A morning in Surprise

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I complained a bit earlier about how long of a drive it is to get to Rangers camp in Surprise. And it is far if, like me, you prefer to stay in the Tempe/Scottsdale area.  But if you’re coming out to Arizona to specifically see the Rangers or the Royals, you’ve got a really nice complex to come to. Surprise is pretty nice.

It’s different, though. Both superficially and for purposes of fan/player interaction.  The superficial differences can be seen in this picture:

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That’s the Royals’ clubhouse/office complex down the third base line. The Rangers have an identical one down the first base line. The white railing and all of those sliding glass doors remind one of a beachfront motel that has seen better days but which is still kept up for the budget traveler. I almost feel like I’m visiting my grandma when I approach these places. Whatever the case it’s quite the contrast to the professional and almost futuristic office/clubhouse buildings at Camelback Ranch, Salt River, Goodyear and places like that.

As far as substantively, Surprise gives fans the opportunity to get way closer to the morning action than most other spring training complexes. The batting cages abut the concourses inside the ballpark. The back fields are well-arranged and fans have much greater freedom to roam among them than you typically see. There are actually stands near a lot of them so you can camp out and watch warmups, drills and the like up close.

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Well, not that up close. But pretty close.

Wandering around the workouts I came across a couple of things of note. Like catchers playing catch with a catcher’s mitt.

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How very “Inception” of them. After seeing this I can’t get this song out of my head.

Also: either hitting coaches get personal model gloves or else Magadan takes good care of his old one from his playing days:

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It’s been three days since I saw an equipment bag on grass. I was getting the shakes, so forgive me:

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Ahhhh.

Back towards the press box, I noticed some plaques on the wall of the concourse. Members of the Surprise Recreation Campus Hall of Fame:

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Just look at how professionally that plaque is hung. That plaque just knows how to hang on a wall the right way.  Also:

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If your Hall of Fame has room for the guy who literally bankrupted the franchise, I’d say you have a “big Hall” mindset.

An hour and a half until game time. I’m gonna be busy until then:

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Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.

 

 

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.