Scenes from Spring Training: Red Sox Nation South Part 2

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As I walked down to the field I realized that the fates kept placing me at the park where the biggest news of the day was going down: Nathan’s UCL on Tuesday and Nomar’s retirement on Wednesday.  Upon realizing this I thought that I should charge the other writers $500 a head to hear where I’d be heading today so that they too could be where all the action was.  Then I was humbled:

“Hey! Where you headin’?”

The tone implied that I was not at the friendly Minnesota Twins’ complex anymore.  Not that the person demanding to see my papers and to know my destination was unpleasant with me, exactly. Just far, far more businesslike than what I’d become used to the previous few days. This was all a part of that major league vibe I was talking about, at least compared to the other camps. Whereas at Port St. Lucie and Hammond Stadium you end up seeing the same three smiling employees over and over who quickly come to recognize you and generally leave you alone, City of Palms was crawling with employees checking credentials and making sure you never go where you’re not supposed to go.  I dunno. Maybe they just do it with unfamiliar faces like mine. I mean, I’m guessing they don’t constantly ask to see Amalie Benjamin’s press pass.  Like I said before. I’m kind of an interloper everywhere I go this week.

But regardless of the reason, that vibe continued all morning. You can’t get quite as close to the batting cages in Sox camp as you can elsewhere. You can’t wander quite as far down the lines.  When you start taking pictures of stuff, someone starts watching you a little more closely.  Again, this isn’t unfriendly or anything — it’s not like anyone was ever rude to me — it was just much more, I dunno, formal.

Still, I did manage to wander a bit, and since I’m probably into the tens of thousands of words with these things thus far, how about a nice photo tour?

Maddon Fungo.jpgTito 1B.jpgUnlike La Russa, who couldn’t be bothered, Joe Maddon hit fungoes and Tito Francona played some first base during infield drills.  Hands on managing. I like it.  Know what else I like?  This machine:

fly ball machine.jpgJust a pitching machine set on a higher trajectory for fly ball practice, but there is something immensely satisfying about the “clunk” noise it makes as it shoots each ball into space.  I’d like to get one of these for the home.  Query: would I catch more hell for bringing one of those things home, or two of these things?

Hello girls.jpgYep, Hooters girls, wandering around giving out coupons by yelling “free beer!” to everyone.  This and any number of other promotional activities going on in the concourses are the sorts of things that led to that big league vibe I was talking about. I realize that every ballpark is essentially a giant marketing experience, but it’s taken a bit farther at City of Palms. As too is the Super Fan thing:
 

Cowbell Kid.jpgYeah, this guy is a Rays fan, but there were Sox fans dressed up just as loopy.

And though it’s hard to believe, neither the active managers, the Cowbell Kid, the fly ball machine nor the Hooters girls were the best thing about the pregame at City of Palms.  This was:

Lego Fenway.jpgThat’s right: Lego Fenway Park.  When I get back to Ohio I’m heading straight to the Lego store to buy everything I’ll need for Lego Tiger Stadium.  Then I’ll be heading down to the basement for a while. If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, forward my mail.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.