The weather held out in Dunedin this afternoon after all. There was a chill in the air but who can complain about barely getting to 60 when back in New Jersey the temp was just 17, if you know what I mean. ‘Twas the home opener for the Jays today in Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, though as usual the place was heavily populated by Phillies fans making the easy pilgrimage from neighboring Clearwater.
Cody Asche was gracious as always about signing things for the fans.
A close second to Cody in graciousness was Darin Ruf.
Another of the younger players, Maikel Franco (that’s pronounced My-kel) is fast becoming popular with the fans for his potential.
Yet to show you how fast things can change, Tommy Joseph was all the rage among Phils’ prospects just the year before last but concussions did him in before the new rule change about barreling into catchers. He may be poised for a resurrection with the new rules in place.
Today’s lineup featured Maikel Franco at first base where he is trying to learn another position that would less the logjam at third with Cody Asche. You might think the two would be a little leery of one another, but they seem to share a genuine bond if pre-game warmups are any indication.
Warming up for the Phils in the bullpen before his start is a guy whose motion you should be able to detect from 50 yards away.
Spring Training can be important for many things, not the least of which is the opportunity for pitchers to get on the same page with unfamiliar catchers, as was the case today with Cliff and new backup catcher Will Nieves.
Speaking of backup catchers, go back up and look at today’s starting lineups for the Blue Jays. Who is that batting 7th? Why it’s our old buddy, Erik Kratz.
And of course, a Phillies – Blue Jays game in Dunedin wouldn’t be complete without Dallas Green in his familiar seat behind home plate, in his familiar fashion plate hat.
The game itself, I’m afraid, was largely nondescript in what would become a 7-5 loss. The Phillies did get out to an early lead on the strength of Darin Ruf’s two run homer. Take a look at the 20 second clip here. Wait a minute: who is that Phillies fan in the white sweatshirt applauding Ruf’s bomb over the CF wall?
The Jays’ stadium in Dunedin may be the very last of the quaint stadia. Mid-game you can still see players on a back lot who have to share exercise space with muscle cars.
And while Bright House Field in Clearwater has its upscale Tiki Bar, Dunedin boats its Craft Beer Dugout.
The visiting Phillies players bus in and out of the stadium in style.
But the fans?
… and speaking of fans, a shout out to my youngest blog fan who enjoys sports as much as I do: Carson Press!