Friday, August 24, 2012

AUTOGRAPH MEMORIES: O'S SPRING TRAINING

CAL SIGNED THIS IN '90.
I was a regular at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota in the early to mid-1990s. That's where the Orioles would hold their first two weeks of camp before the spring training games began. While it lacked charm and was remote, the complex holds special memories.

It will never be confused with Dodgertown and didn't have streets within named Roy Campanella Lane or Vin Scully Way. But like Dodgertown, the open layout and lack of restraining fences made players accessible. They pretty much had to walk past you to get to any of the fields and clubhouse. Most were willing to stop and sign and chat.



HOILES SCRIBBLED THIS IN '93.

It's where I got, among others, Cal Ripken Jr. (multiple times), Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Rafael Palmeiro, Gregg Olson, Brady Anderson, Ben McDonald, Mike Devereaux, Arthur Rhodes and Chris Hoiles.

OK. Maybe not all of those guys are 10-point bucks, but it sure was happy hunting. Best part about it was the crowds were fairly small. Maybe that's why the Orioles back then were gracious signers. Well, that and the fact they were devoid of star power in a few of those seasons.



DEVEREAUX SIGNED THIS AFTER PRACTICE.

Being there for Palmer's comeback attempt in '91 was especially memorable. Just to see him on the mound, unleashing the ball with that distinctive windup, was a trip back in time to when I was 9. Then after going into the clubhouse, he returned to sign as a light rain began to fall.

I remember in '97 approaching Anderson, who was coming off his 50 home run season. "Hey, Mr. Anderson, do you have time to sign?'' 

He began to sign, and before you knew it, we were surrounded.



BRADY WAS A PHYSICAL PRESENCE.

"Signing a few more autographs this year, huh? I asked.

"Funny how that works,'' he smiled.

I really liked the carefree atmosphere. It was so quiet that you could hear everything the players said.

Frank grousing with a player over his NCAA basketball bracket after a weekend of upsets.

Cal Ripken Sr. getting totally into it while demonstrating the proper rundown between second and third.

Anderson goading Junior to keep up with him during outfield running.

The autographs were nice, but the memories of that time and those players and coaches might be the thing I treasure most.



CAKES' COMEBACK WAS SHORT-LIVED, BUT I GOT A LASTING MEMENTO.

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