Their complaint wasn’t with the ballpark itself, but with the “Recreational Complex” that includes the team’s development facilities, clubhouse and practice fields. For some, the only thing missing from the place is razor wire.
“It’s like Fort Knox,” said Jennifer Cuenot of Brooklyn. “They’ve distanced the players physically from the fans,” said her father, Randy Cuenot, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. “Newer isn’t better. You can’t get near anyone. There’s security everywhere.”
Bill Russell – a 20-year Indians season ticket holder, not the former Dodgers shortstop – agreed. “I’m actually insulted here,” said Russell, who is the father of 6-foot-8 White Sox pitcher Adam Russell. “I could care less about autographs, but when you come to spring training you want to be able to get close enough to see who’s taking batting practice or stand behind a fence and catch home run balls. Occasionally you’ll see a retired player who you can talk to. You don’t have any of that here. I enjoy spring training more than I do the regular season, or at least I have. … I hope they do something about it because they’re going to lose some true fans if they don’t.”
Quite true. It’s been a while since I’ve visited spring training, but my sense is that folks don’t go so watch semi-competitive baseball games played by minor leaguers and NRIs. They want to walk around, rub shoulders with ballplayers, and pretend to be scouts or beat reporters or something. That’s awful hard to do from a distance.