First Trip to Spring Training
Walking into Champion Stadium at 7:30 on a chilly Monday morning, I was caught off guard by how quiet it was. There was a light layer of morning fog and there was nobody moving around the field at all. The freshly-cut grass smelled great!
Soon Sandra Golden, Brian Finneran and I joined Jonathan Chadwick in the Braves dugout so we could tape interviews with the players and coaches. Slowly, some of the Braves players made their way out of the clubhouse, through the dugout, and onto the field to start taking some swings in their indoor batting cages.
The clubhouse opens to the media at 8am so we made our way in to start chatting with guys who would be willing to come and tape interviews. Nobody wants to yuk it up before they’ve had their breakfast so you’ve got to approach them slowly. You’ve got to remember athletes are athletes and radio guys are radio guys and we’re not at spring training to do the same job.
Time spent in the clubhouse doesn’t always lead to interviews right away. For instance, it’s inappropriate to ask a pitcher to do much of anything if he’s pitching that day but most guys will loosen up on off days. Sometimes they’ve got to eat before the bus leaves for an away game. Sometimes they just would rather not at that exact moment. And since this was my first trip to spring training, some of them didn’t really know who the hell I was.
However, it is our job to get these players to open up to us. They have to trust that we’re not going to make them look bad. We have to be knowledgeable enough to ask good questions and creative enough to make it fun. Kris Medlen was fun. Brian McCann was relaxed and open about his rehab progress. Rookie J.R. Graham had never done a radio interview before but we convinced him to be himself and he was very cool. Fredi Gonzalez is used to answering questions everyday but he’s a professional and answered every question candidly. Chris Johnson who came over in the Martin Prado trade was cool and is excited to compete to play 3rd full-time. And there were many other moments that I hope will lead to a great relationship with the team.
The point is, we did this every day last week. There are worse places to be than at the ballpark every day. After the show we enjoyed the game if it was at home. Champion Stadium at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex is modern, intimate, and gives fans unbelievable access to the team. Of course you can’t “WORK” all the time, so I felt it necessary to try and squeeze in some golf and a little pool time at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. I was tempted to visit Mickey Mouse, since he’s just a mile or two away but maybe next time.
If you’re a real Braves fan, make the trip if you can. It’s well worth it!
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