Lou Whitaker

Lou Whitaker, nachos, tiger paw carpet and other stuff I saw in Lakeland

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LAKELAND, FLORIDA — After clubhouses close I usually wander around and take pictures of people without asking. Then I eat ballpark food. It’s a totally healthy way to live life. Here’s some of the random things I saw while I was waiting for the game to start.

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Hey, it’s should-be-Hall-of-Famer Lou Whitaker! Where are you going, Lou?

“Gonna go beat up Jose Iglesias, take back my number 1 jersey and demand the Tigers retire it!”

“Wow, really, Lou?”

“No, Craig. That’s you projecting again and putting imaginary words in my mouth. Let it go, dude. You were, like, eight years old. You have kids for Christ’s sake. Grow up.”

“OK, Lou.” [winks, assuming that’s code from Whitaker for me to go beat up Iglesias and take the number. We will right all the wrongs, Lou. You and me together].

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Saw this kid on the berm during Tigers BP. Most of the people out there were 250 pound guys in their 30s or older, killing each other for baseballs. It was ugly. People were literally getting bloodied. Then this kid wades in. Forty-five pounds soaking wet, but wearing a beat-up Gibson jersey and not afraid of anything. I didn’t see him get a ball, but I wouldn’t bet against him out-fighting some of those lugs.

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During this game, I’ve seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that’s better than twenty million. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!

[loud applause, even by the Politburo]

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You all know my favorite thing to do is to take pictures of equipment bags on the field before games. Well, get this: no bags ANYWHERE on this field today. None. I had to settle for taking pictures of these balls, all by themselves. Really, this trip is NOT starting out well. Hoping I have better luck in Tampa tomorrow.

Oh, one pic I took before the clubhouses closed. But I’m risking my credential posting this.

You’re not technically allowed to take pictures in the clubhouse, but I have decided that the purpose of that rule is to not invade the privacy of players or to reveal the internal working of teams. Which makes total sense. I do not believe, however, that the rule should extend to taking pictures of the sweet, sweet tiger paw carpet in the Tigers clubhouse, which demands documenting or posterity:

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They should license this and sell it to Tigers fans for their man caves. They’d make a mint.

By the way: I’ll cop to the Adidas being mine. In order to protect them I won’t reveal who owns the other shoes, but the dude in the Sauconys is the one who told me it’d probably be OK to take the pic. If I get in trouble, I will throw him under the bus. Just sayin’.

After all of that I needed to replenish nutrients. So I got these:

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The nachos with the pulled pork and jalapeños on them are legit, y’all.

Anyway, that’s that. The game started a few minutes ago. Brian McCann took Max Scherzer out to right field to make it 1-0 Yankees. Torii Hunter acted like he caught the ball at the wall, and it was so successful a deke that McCann actually held up a second between first and second before realizing it was out and kept running. I wonder if McCann is going to get in anyone’s face about that. It’d be pretty cool if he did.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.