip. I had one draft beer and one packet of saltines and we were on our way.
Up the coast, we find a parking spot on Holmes Beach and venture out into the sand. BroPhil and I regret not packing in our swim trunks for this excursion, and BroMatt takes a refreshing dip. BroMatt wins the award for most dips on the trip. BroPhil has to pee AGAIN, so ventures off for a receptacle. I read on and peak through my sunglasses at the talent. I have to pee, and BroPhil -- having since returned -- recommends the nearby Anchor Inn. I flip-flop my way in and am immediately recognized by a couple of bar flies.
'Are you guys brothers, or what!?'
'Haha, actually yes.'
Anchor Inn is exactly the kind of bar I love: full of people living in quiet desperation. It was dingy and spartan, but had three pool tables, a good juke box, lots of cold bottles of beer and lots of pictures of drunk patrons dating back to the early 90s on the walls.
Back at the beach, I crack a Milwaukee's Best Ice and continue my reading. Some guy walks by in a black speedo and nothing else, doing the Ned Flanders power walk. He's got a silver crew cut, and he's incredibly awesome. BroPhil gets video. Later some busty beach bunny and her beaux walk by. She comments on my attire, criticizing my long-sleeved shirt (I, regretfully, dressed for that night's game and not the beach). 'I'm trying not to get sunburned,' was my meek response. 'Well you're doing a good job, have you ever heard of sunscreen?' OH ***** I just got burned, and it wasn't by the sun! Luckily they didn't kick sand on my face.
We actually did contemplate sharing BroMatt's trunks (swimmer A wades and bathes, then trades bottoms with swimmer B, who wades and bathes, and so forth) but ultimately decided against it. We ran into a similar predicament back at the Hampton Inn. After three nights at the inn, each Bro got his own bed exactly once. What of the fourth night? The solution: all bros in one bed, one vacant bed...NOT!
Once BroMatt also recorded video of that bronzed beach body speed walker on his return route, and used the facilities at Anchor Inn, we decided it was time to move on, but not before an encore at Anchor Inn. After a round of PBR 16 ozers and the following tunes on the junk box -- Sister Christian, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, and Possum Kingdom ? it was off to the game.
Parking was in the Boys and Girls club field directly behind CF. It's a charming expanse of grass of which a small parcel can be rented for only $7. When I asked the attendant where the port-a-pot was (urination, and the source of it, has become a common theme by now) he recommends going by some tree or between some trailers. Hey, I like this guy.
Next, I get to do one of my best jokes of the trip. When another attendant approaches and is shooting the breeze about spring training, I say 'Have you ever been to Dunedin (the Blue Jays ST facility)?' He says no, but undeterred, I come back with, 'Well, you know what they say about Dunedin: when you're 'done eatin' it's time to start drinkin'!' He chuckles and quickly retreats. I laugh on the outside and cry on the inside.
After that we crack some beers, crank the Grateful Dead out of the rig, and get a little Trac Ball and long toss going. GREAT times.
Into the stadium:
McKechnie is maybe the oldest (?) and least gentrified of all of the Grapefruit League fields, or so I've read online and experienced with the handful that I've been to. It looks like a minor league stadium. Ads line the outfield wall, families are all over the dang place, concessions are built into the inner wall. Beer prices are as much as, or more than Ed Smith, which is kind of a downer, but I was DD this night, and not buying, so no big deal. I did buy a 'jumbo dog' for $5 and it was fine.
They have a speed pitch setup going that doesn't get too crowded, so that was fun. Full disclosure: I touched 65 on the JUGS. In my defense, I saw other, full grown, athletic looking adults rearing back and popping the mitt in the mid 50s. I'm not saying their device wasn't calibrated properly, but I have touched high 70s on similar, perhaps miscalibrated in the other direction, set-ups. Regardless, no Andrew McCutchen bobble head for me (you can win one by correctly predicting your speed on the third pitch. I was 1 mph off both times, $1 for three pitches).
This is also known as one of the best stadiums for autographs, and I can see why. Next to each team's locker room (the High-A Marauders play here during minor league season) is a little ramp that all the players walk directly past several times for game. A few years ago I saw Ryan Howard giving out grafs like candy canes at Christmas time, and on this night we got JJ Hardy, Armando 'Perfect Game In My Book' Galarraga and Tommy Hunter to sign a Conway Street banner. The banner was procured at FanFest two years ago for a modest fee, and features Guthrie on one side and Jones on the other. Guthrie signed two years ago at ST and couldn't have been nicer about it. I'm gonna miss having him in orange and black.
Sadly, we missed out on Adam Jones, again! He did the old 'gimme one sec and I'll be right back out' routine, but never came back. People say this guy is real fan friendly, but I haven't seen it. I'll continue to give him the benefit of the doubt, though. Honestly, I try to get grafs maybe once a year, and this is it. I don't see how people can go through this humiliating process at every game they go to.
Oh yeah, the mascot, Pirate Parrot, came out in some inflatable suit and did some hilarious bit to that TubThumping song 'I Get Knocked Down' where he kept crawling around inside the suit and it looked like he was falling and standing back up in ludicrous positions. Classic.
Some guy named Bedard went six innings, striking out five, walking one and allowing only one earned run. Who is this kid? He looked pretty good. Why couldn't the Os have picked him up? It's funny, scanning the P'ratz roster I see a lot of familiar cats: Daniel Cabrera, Jake Fox, JoJo Reyes. Last year they had D-Lee and Garrett Atkins. I'd make some joke about them digging through our trash, except we both live in a landfill, so what would it mean really?
Actually, I am pretty excited about Tommy Hunter. Not only did he sign after the game, which always improves a player's stock in my eyes, but he looked great on Monday: 6 ip, 1 h, 1 bb, 5 k, 0 r. It was against the Pirates, and I'm not foolish enough to tab him a 20-game winner. But I think he's going to be a solid No. 3 in the AL East, pitching 200 innings eventually, winning 12 games or so, and striking out 100 or more. I think we'd all take that.
AJ had a big strikeout with the bases loaded. Maybe that's why he didn't sign. At one point, during pregame, when fans were requesting AJs presence, one of the basecoaches (maybe DeMarlo Hale) was like 'His bubble gum card isn't worth 5 cents!' First of all, bubble gum card??? Second of all, its not for $$$ DeMarlo, it's for the basement bar!
I digress. Wieters 3-4 with a long RBI double. The kid can hit, what more can you say?
Galarraga warmed up a lot in the pen. Got a lot of instruction from, I presume, Bill Castro, on mechanics and release points. Pretty interesting to see. Also, coaches Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick were milling all about. Anderson looks like he could still play. Bordick was dominating a postgame sandwich.
Comments? Discuss it here
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board