Welcome To Spring Training: 2005 Style

The manager’s speech …

Good day gentlemen, I trust you had a good winter. First order of business, your agents, probation officers, drug counselors, your accountant, your investment advisors, and anybody from BALCO are not allowed on the practice field or in the clubhouse. If you have such folks in tow, don’t despair, entourages happen even on the best of teams.

Generally this goes without saying, but better safe than sorry: Don’t bring your wife and mistress to the stadium on the same day … especially if your mistress is married to somebody on the roster. No children either. One year Steve Garvey’s biological children showed up at Vero Beach, and Washington, D.C. almost declared it a state. I realize that this policy might mean your kid won’t want to play for us should he make the major leagues, but that’s a chance we’re willing to take. Oh yes, if you see Anna Benson in the locker room please notify security.

A quick announcement: Juan Gonzalez is engaged again — sit down please Mrs. Benson — so we’re taking a collection up to help him pay for the coming alimony payments.

We have a number of drills designed to get you in fighting shape for the season. As you’ve no doubt noticed, your practice jerseys have different color armbands. That is specifically designed to keep you in groups for the various exercises. Yellow group goes to diamond one for the cup adjustment drills — no Mrs. Benson, we don‘t need anybody to assist. As you were briefed at the locker room, you noticed the directive of wearing your cups backward and upside down. You must be able to readjust your cup in no fewer than 10 moves. If you are unable to after eight tries, you’ll be sent to remedial cup adjustment in the bullpen under the supervision of Denny Neagle’s, um, coach after the morning workout.

This is very important — if you need over 25 adjustments it can cause vision impairment, blindness, and a shocking amount of staff turnover among the clubhouse attendants in charge of the laundry. Kindly remember not to smile, giggle, or close your eyes and sigh when you’re doing it for God’s sake. By the way, I realize it’s a tradition but if anyone tries to beat Onan Masaoka’s record of 863 adjustments this year — this includes you Mrs. Benson — they will be fined $25,000 and sent to the Dr. Phil show. For those of you using a thimble in place of your cup, urine tests are being held in the tent by the left-field fence — try not to graze on your way there, it upsets the groundskeepers.

Speaking of the drug tests, everyone will be expected to visit the tent before we finish up today for the first of your series of urine tests. Please use your own this time. When we started this last year we discovered half the Yankees were pregnant and one third of the Tigers turned out to be golden retrievers. For those of you who used apple juice, ha ha ha we were all very amused. Next time use Miller Lite or Wild Turkey … something we can use.

We’ve cleared the media from the area of the tent so there shouldn’t be any more “mishaps.” We didn’t mind paying for Rick Reilly’s dry-cleaning bill, but Mike Lupica’s Bermuda shorts still smell funny and he refuses to buy a new pair. I‘m sure the folks in the tent don’t require any help Mrs. Benson.

The blue group will go to diamond two. There you will receive intensive sobriety test rehearsal. You will be blindfolded and required to spin around in circles for five minutes, then your eyes will be uncovered and you must try to walk down the first base line. Kindly remember to spit out any chewing tobacco before performing this drill. For those of your in need of remedial training in this regard, Richie Sexson has been retained to tutor you.

Red group, you will be going to diamond three, a.k.a. Cliché Stadium. There you will learn media relations. You will be required to memorize phrases to use in the press. Today’s phrases will be:

- “If we execute the fundamentals, we’ll have a chance to contend.”
- “We need to stay focused.”
- “It’s a long season and a lot can happen.”
- “We need some players to step it up a notch.”
- “I think we have a competitive club here.”
- “I let a lot of you down, I’m really sorry, I hope to make amends and kindly stop asking me what I‘m apologizing for — there‘s serious coin on the line.”
- “I‘m the victim of racism since the media is biased against people with different colored urine.”

I’d also highly recommend that you take a crash course in “colorful adjectives” while you’re reading the walls in the clubhouse bathroom stalls. You’ll need to memorize at least ten synonyms for the press; there will be a test on this on March 21st. If you have trouble locating said colorful adjectives try looking for the following keywords: “Reilly, Rogers, Mariotti, Klapisch, Bayless and Griffin” and go from there.

The green group will go to diamond four. We’ll be focusing on stalling, where you’ll learn the nuances of stepping out the batter’s box, pausing between pitches and adjusting the batting gloves. We’ve videotaped a Nomar Garciaparra at-bat for your instruction. However, we had to edit it somewhat since we’ve got to leave the facility by 10:00 pm so the custodial staff can get their work done. Also covered will be stalling tactics for pitchers for those days when you run into trouble. We would’ve had Steve Trachsel here for a demonstration, but he’s still on the mound at Shea Stadium waiting for the sign, since someone neglected to tell him the season ended last October.

Once there we’ll discuss the “bounce the rosin bag in the hand,” “talking with the catcher and looking like you’re discussing something important,” “the infielder’s conference,” “the my shoelaces are undone,” “positioning the outfield,” the “speck in the eye,” “let‘s see how long it‘ll take to get fatty behind the plate to haul his butt up here,” and the “Matt Stairs is on first and I got to keep him close to the bag” tactics. The sooner you get this down pat, the sooner you can go to diamond one for the cup adjustment drills. This excludes you Mrs. Benson … where is security anyway?

As you have already noticed, our DH candidates have the purple armbands. The purple group will go back into the locker room to practice sitting drills on the bench, sunflower seed spitting, tobacco juice expectorating and learning how to look incredulous at an umpire should you be called out on strikes.

The mauve group will go to diamond five to practice “home run admiring.” There you will be schooled on standing in the batter’s box watching balls sail over the fence. Special emphasis will be placed on the proper amount of time spent walking out the box and trotting down to first base. The second basemen, second-string shortstops, backup catchers and anybody named “Neifi” are excluded from this and will instead go to the practice on deck circle to brush up on their “timing the pitch” maneuver. It’s very important that you make the opposing pitcher think you’re serious about hitting.

Always make sure to hold the bat at the narrow end and please — no flinching. If Jose Canseco shows up and offers to turn you from a scrub into a star, you have two options: One, notify me immediately or two, get fitted for a thimble and make sure your dog has plenty of fluids available before you go to the tent by the left-field fence.

The teal group will congregate at the fence of the main diamond for fan relations — Mrs. Benson … PLEASE! The first drill is much like the sobriety test drill, but what you’ll do is, after the blindfold is removed, sign your name. Remember though, don’t sign your name, that’s dangerous. Instead scribble something like “duck anus,” “chocolate gonorrhea” or “nasal flatulence.” Whatever, as long as they can’t read what you’ve written you’ll be OK.

There will also be an oral exam — please sit down Mrs. Benson. You’ll be required to memorize the following phrase: “Of course I remember him/her; so how is he/she doing anyway?” when you’re asked by a fan about your second cousin’s best friend’s pen pal who went to school with his aunt’s great grand-nephew that you passed on the highway in Battle Creek back in 1991 when you were returning in a bus from a soccer game that got rained out when you were six. You will be graded on sincerity, inflection of voice, avoiding the “colorful adjectives” that you learned in your media-relations drill, and eye contact. We’ve noticed that some of you have spent far too much time ogling cleavage rather than making eye contact and we’re cracking down — Mrs. Benson, you‘re not helping any.

Finally, we will finish today’s session with the “Camaraderie” drill. There you will practice forearm bashing, fist touching, high fives, low fives, and bottom pats — you have to be a player, Mrs. Benson … somebody PLEASE call security! — and for God’s sake remember that you’re not on diamond one practicing cup adjustments … I don’t want a repeat of last year’s disaster.

LET’S GO PEOPLE!

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