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Spring Training Diary

February 18-19, 2003

City of Palms Park

This February I traveled to Fort Myers, Florida, for my first Spring Training experience. Because I went with my parents and my mother is a teacher, we had to go during school vacation week. Games hadn't started yet. It was just pitchers and catchers, with position players scheduled to report our last day there, but that didn't lessen my enthusiasm. Every year I watch the first reports from Fort Myers on TV and think, "Next year I'm going to go," and this time I really was going!

Nomar Garciaparra and Grady Little
Tuesday was Nomar Garciaparra's first day in camp. Here, he is greeted by manager Grady Little.
We booked our flight in November, but because it was school vacation week, all the flights for Saturday were already full. So we decided to go on Sunday instead, and return on Thursday, since I had to be at work on Friday. The flight was 6 am, the airport's an hour away, and we knew it would be packed, so we had to get up at 2:30 am and leave at 3:00. I don't normally go to bed before midnight, but I went in early that night. I couldn't sleep, though; it was like telling a kid to go to bed early on Christmas Eve so Santa Claus will come, except I was looking forward to seeing a bunch of men in red suits who are even cooler than any jolly old elf! The temperature was 1 degree when we left my house, and a big storm was predicted to hit at night, but there was no snow here in the early morning hours. We checked in at the airport and made it through security before finding out the second leg of our trip (we had to connect in Washington) was canceled because of the blizzard that ended up dumping 2 1/2 feet of snow there. As we were in line to try to rebook the second half of the flight, we found out the first half was also canceled. Because it was school vacation week, there were no flights available the rest of the day Sunday, so our short vacation was about to get shorter. We were rebooked to a Monday morning 6 am flight, so we went back home and got to do the 2:30 am wake-up again. Monday our flight was through Pittsburgh. The snow was just starting as we left here and had stopped in Pittsburgh when we got there, so we hit it just right. (The second half of the trip was flight #1918 - I wasn't sure if that was a good omen or bad!) We were delayed an hour or two, but finally made it to Fort Myers!

Lou Merloni, Kevin Millar, Nomar Garciaparra
Lou Merloni, Kevin Millar, and Nomar Garciaparra. The next day, Millar had traded uniform numbers with Casey Fossum. Fossum will wear #23 this year, while Millar takes #15.
After the worse-than-usual winter we've been having in New England, it was wonderful to see sun and 75-degree temperatures. But the best thing was seeing the Red Sox! In the morning, we parked at City of Palms Park and took the shuttle bus to the practice fields, which are three miles down the road at the minor league complex. We lined up along a roped-off area to try for autographs as the players came out for practice. Several obliged in the morning, but most signed on their way back in at the end of practice. As Pedro came by the first morning, we called out, "Pedro, can you sign?" but he answered, "Pedro has to practice." One of the security people told us he had signed for about 45 minutes on his first day there. After jogging and stretching, the players moved on to four practice fields, where they held batting practice, pitcher's fielding practice, and other drills. It really felt like summer watching the workouts! We got a lot of autographs over the two days - from legends Johnny Pesky and Luis Tiant, stars like Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek, new players like Jeremy Giambi, Todd Walker, David Ortiz, and Ramiro Mendoza, all the way down to Frank Castillo and guys with uniform numbers in the 70's and 80's. Besides the players, we also saw principal owner John W. Henry and GM Theo Epstein. And then there was the media: Boston Globe reporter Dan Shaughnessy, crews from all three local Boston channels, and reporters for NESN and NECN were among those we recognized.

Pedro Martinez and Jim Rice
Pedro Martinez and Jim Rice on one of the practice fields.

It was fun chatting with the other diehard fans who had traveled down for Spring Training. Everyone had a story of their trip down, their favorite game at Fenway, their attempts to get tickets for Opening Day, or their experiences at prior Spring Trainings. The workouts lasted until around noon, and then we had the rest of the day to check out the beaches at Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. (The water is warmer there in February than it gets all summer up here!) When it was time to leave, I didn't want to go home. I'm already planning on going back next year!

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This page and all photos copyright © 2003-2004 by Kristen D. Cornette.