Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Legends of the Spring

Not surprisingly, the Spring Training home of the New York Yankees—George M. Steinbrenner Field, formerly known as Legends Field—is an expensive ticket. My initial impression was that they were exorbitantly expensive, but, as it turns out, I was probably expecting them to be in the ballpark of minor league tickets. Obviously, they're not, and reality is that Yankees tickets are only a little on the pricey side, relatively speaking.

Also not hard to believe is the fact that the spring home of the World Series champions is an impressive complex. It sits across Tampa's North Dale Mabry Highway from Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and looks like a resort in comparison to the typically goliath-like football venue.

The grounds surrounding the stadium are adorned with a monument of the twin towers and a tasteful tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11, as well as plaques celebrating the careers of each Yankee whose number is retired. There also are several well-maintained practice fields where my friends and I got to see Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher take batting practice prior to one of the games.

Thurman Munson plaque

As is the case with most Spring Training games, we got to see the big names for four or five innings, followed by a parade of minor leaguers, many of whom even I was unfamiliar with. The major highlight for me was an appearance by Kei Igawa, in whom the Bombers invested $46 million—20 million over five years, plus a $26 million posting fee paid to his Japanese team—prior to the 2007 season, only to have him post a 2-4 record and 6.66 ERA in just 16 major league games since.

Igawa sparkled in relief of unimpressive performances by Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain—1 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 SO—but gave up five earned runs in one inning in his next outing, and was cut by the Yankees a week later. Still under contract, he'll likely return to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he is the franchise record holder with 29 victories.

Kei Igawa

I wish I had more to report on about my visit to the Yankees' spring home. Unfortunately, by the second game of the weekend I was operating on about six hours sleep in the last two days. I don't do well under those circumstances. I will say I was fairly unimpressed with the food and beer selections, but those were the only aspects of the park that I would consider shortcomings.

I was also quite amused at how enthusiastically the Tampa Bay Rays fans cheered as their team put a hurting on the New Yorkers in the first of the two games I witnessed. Less than two years removed from a trip to the World Series, I'm surprised they're already reduced to such trivial excitement.

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