Oh, that first day!
By Hal McCoy | Saturday, February 16, 2008, 02:30 PM
Sorry about the sunburn, but you’re right you should know better. I hope you heal quickly.
After 36 years, one would think an old-timer would know better. Yeah, right.
After 36 years of covering spring training, one would think one would know better than to argue with the sun after a winter of hibernation that leaves one so white it looks as if he spent the winter painting closets (As Marty Brennaman would say).
But with minimal sleep the night before to catch a 6 a.m. flight Friday, it was a tired scribe who arrived in Sarasota. With the sun bathing the Siesta Key sand, why not an hour or so of tanning? Read a book.
One chapter into the book, I fell asleep. For two hours. Now my knees are singed like fried scallops and my face is as red as if I got caught telling an off-color joke in church.
But it’s the first day of spring training and it’s off to camp, where everybody is happy. No pressure yet. No games. Just boring exercises and drills.
Pitcher Kent Mercker, 40, a late signee trying to make the Reds for his fourth different tenure, arrived at camp at 9 a.m. At 11 a.m. he walked by and said, “Hey, I’m still here. Been here two hours and nobody told me to pack and go home. I even saw the General Manager - and I’m still here.”
Adam Dunn and his son, Brady, walked into camp for a brief pit stop. “Just here to make sure all my stuff got here,” he said. “I’m off to Daytona to watch the Daytona 500. I’ve never been there in person. I’m pumped.”
Manager Dusty Baker arrived Friday and was pleased to learn that Ken Griffey Jr. was not only in camp Friday but was on the field chasing fly balls.
Baker admits he is still learning his players, so he can be forgiven for one faux pas at his first media chat Saturday. When referring to Reds pitcher Homer Bailey, he called him Homer Bush, a former New York Yankees infielder. He’ll not only learn Bailey’s name in a hurry, he’ll learn all about what Bailey is about on a pitcher’s mound.
Griffey, of course, owns the longest tenure of anybody on the roster. Can you guess the next three? OK, so don’t guess. The answer: Adam Dunn, Ryan Freel, Aaron Harang.
Baker is looking for leadership and while he wouldn’t admit it publicly he may be searching for it from Griffey, with whom he talked on the phone a few times this winter. Baker also talked to Hank Aaron recently and was piqued by what Aaron said.
“There is a lot with Junior that people haven’t tapped,” said Baker. “When you’ve been in the game 20 years, in the big leagues since you were 19, you know what you’re doing and what you’ve done and what’s going on. You might not always say it, but there is a lot there.
“I talked to Hank Aaron the other day,” Baker added. “Hank and Junior are on the board together of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Hank said what a pleasure it was for him to be around Junior. He said you could tell what kind of guy Junior was - a family man and all that.
“Hank doesn’t give compliments very often,” Baker added. “So that meant a lot to me. He has met most of the superstars of the game and this is the first time he raved about meeting one, ever to me. Hank doesn’t talk too much, but he talked quite a bit about Junior and that really impressed me.”