For anyone who likes to follow prospects, the backfields are where it's at. The general public can get access to the backfields on the days when the major league club is on the road.
The orange unis with white pants that the minor league players are wearing are my favorites. They look super sharp. Coaching staff were wearing the blue batting practice jersey with the rainbow stripes under the arm. Cesar Cedeno told Steve Duer (Appy Astros) and I that he really likes that uni because he played for the Astros during the rainbow years.
Speaking of Cedeno, I'll admit it was very cool when he remembered me from last season when I was in Greeneville and came over to chat. But of course I do stick out like a sore thumb back there. I talked with a number of coaches and managers. Josh Bonifay, Rodney Linares, Keith Bodie, Gary Ruby and Joel Chimelis all remembered me and didn't run away and hide from me which is a good sign, I suppose.
It was harder to get a chance to talk to any of the players because they are seriously focused back there (and I didn't want to get any of them into trouble), but I did manage to meet several guys in person with whom I'd done email or phone interviews like Aaron West, Kenny Long, Brian Holmes, Brett Phillips, Tyler Heineman, and Dan Gulbransen.
And I was able to catch up (briefly) with many, many more players that I had met before, but I hesitate to name them at the risk of sounding like a name dropper. Suffice it to say that I felt like the Rock Star of the Backfields with all the warm greetings I received from everyone.
There were a number of players who stood out for me for the shape they were in (best shape of his life!). Domingo Santana is a mountain of a man-child. He looked a little bit soft when I saw him last August, but that can't be said anymore. Telvin Nash looked very good with the dropped pounds, as did Mike Hauschild. Ricky Gingras also stood out. When I saw him last August, I thought he was way too thin to be a catcher but he has definitely added muscle. Ariel Ovando has really filled out as well.
There is a hands-down winner for best 'stache in the minor leagues and that would be Michael Dimock. Note the excellent use of an ironic eyebrow raise as well. I think I'm going to like this guy.
Michael Dimock - March 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen
One of the greatest things about being on the backfields is listening to the chatter. The best thing I overheard was Rodney Linares talking to Matt Duffy at the batting cage, "How many times were you hit by pitches last year? What, you couldn't get out of the way?"
I also got to meet a couple of my tweeps which was fun and hang out a little with Appy Astros (and his very, very brilliant son), Tim and Brooks of Crawfishboxes fame and Terri (Tales from the Juice Box) and her very entertaining and precocious daughter, Wee One. And just to show what a small world it is, I ran into my BFF Dave, an usher for the Lexington Legends with whom I made friends, at one of the games.
I got a brief interview with Dallas Keuchel (which I will be writing up as soon as I find the time), and one thought occurred to me during that interview. I'll bet Zachary Levine never got a hug when he interviewed Dallas Keuchel, despite them both being lefties. So there, Z!
And I decided that I'm a very fickle woman. I have far too many baseball crushes - Kike Hernandez, Roberto Pena, Nick Tropeano (who I have nicknamed Sweet Nicky in my mind), Adam Bailey and Rafy Valenzuela (who gives great hugs). Yes, I know I'm old enough to be their mother, but that's allowed with baseball crushes. I'm sure it's in a rulebook somewhere.
The backfields are a place where the hope and energy and enthusiasm of a new season is palpable. It is where all things are possible and everyone has the chance to shine. On a beautiful, warm, sunny day in early March before the Florida heat takes over, I don't need Disney because the backfields are my Happiest Place on Earth.